Your business’s vision statement communicates your ultimate goal.
Since mission and vision statements are usually discussed in the same conversation, your mission statement is what you do, while your vision statement is the view once you’re done.
Below are a few formal definitions to elaborate on the concept.
According to . . .
[A vision statement is] an aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.
Similar to a mission statement, a vision statement provides a concrete way for stakeholders, especially employees, to understand the meaning and purpose of your business. However, unlike a mission statement – which describes the who, what and why of your business – a vision statement describes the desired long-term results of your company’s efforts. For example, an early Microsoft vision statement was “a computer on every desk and in every home.”
“A company vision statement reveals, at the highest levels, what an organization most hopes to be and achieve in the long term,” said Katie Trauth Taylor, CEO of writing consultancy Untold Content. “It serves a somewhat lofty purpose – to harness all the company’s foresight into one impactful statement.”
Want to see those conceptual definitions in action? Below are a number of examples to scroll though to see the different ways famous companies communicate their vision.
Google: “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Target: “Guided commitments to great value, the community, diversity, and the environment.”
Ebay: “To be the world’s favorite destination for discovering great value and unique selection.”
Nordstrom: “To serve our customers better, to always be relevant in their lives and to form lifelong relationships. And while serving our customer face-to-face is the foundation and hallmark of how we’ve historically served them, today customers seek our service in new ways. Speed, convenience, innovation, and personalization have become cornerstones of the customer experience. Guided by these new needs, we continue to invest in the cross-channel experience, combining the accessibility of pure online experience with the high-touch inclusivity of our stores.”
Versace: “To make women and men feel beautiful and empowered.”
BBC: “To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”
Netflix: “Becoming the best global entertainment distribution service; licensing entertainment content around the world; creating markets that are accessible to film makers; and helping content creators around the world to find a global audience.”
The Bank of New York: “Improving lives through inclusion, innovation and investing.”
J.P. Morgan: “Aspire to be the best; execute superbly; build a great team and a winning culture.”
Walgreens: “To be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty company.”
CVS: “We strive to improve the quality of human life.”
United Way: “United Way envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives.”
Make-a-Wish: “To be able to make every eligible child’s wish come true.”
General Motors: “To create a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion, and we have committed ourselves to leading the way toward this future.”
Tesla: “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”
Apple: “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.”
IBM: “To be the world’s most successful and important information technology company.”
Starbucks: “To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.”
Taco Bell: “To grow into the largest fast-food provider of Mexican style cuisine in emerging markets.”
Burger King: “To be the most profitable QSR business, through a strong franchise system and great people, serving the best burgers in the world.”
McDonalds: “To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”
ANATOMY OF A VISION STATEMENT
As you may have noticed, most vision statements are comprised of the same basic components. I’ll use our vision statement here at Brand Building for Small Business as an example:
While I have the different parts listed numerically for clarity, the order isn’t important. As you’ve seen throughout the dozens of examples, these components can look very different from one company to the next. All that matters is that you’ve clearly and fully communicated the vision of your company.
VISION STATEMENT GENERATOR
Now it’s your turn. Try creating a vision statement for your business based on the structure below.
Here’s another example for good measure . . .
Have any questions? As always, we’d love to hear from you. Scroll below to the “Leave a Reply” section. Happy vision statement drafting!
The first time I attempted printing on envelopes was when I was doing Christmas cards about six months after I had started selling envelope templates as part of my invitation business. By time I designed the template for sale, the product had already been requested multiple times, and I finally caved. Something about the process intimidated me, and I was very reluctant to enter the market. And I was right . . . to an extent. I’ve been selling envelope templates for years now, and a number of them are best-sellers. That said, I encounter customers who experience issues with the process on a very consistent basis. If I am spending multiple hours assisting a customer, almost guaranteed I’m working with someone who is trying to print on envelopes.
Going back to my first time, I, too, had challenges, and printing perfection probably came after (similar to some of my customers’ experiences) about two hours of fighting frustration. I write all this not to scare you off but to properly prepare you. For most how to’s, I go on about speed and ease. This is not that kind of introduction. You will most likely be confused and annoyed at one or multiple points in this process. If you’ve got a fighting spirit, you may even be tempted to physically confront your printer. However – if you’ve got endurance, you will most likely prevail!
You could also be one of the lucky ones. Many of my customers have raved about how wonderfully easy the process was for them. I’m always a little secretly envious in those situations. Hopefully, that, too, will be your experience.
