As this rollercoaster of a year closes, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to really reflect upon what was done well and what can use some work. Working with clients and revamping their branding, or website, or marketing strategy has me noticing a lot of common pieces missing from many startups’ branding and design. Here’s four things that I think can give you the best bang for your buck.
1. Create a style guide.
One of the first questions I’ll ask when speaking to a business owner is whether or not they have a style guide. The majority of the time, the response is a chuckle and an admission that they don’t.
However, this is one of the easiest ways to keep things consistent from a look-and-feel perspective. Determine the colors, typography, iconography, and imagery that you either already use, or should be using. Write it down somewhere. Share it with your team. Ask friends for their input.
Of course, this exercise is useless if you don’t actually implement the rules that you’ve figured out. As your business grows, there will be more involved parties, and you need to ensure that there is a central location for all of the style guidelines that you come up with.
2. Develop a content curation strategy.
Today, nearly every business can benefit from a properly developed social media presence. Most businesses, however, will really take social as an afterthought. The Facebook or Instagram pages hardly ever get updated. Nothing is consistent. No wonder it doesn’t have benefits for these companies.
To go along with the first point in this article, you need to develop a content curation strategy. This really goes along with a style guide as well, but on a more specific basis of what kind of messaging/tone you may be using in an article, what kind of pictures are best to use on Facebook/Instagram, where to find (or how to create) said images, and so on.
Here’s a favorite example of mine:
Even before they had a single product to show, their Instagram profile knocked it out of the park in terms of consistency and quality of imagery. Everything’s pink, with a clean/minimal aesthetic. That’s no accident.
3. Read more. Research more.
One of the first steps in creating design work or branding work for a client is always to perform visual research. What kind of emotions are we trying to evoke and what imagery/typography/color scheme is best suited for that? What is the competition doing well and what are they doing wrong?
When you’re able to look and pick and choose different elements, you end up with a better result than if you just took a piece of paper and a pen. Over time, and with practice, you can more quickly think of what works best for what sort of scenario.
Reading is undeniably important for all aspects of life, and the quality of certain books is unbelievably high. I’m a big believer in getting to know a little bit about everything, it puts you in a better position to make decisions and to be less dependent on others. You don’t have to be a designer or a developer to at least know some basics.
While not really about design, a great and newly-released book that goes over, well, a little bit of everything is Tools of the Titans, by Tim Ferriss.
Something a bit more specific is Thinking with Type, which is required reading for anyone even remotely interested in typography.
4. Practice photography.
Unless you genuinely want to learn how to be a developer or a designer, there’s a long learning curve before your output is decent enough to be of use. With photography however, I think it’s much easier (and for many, more fun) to pick up and have as a hobby. You don’t even need to have a fancy DSLR.
It helps a lot if you live in a place where there’s a lot of interesting subject matter, such as a major city, but anywhere will do. Read up on some basics of photography, and get to work.
Practicing photography will sharpen your eye for details, patterns, and symmetry. The best part, is you’ll have the added benefit of being able to create your own content for your business.
Running a business involves a ton of moving parts, and with growth you can find yourself having fewer and fewer opportunities to step back and look at things at a big-picture perspective. The above four strategies will get you on a good start. Here’s to 2017.