Regardless, whether or not you initially struggle and ultimately succeed or immediately win the day, you will pretty much be an envelope printing wizard going forward (until you purchase a new printer of course). Now, the process is old hat for me and is SOOO much quicker than writing out addresses and SOO much nicer looking than labels (yes, I’m an envelope snob now, sure, but we all have our faults). So . . . if you’ve decided you want to plunge forward, I commend your gumption and encourage you to read on.
1. Open Microsoft Word and select New > Blank Document. Click the Layout tab, press the Size button, and choose Envelope #10 (which is a standard business-size envelope). Then, click Orientation and select Landscape. Finally, click Margins, select Custom Margins, input .6” for Top and Bottom and .86” for Left and Right, and press OK.
2. Next, add your logo. Click the Insert tab, select Pictures, and choose This Device; then, navigate to your logo, select the file, and press the Insert button.
You’ll probably need to adjust the sizing. If so, just click on a corner of the image and drag DIAGONALLY to increase or decrease the size as needed. (If you drag other than diagonally, you could resize your logo disproportionately.)
Then, click in the open space to the right of the logo, press enter to add a line space, set your font properties, and type your business address. (I went with Calibri font in size 7.5 and expanded the character spacing by .5; I fiddled a little with the options until the address lined up just so with the logo.)
3. Select the Insert tab, click the Text Box button (in the Text section at upper right), and choose the Simple Text Box.
Click the Shape Outline dropdown and select No Outline. Type in your recipient’s name and address (or just input placeholder info for now). Then, select the outline of the shape and click the Home button to set the font properties of your text box. (This time, I went with Calibri in size 11 centered and expanded the character spacing by 1. I also selected Remove Space After Paragraph from the Line and Paragraph Spacing dropdown.)
At this stage, I just fiddled with the font properties a bit more. I decided to center the text, extend the character spacing by 2 pts, cap the name, put the zip code on its own line, and extend that character spacing by 5 pts. I also moved the text box move down a bit.
4. Be sure to save your file at this point to be accessible whenever you need to print an envelope.
And now, on to the tricky part. . . .
5. Go to File > Print. Once on the Print screen, be sure Envelope #10 is selected from the Page Size drop down.
Load your envelopes in your printer (according to your printer specifications). Take a picture so you remember your placement.
Print. If the addresses printed upside down, on the wrong side, not on the envelope at all, etc., adjust your envelope’s placement in the printer accordingly. Take another picture (so you can keep track of what you’ve already tried).
Once you know the proper way to line up your envelopes in your printer, be sure to take one last picture of the right placement for future reference . . . for the next time when can be an envelope printing pro.
That said, good luck . . . and try to be patient (or at least try to make it a little fun . . . maybe do a shot between each fail).
If you’re a graphic designer by trade, Corel Draw may not be your graphics editor of choice. If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience choosing to do your branding in-house, Corel Draw is a great choice. You can pretty much address all your web and print graphics needs for a faction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe. Since you’ve landed on this page in your travels, you probably already know that. You’re stumbling block may be that blank page within Corel Draw that you’re staring at while wondering the quickest and easiest way to get professional-looking business cards designed, printed, and ready to hand out. We’ll take you step by step through the process.
A Quick Note About Versions: I’m using Corel Draw 18. As long as you’re using a version in that same vicinity (i.e., 16, 17, 19, or 20), your view should look pretty similar to the screenshots included throughout these directions.
1. From within Corel Draw, go to File > New. You want an 8.5 x 11” portrait page that’s CMYK and 300 dpi:
2. Select the Graph Paper Tool:
Input 2 columns by 5 rows:
Draw the graph in any size and then switch to the Pick tool:
Change the size of the graph to 7” wide x 10” high and then type “p” to center the object on the page:
Double click the Outline Pen at the bottom right of the screen and change the color to dark gray, the width to hairline, and the style to dashed:
Then press Ungroup Objects with the graph still selected:
3. With the layout of your business card document ready, Go to File > Import and navigate to an image of your logo and click the Import button. Then, resize as desired and place your image within the top left rectangle. To ensure your logo is perfectly horizontally centered within the space, select the logo first, hold down the “shift” key to be able to select multiple objects, select the rectangle, at which point you can deselect shift; then, press “c” with both objects selected.
Select the Text tool so you could begin adding content:
Click anywhere on the page and type your name; press enter and add your title; then, continue adding the rest of the details you would like to show on your business card. I’m going to include my title, phone number, email address, and web site. Finally, set the alignment of the text to centered and choose your font and font size. I’m going to use Calibri, size 11 for my name; size 10 for my title; and 7.5 for the rest of the information.
Move the text to the desired spot within the rectangle and horizontally center the two (click the text, press the ”shift” key while also selecting the rectangle; then, press “c”):
Now, you’ll want to adjust the spacing a bit. With the text selected, press Ctrl + k to break each line into its own text object. Then, I’m going to stretch out the character spacing of my name from 0% to 150%. To do so, press Ctrl + t to edit the text properties.
To ensure the two words don’t run into one another with the extended character spacing, I’m going to change the Word Spacing from 100% to 450%:
For my title, I’m going to use 50% character spacing and 250% word spacing.
Next, I’m going to select the phone number, e-mail address, and web site – pressing the down arrow key a few times until I’m happy with the placement:
4. And now we’ve got one business card in place! To distribute the card design throughout the page so they can be printed ten at a time, select the rectangle you’ve been working on along with all the content inside and press Ctrl + g to group them together. Press Ctrl + d to duplicate the business card:
Keeping the newly created business card selected, press the “shift” key while selecting the top right rectangle; then, press “e” to vertically center and “c” to horizontally center:
Select your two business cards and press Ctrl + g to group the two together and then Ctrl + d to duplicate them both:
With your newly created group of two business cards selected, press shift while selecting the second rectangle in the first column, and press “t” to top align the objects and “l” to left align the objects:
Repeat that process until all the rectangles are filled with your business cards:
5. Save your file and print; be sure to set your Print Quality to the best available option.
When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.
Then, cut! For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.
A Note About Fonts and Colors: While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.
Where to Begin? Once you’ve made the decision for your business that you are going to build your brand from the ground up, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed. I certainly did. In this post, I reflect on the beginning of my journey as I learned to focus on branding even while in survival mode.
What’s in a Name? This piece examines some of the considerations in selecting the right name for a well-branded operation.
Design Your Own Logo This tutorial provides a very hands-on approach to building your logo. Whether you are considering a totally new design or simply looking to adjust, adapt, and tweak an existing one, these tips (including where to find needed tools) should prove useful.
Know Your Audience A very basic but essential part of any branding exercise should be to make sure you know your audience and choose branding elements that properly reflect their characteristics. This article reviews some of the basics for you to consider.
How to Create a Mission Statement Need a little inspiration for crafting that ever-so-important message? This post includes a couple dozen great examples along with an exercise that breaks down the components of a good mission statement to help you develop yours.
The Role of a Brand Style Guide Once you have completed each of the above activities BUT BEFORE YOU BEGIN BUILDING BASIC TOOLS LIKE BUSINESS CARDS OR LETTERHEAD OR INCORPORATING THE ELEMENTS INTO MARKETING OR ADVERTISING EFFORTS, take the time to create a style guide that puts into writing the most basic rules that must be observed to properly build the visual element of your new brand.
Letterhead can be one of the easiest components of your brand . . . and have a significant impact, presenting your business to the world with professionalism and credibility. Still, people are often intimidated because they don’t realize the difference between a letter on a new, blank document and one on professional-looking letterhead requires just a few simple steps (three actually). You can have yours ready to use in about ten minutes, assuming, of course, you’ve already made the hard decisions about your brand identity and:
already have a logo;
have your chosen fonts; and
have selected your color palette to use with your logo.
1. From within Microsoft Word, go to File > New > Blank document. Start by preparing the main section of your letterhead and set the font properties; no text needs to be entered or selected to do this. Just choose a font and font size (I went with Calibri in size 10).
2. Then, click the Insert tab, press Header, and choose Edit Header.
Press Ctrl + E to set your alignment to centered. Then, press the Insert tab again, click Pictures this time, navigate to a high-resolution image (PNG, JPG, etc.) of your logo, and press Insert.
You’ll probably need to adjust the sizing of your logo as this point. If so, just click on a corner of the image and drag DIAGONALLY to increase or decrease the size as needed. (If you drag other than diagonally, you could resize your logo disproportionately.) Then, click in the open space to the right of the logo and press enter to add a line space. You’re now done with your header!
3. Scroll down to the footer and click within that area. Press the Home tab to set your font properties. (I went with Calibri in size 12 Centered.) In the footer, you can include your company name (or omit if you’d like since your company name is most likely already included in your logo), your tag line (don’t waste any opportunities to educate people about your business), your web site address, email, address, phone number, etc.
I included our business name, tag line, and web address; I also added some dashes above the web address for visual separation. And, voila! Done! Double click the space above the dashed line labeled footer to exit the header and footer and return to the main document. (At this point, the header and footer content will be grayed out, showing that you are editing the main body of the document. To return to the header and footer section, simply double click in either the header or footer sections.)
Before calling it a day, be sure to save your template. Go to File > Save as; then, Browse to your desired location, name your file something that will be clear to you in the future (like “letterhead”), and save.
You want simple, nice, and professional looking business cards. Easy, Peasy, right? Unfortunately, creating business cards from scratch can be a little intimidating for even a tech-savvy person. Thankfully, Microsoft Word actually makes a decent amount of business card templates available to you. While the focus is clearly quantity versus quality, their templates do save you a number of groundwork steps, so they are a good place to start. You can go from a blank Word document to print-ready business cards in only ten steps. . . .
(For a personalize-and-print option for $6, skip to the end.)
1. From within Microsoft Word, go to File > New and type “business cards” into the search box.
Scroll down through the search results to the vertical “flower personal business cards”.
2. Right click the cross within a square at the upper left and choose Table Properties.
Select Table > Borders and Shading > Border and set the Setting to All, the Style to dashed, the Color to light gray, and the Width to ¼ pt; press OK.
Then go to Cell and set the Vertical Alignment to Centered and press OK once again. You now have business cards that are horizontally and vertically centered with very faint visual guides for cutting.
3. Delete all the content from the first card, insert your logo, and size to your liking, keeping in mind you will need space for your contact information.
4. Press enter to advance to the next line and set the font to Calibri, the font size to 11, and the font color to black. Press Ctrl + D for advanced font and character options. Click the Advanced tab and set the Character Spacing to Expanded By 3 pt. Press OK and turn your Caps Lock on. Type your name.
5. Press return to advance to the next line. Change the font to Calibri Light and the font size to 10. Click Ctrl + D, change the character spacing to .5 pt, and press OK; then, type your title.
6. Press return to advance to the next line and change the font size to 7.5. Then include your contact information, limiting yourself to three lines.
7. Place your cursor after your logo, right click, and go to Line Spacing Options.
Within Indents and Spacing, set the Spacing After to 6pt, and press OK.
Set the cursor after your title and repeat.
8. Once you’re happy with your layout, select the entire contents of that card, and copy by pressing Ctrl + C. Then, select the contents of another card, press Delete, and Ctrl + V to paste your new design.
Repeat the process for the rest of the page.
9. Save your file and print; be sure to set your printer Print Quality to the best available option. (When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock in between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.)
10. Then, cut! For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.
A Note About Fonts and Colors: While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.
If you would prefer to forgo the instructions above and purchase a preformatted template, the file is available for $6. In this version, you need only enter your information into one of the cards, and the rest will populate automatically. Simply type your info, print, and cut!
As a small businessowner, I suspect many of you saw this headline
and asked, “What is a Brand Style Guide, and why bother when I have more
immediate needs that might generate income?”
I can see you are about to close this page . . . and I want a shot
at keeping you reading. I’ll start by
answering those two questions.
A Brand Style Guide is a written statement that defines and
describes the way in which you present your business to the world. Typically, both the message and key elements
of the visual treatment are encompassed.
by identifying the issues we wanted to cover:
Our mission and differentiating qualities (i.e., the synopsis of “Our Story”).
Our brand voice.
Our guidelines for use of our logo – attempting to make that icon our unique brand signature.
Our color palette.
The fonts used with our logo.
The types of photos and images selected.
When Carole and I decided to start our blog on
marketing/communication strategies, we were determined to pass along useful
how-to information and instruction that might enable a small business owner to
have a highly evolved and very professional brand . . . while doing all of the
required work inhouse. Having been
practitioners in this field for decades, we knew the difficulties that could be
encountered in going DIY . . . as well as the very high cost of hiring third
parties to perform these tasks. For
example . . . just a few years ago, a company affiliated with my employer paid
$25,000 to have a style guide prepared for a new start up. Frankly, the product delivered did not
justify the cost.
So . . . think about the characteristics that set you apart. Those features are the heart and soul of your business plan and provide the critical backdrop needed to create your Brand Style Guide.
Are you traditional or avant garde? Friendly and very personal . . . or somewhat
distant and formal? When you are
expressing yourself, are you picturing an audience of fellow professionals . .
. or the general pubic? The way in which
you answer questions such as these determines the voice that will be identified
with your brand.
Carole and I naturally write with different styles. And yet, we did set some basic parameters
that will, we hope, create a single voice unique to our blog. Specifically, we determined that we would
keep our use of jargon to minimum OR (when necessary) be sure to define and
explain the meaning of terms. Similarly,
we are choosing to be as anecdotal as possible, which gives our readers a
chance to get to know us a bit better . . . while hopefully creating an overall
friendly tone and helping others to benefit from our experiences.
Within those fairly broad parameters, we figure we will just allow
ourselves to use our natural styles of writing rather than attempt to sound
like each other. We think this degree of
variety/similarity works well for our purpose . . . and hope you agree.
In general, words like the following speak with our voice: simple; straightforward; practical;
experienced; convenient; direct; professional; DIY; “do it yourself”; useful; “how to”; and self-reliant.
Use of Logo
Every logo creator hopes and intends for the graphic to become an
immediately identifiable symbol. Toward
that end, consistent and frequent use of the exact image is necessary. Our basic logo for this blog is pictured to
the left. The primary variation to be
used both in print and online/onscreen is the three-color version shown at the
top. When only a single color is
available (either due to the medium used or cost-saving economics) the black
and gray version is permissible. A
single-color, black alternative has also been created for those select
occasions when the method used to reproduce the image will not handle gray
successfully. (Example – some
photocopying of forms.)
While we believe our logo is sufficiently scalable to become signage atop a building or an imprint on a golf ball . . . and all sizes in between, you need to always be sure the logo you are using has sufficient resolution (i.e., image data or tightly placed Dots Per Inch – DPI) and is being passed along in a file type suitable to the task.
Technical Note . . .
For onscreen use such as web pages, you typically want a resolution of 72 dpi in a file type such as a .jpg, .png, or .gif with an RGB (red-green-blue) color mode. While each of these file types can be successful, only the latter two support a transparent background (jpg’s add white in null spaces rather than allowing no color).
For print purposes (including most print advertisements), you typically want a resolution of 300 dpi rendered in a CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) color mode. While high resolution .jpg and .png files can also be used for print, other options become available, including more easily scalable .eps (Encapsulated PostScript) or pdf (Portable Document Format) files. If you are printing in one-color black (including the black/gray variation), you will want to use a grayscale color mode. (The logo can be reversed to feature white when used on a dark background.)
Too technical? Perhaps. However, the key to keeping your logo looking good at all times is to make sure the right kind of file has been used . . . and we wanted to acquaint you with some of the basic considerations that will be explored further in future blog entries – including preparation of a logo download page that can provide any third party the kind of source material needed to handle your logo correctly.
Interestingly, style guide pages on logos typically spend more
time and space enumerating “Don’ts” rather than spelling out the “Dos.” For Example:
DO NOT add, move, remove, replace, or
reposition any portion of the logo!! (With
one of our past corporate logos in particular that was very horizonal, vendors were
constantly trying to break the whole into pieces that got restacked vertically.)
DO NOT change any colors or fonts.
DO NOT stretch or distort the logo. Remember, you can never change just the horizontal
or just the vertical dimension without changing both. Doing so creates distortion. (Note: That’s the reason quick resizing in
graphic programs always uses diagonal motions.)
DO NOT remove elements of the logo.
(Example: We like our hammer; don’t fill
in the color!)
DO NOT place the logo on a busy or distracting
DO NOT apply a logo or logotype color
variation to a background with insufficient contrast.
DO NOT create your own variations.
Every logo is custom designed; no other combinations are permitted. In those cases in which a logo has been trademarked, failure to use the exact versions registered can weaken or negate a legal position.
Note: We wanted to mention that our final logo also incorporates a clear box around the icon. We take this step to avoid any image material getting cut off during file handling, especially the rounded bottoms of letters or those with descenders.
As previously noted, different uses of a logo require a different “color mode” – a very tricky subject involving lots or esoteric technical information. Bottom line: use CMYK (or grayscale) for print and RGB for web use. Most graphic arts programs will give you the ability to switch back and forth between these modes. However, you will note that print and onscreen versions of the same color can vary somewhat, which is the reason these programs include elaborate methods of color correction. Rule of thumb – a CMYK color viewed on your computer will seldom reproduce in exactly the same way when printed. Getting these two to match is as much an art (tempered by experience) as a science. Nevertheless, use of the right color modes will almost always produce a result that is at least acceptable.
For example . . .
The lighter blue in our logo’s B, A, D = RGB 69-96-128; CMYK 81-60-31-10.
The darker blue in R, N, and BUILDING = RGB 39-59-84; CMYK 89-74-45-38.
The hammer is white (RGB 255-255-255; CMYK 0-0-0-0), and “for small business” is pure black (RGB 0-0-0; CMYK 0-0-0-100).
For those somewhat rare applications requiring a grayscale color mode, the lighter gray is L88, the darker gray is L35, the black is L0, and white is L255.
become familiar with expressing colors as formulas, you will be able to
communicate successfully with vendors such as commercial printers, graphic
artists, and other professionals. Until
then, we wanted you to be aware that these color systems exist (as well as a
variety of others such as Pantone/PMS, HEX, LAB, etc.) so you’ll be able to act
appropriately upon being told 0-0-0-0, and you’ll understand that 51-51-51 is
not a code for an “Area” in Roswell, New Mexico.
Our logo incorporates two fonts: Titullian Web Black for the words BRAND and
BUILDING and Candelon Regular applied to “for small business.”
For the text of our blog, we’ve chosen to use Georgia.
If you are looking to reproduce these fonts or want a resource for finding others, we suggest you check out https://fonts.google.com/. Other alternatives exist, but we’ve found this one to be good and useful.
blog, you’ve probably noticed that we elected to highlight our logo as the primary
imagery on the page – hopefully calling added attention to that item. Since we needed some other photo just to
properly balance the page, we selected neutral content that would recede into
the background and not compete.
we do anticipate periodically using a photo or other graphic element to enhance
the point being made and to add some visual interest. When making such choices, the following will
be some of our considerations:
of people; generally speaking, faces make an image more interesting.
energy (Are the people smiling and happy?
(not necessarily young but avoiding elements, such as old cars or computers,
that date a picture).
(not too many elements and generally tending to closer focal points).
relevance; humor when possible.
Many companies successfully incorporated a tag line into their brand identity. Ever hear the phrase “Breakfast of Champions” or perhaps “Betcha can’t eat just one”?
When building your brand, consider your options, remembering that a good tag line reflects a differentiating quality, reminds us about a key benefit, and imparts a positive feeling. If you do have or develop a tag line, be sure to specify any rules for usage in relation to your logo. (Very often, tag lines become part of the graphic.)
While we have not adopted a fixed
position or graphic treatment for our tag line, we have chosen the
language: “A Blog for Entrepreneurs
Looking to Create and Develop their Corporate Identity.”
A short description of your product
or service will often be needed when sending out press releases, producing
sales literature, creating marketing ads, and even filling out forms. To ensure a consistent, properly branded
message, you should develop one or more variations of such a description. For us, one short paragraph seemed adequate
to get started:
“Produced by two experienced communication professionals, Brand Building for Small Business is a blog that aims to provide practical, do-it-yourself advice about creating a brand identity from the bottom up . . . and using that vehicle to help generate income streams. Expect simple, straightforward tips that can be executed by a single person or a small group on a very tight budget.”
single most important rule for a Brand Style Guide is to use the rules
regularly, to incorporate the elements into your decision-making process, and
to not allow yourself too many exceptions . . . though some necessities will
certainly turn up.
that spend thousands of dollars getting a guide prepared for them have a
built-in incentive to dictate their use . . . while your motivation as a small
business for creating and sticking to your guide is less immediate – more of an
act of faith.
your efforts can pay off. Successful
brands are those with elements that resonate with the audience . . . those that
are based in reality and communicate a truthful message in both spoken and
unspoken ways. So, be honest with
yourself in making your underlying branding decisions, and you’ll stand a very
good chance at building a great brand identity.
BTW . . .
Changing a brand is another story for the future. Whether small refinements are being introduced
or a more basic overhaul is underway, this task is a daunting one and is
another good reason for being careful in determining your initial brand
Lots of businessowners question whether they’re creative or
tech-savvy enough to create their own logo.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you neither of those qualities are needed,
but I can safely say they’re not needed in the abundance you probably imagine.
Things you do need to design your own logo:
A little creativity
A little tech savvy
A vector editing program (available for free)
Lots of fonts choices (available for free)
Lots of icon choices – IFyou want a graphical component to your logo (available for very minimal cost; the icon used in our logo cost $2.99)
So where to start?
While graphic design isn’t my specific trade, I’ve been asked
to create dozens of logos throughout my career.
Every time, I start by facing that same dreaded obstacle: the blank
page. I stare at it, thinking about what
the logo should represent and the type of fonts, colors, and imagery to best
suit that message. Meanwhile, a blank page relentlessly stares back.
While a tedious process, you should set your expectations for your logo before you pick up a pencil (or the mouse).
Originally, logos were introduced as an aid to people who couldn’t read. As a result, the earliest designs tended to be very literal. (For example, a shoemaker’s logo would inevitably show a shoe.) Over time, the purpose of logos has evolved to become a broader reflection of brand but remains a key way of differentiating yourself in the marketplace.
So what’s the personality of your company? Is your business youthful and trendsetting? Conservative and financially strong? Fun and whimsical? Product-focused and straightforward? Some combination thereof? This corporate identity (or brand) needs to be communicated in your logo – through your font(s), color(s), placement of words, and any graphics.
If once you have a strong sense of your business “personality”
in mind, your page is still unyielding in its never-ending canvas of white, go
looking for some inspiration. . . .
For the Brand Building for Small Business logo, I
knew I wanted to try something graphical to literally represent the act of “building.” I was initially picturing letters being
nailed but knew that would be tricky to execute in a clear way. So, I went to my go-to spot for inspiration: google images.
I searched for “building logo,” hoping the results would be full of
construction-type logos also looking to convey the literal act of “building.” But no, Carole, searching “building logos”
yields lots of logos of buildings.
. . . Should have foreseen that. Instead, I searched for “building construction logos” and found more of what I had in mind.
A couple screens in, I found inspiration.
Looking at the Hammersmith logo (in navy and white on a
yellow background), I love the way the hammer is a silhouette within the house
and appears to be captured mid-swing. I
immediately knew I wanted to try a hammer silhouette, but I wanted the graphic to
appear within the company name and not as part of a separate graphical
A quick note on inspiration versus copyright infringement: This is an area requiring caution. Whereas you can use a silhouette of a hammer as seen in one logo in another, creating a logo for a construction company with a silhouette of a hammer in a navy house with white windows on a yellow background would most certainly earn you front-row seats to the case of them v. you. An individual idea cannot be copyrighted; however, “a collection of ideas” makes a logo (or any other original work) unique and can be protected by law. Tread carefully.
So, where does one go for icons that could legally be used as part of a logo for minimal cost? A number of options exist, but I like https://thenounproject.com/. They have a large selection and charge nominal, one-time fees per icon. I found the hammer for our logo for $2.99.
A number of choices were available. . . .
I selected a classic and simple hammer.
I then purchased and downloaded the file in PNG (bitmap
image with a transparent background) and SVG (vector) formats. (A
separate article on Vector vs Bitmap file formats is planned.)
Now what to do with your icon? We use the vector and graphics editor, CorelDraw. While the suite is powerful and much cheaper than your standard graphics package, the cost is still pretty steep in the $500 ballpark. I read a few articles on free vector-editing programs, found Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/) to be highly recommended, and gave it a go. The program seems to have the features needed to get the job done. (And, they make a number of tutorials available, including one on the basic tools: https://inkscape.org/en/doc/tutorials/basic/tutorial-basic.html.)
An obvious first step when selecting a font to use for your logo is to scroll through the existing fonts on your computer to see whether anything catches your eye. Remember that you’re not looking for the font that necessarily looks the best to you; rather, you’re looking for the one that best represents your business’s brand. If you’ve picked out an icon at this point, you’ll also need to be mindful of the way a given font looks with your chosen icon. You can have an icon and a font that both separately represent your brand perfectly but just don’t look good together. Since I wanted to try including the hammer as a silhouette within the words for Brand Building for Small Business, I needed a really bold, thick font. I gave Arial Black a try, knowing it’s the boldest font currently available on my computer, but I wasn’t really pleased with the result.
Thankfully, a source exists offering hundreds of (*free*) fonts in a searchable format that actually makes the process relatively easy. With Google Fonts (https://fonts.google.com), I was able to type in my sample text, BRAND BUILDING, the size I wanted to preview, 60 px, and my desired font characteristic(s), increased thickness.
After much trial and error (downloading, installing, and trying dozens of fonts), I found Titillium Web Black and a contrasting script, Candelion Regular, to work in black and two shades of navy.
While I am VERY tempted to digress at this point and start talking about some of the many techniques that can be used to marry the fonts/words used in your logo to the images you’ve chosen . . . I keep reminding myself that level of detail is really better suited for another blog entry further down the road. For now, I will stick to my original plan to keep this message broad but nevertheless offer a few . . .
At some point, you may choose to print sales materials in grayscale or advertise in a print media in black and white. You may want to have branded pens for your company (requiring a very, very small logo) or you may purchase a building on Times Square and want your logo proudly illuminated on top (requiring a very, very large logo). Before you decide your design is a done deal, you should run a few tests. Try changing your color scheme to grayscale as well as black and white and print a very small version (one half inch on its biggest side should be sufficient) and a very large version (full page). If all variations look ok, you’ve probably got a keeper.
Export your new logo as a high-resolution transparent RGB PNG, which will work well in MOST (but not all) environments. (Inkscape export settings are shown at right below.)
Once you’ve managed to get this far, you’ll want to protect your work. Your logo should be registered as a trademark. If you are not of a mind to involve your lawyer in the process, consider checking out various on-line alternatives and look into the steps involved in going the DIY route (for example: https://www.wikihow.com/Register-a-Trademark-Without-an-Attorney).
Next up . . . confirm your understanding of your business’s audience; read: Know Your Audience.
Picking a name is the easiest
task you face when starting a new business and developing your brand, right?
While you might expect this
step to be a “no brainer,” the path to success is fraught with countless
obstacles standing in your way – a lack of creativity being the least of your
During our years in the
corporate world, Carole and I had numerous opportunities to name companies and
products . . . and over time were asked to use a variety of strategies from the
hire of a highly paid consultant to a company-wide naming contest. When you have 500 employees allowed to make
multiple submissions, you quickly get a pool of 2,500 alternatives to choose
among. So, you’d assume that at least one of those entrants would be a
winner. Sadly, such was not our
Ultimately, we have learned to
keep the task as simple as possible AND to avoid the confusion caused by tooooo
many opinions. Since we recently went
through such an exercise in naming our blog, I will offer this very fresh example
to illustrate some of the hard-earned lessons (AND SHORTCUTS) we have learned.
Aside: BTW, do you like the name? (We’d love to hear from you.)
Three Criteria that Must Be
Be memorable and preferably short. (Some people, including me, believe the best names reflect the content or value of the product or service in a self-explanatory way.)
Be available. (Sound too basic to list? After playing this game a few times, you’ll be shocked at the number of names already taken – especially the good ones!) When another party has already planted their intellectual-properties stake in the ground by starting the registration process, might as well give up and turn your attention elsewhere.
Has an accompanying Internet domain name/address that’s easy to use and even easier to remember.
While a number of other matters certainly need to be considered in picking a name (reproducibility, color, flexibility in size, etc., etc., etc. – including the visual potential of the words chosen in developing a logo and other supporting materials), these items will more appropriately be discussed in Parts 2 and 3 of Branding Basics, which address logo design and the creation of a style sheet.
Brainstorming (Developing an
Initial Pool of Names)
With these three criteria
providing a VERY basic framework for the process, Carole and I gave ourselves
the assignment of each coming up with five suggested names. To get started on my end . . . I wrote down
EVERY name imaginable – good/bad/indifferent – ranging from such selections as “Spread
the Word” to “Communicate – A Practical Guide.”
When developing this first list, you need to force yourself to be
uninhibited and must be willing to be “Dumb” because that’s all part of the
process. However, you and your team
usually get a few good laughs in return.
Next, I narrowed my list down
to the required five and sent them off to Carole. She did likewise, and we voted on our
favorites. One name that didn’t make the
cut was “Brand Building . . . to Help Sell DIY.” While neither of us selected that option,
Carole said, “What about just Brand Building?”
Liking the short version and
both of us being suckers for alliteration, we decided to take that option
through the next steps.
Domain Name/Internet Address
Sooooo . . . we had a
candidate, but would we be able to secure a name that would help us transact
To check, go to a site like www.godaddy.com. Upon searching the availability of our name, we learned that www.brandbuilding.com was not available . . . but we also saw that the name could be purchased for $19,000!
To us, that meant we were on
the right track – the name was popular enough to command a steep price (a good
sign). However, unwilling (or
psychologically incapable) of investing that much money, we began considering
different variations and ultimately landed on “Brand Building for Small
Business.” Since we had already
determined that we’d use WordPress to host our blog, we did spend the very
reasonable amount of money to secure that platform.
Is our chosen name
perfect? Being a little longer than the
ideal, probably not. However, we believe
the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.
In our experience, many perfectly acceptable product and/or company
names can’t be used because a reasonable accompanying Internet name/address is
not available. We think our choice
passes a number of key tests.
However, one avenue that can always be considered is a unique but generic name that has no obvious ties to your product or service . . . but sounds neat and is memorable. EX: Apple or Google. The benefits of this approach are minimal competition for domains (potentially), very small likelihood of copyright issues arising, and a name that will “fit” whatever your company grows up to be.
Intellectual Property Rights
For a quick preliminary test of intellectual property rights, go to the web site of the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/. This official government app allows you to enter a name and see all of the possible similar variations that are (or have been) in use.
In our case, we found no exact matches but a few that had some similarity. In such cases, you have to determine whether the address owner operates within the same industry and whether our use of the name could cause any confusion within the marketplace. (For a more exact and reliable explanation of the legal ramifications, consult your attorney.)
In the end, we felt we were seeing a fairly common use of Brand Building as a conceptual term . . . but not necessarily a name for a competing product. Therefore, we decided to move forward. However, be aware that names and other intellectual properties have significant value, so challenges can occur – Carole and I have experienced them ourselves in the corporate world – on both the giving and receiving end.
Having gone through these exercises, we have our name and a key building block for our brand.
BTW—some form of testing of your chosen name is always a good idea. Such a process can be as simple as informally asking the opinions of friends and colleagues . . . or can be a formal study involving a demographically correct group of participants. In the end, a good name will ultimately resonate with the experience of the audience – making the name easier to remember.