No one likes be to disoriented.
The more clients Jeff and I work with, the more we recognize the value of having a process in place. Not just because it helps us work more effectively as a design team – although that’s a huge part of it. But just as importantly, it’s something we can communicate to a potential client before signing a contract to help them see how their project might take shape. It helps to manage expectations, and give perspective to timelines, revisions, and launch dates. It helps new clients get oriented.
With all our differences as human beings, one thing we probably all have in common is this: being oriented helps us to feel safe. Jeff and I think it’s essential to helping clients have a good experience with something as disorienting as creating or redefining their brand.
Start-to-finish, the process of creating a brand, a website, and supplemental designs for print, social media, etc. needs to be broken into several steps and development phases.
Let’s start with an overview of the branding process, itself:
BEFORE WE GET STARTED | INITIAL INQUIRY AND CONSULT
Chances are that you’ve come to our site after being referred by one of friends or clients, after seeing our work on Facebook or Pinterest, or by following our updates and series on our blog. You’ve browsed our services and like what you see. You’ve decided to take your business to the next level and are serious about investing in a professionally designed brand identity and website.Send us an email with a few details about your project and we’ll get back to you within 1 business day.
After your initial inquiry, we’ll arrange a time for a phone call or video chat. We’ll discuss the needs and goals of your business as well as your vision for the development of your brand.
Based on those goals, we’ll review our services, process, and timeline with you and make sure we answer any questions you might have. This conversation also allows us to get to know each other a little better to see if we would make a good partnership.
ABOUT TO BEGIN | QUOTE, CONTRACT, & BOOKING
If we are a good match, we will take what we discussed during our consult and draft a detailed quote.
Once you’ve revised and approved the draft, we’ll draw up a contract. We’ll send instructions with the contract to legally sign electronically (no need to go to the hassle of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing it back). Please note that your non-refundable deposit is due upon signing the contract to reserve your place in our schedule.
GETTING STARTED | ORIENTATION
When we receive your signed contract, we’ll set up a Client Project Page for you on our website. This page acts as your home base and is a great way for both of us to stay organized and see the development of your project at a glance.
We’ll walk you through the different areas where you can see your project’s progress indicator, the status of items currently queued, any action items/homework for you, and it’s where we’ll post design proposals and final drafts for you to approve.
When a completed design is approved, the files and support materials will be uploaded to your page and will be available for you to access at anytime within the length of our contract.
Now we can begin our six-step Branding Process.
STEP NO. 1 | WEBSITE WORKBOOK
The first thing we’ll do is have you download a copy of our Website Workbook (which you can download for free, here). This will guide you through the first of your action items and help you create a rough outline for your website, content, and any additional components.
In addition to the workbook, we’ll start asking detailed questions regarding your vision and goals for your brand, and start developing a strategy for targeting your preferred clients and keeping their attention.
STEP NO. 2 | INSPIRATION & MOOD BOARD
To get started, first we need your input on the brand design inspiration. One of the easiest ways to convey to us what your vision is for your brand is to create a Pinterest board. The collection of images should represent the tone and mood you want to convey to your audience. Pin photos that show your style and personality as well the kinds of colors, textures, patterns, and typography you’re drawn to. On the flip side, take note of elements that you don’t like.
Depending on if you need a new logo created or redesigned, adding logo ideas and inspiration to this board would be recommended as well. Focus on examples you think match your vision. Are the letters handwritten, a font, or a combination? Is there an emblem or symbol? Is it clean and minimal or vintage-inspired and rustic?
Here’s an example of a board that we created for our brand.
Notice how the overall look and feel of our board is consistent. The colors are dark and muted, and subject matter reflects who we are – two creatives with wanderlust and an affection for motorcycles.
IMPORTANT: The images you choose to pin to your inspiration board will not necessarily be used on your site. In fact – in most cases – the stuff you collect is copyrighted and you won’t have permission to use it commercially.
So rather than collecting actual content for your site, go into this particular process with the mindset of just collecting images that you connect with for one reason or another. Keep your brand in mind. Keep your target audience in mind. But don’t overthink it. Collect as many images as it takes in order to see a noticeable tone and mood emerge.
To make sure we have clear representation of your vision, we’ll pull a few of those photos you’ve gathered – as well as a coordinating color palette – and place them in an Inspiration & Mood Board. We will then upload the board to your Project Page for approval. You will have the opportunity to request 2 rounds of revisions for this step. We want to make sure you’re completely satisfied with this mood board as these images are essential for us to use as inspiration throughout this process as we design.
NOTE: From time to time, we have clients who don’t have the time or inclination to participate in this part of the design process, and trust us to put together the Inspiration & Mood Board for them, based on our planning sessions. If that sounds like you, feel free to opt out of this portion of the design process.
This is an example Inspiration & Mood Board we created for our Vagabond Original brand.
STEP NO. 3 | LOGO PACKAGE
Once your board has been approved, we’ll get started on the cornerstone of your brand: Your logo.
Based on the information you provide in our conversations and from your inspiration board, we’ll create a few proposals/variations. When we’re finished, we’ll upload them to your Project Page for you to review. Typically, up to two or three rounds of revisions will be plenty, and will keep this element of the project within the scope of our contract. Ultimately, we want you to be thrilled with your new custom logo, and we’ll revise it until you are; if that means we need to amend our contract, we’ll give you plenty of notice beforehand.
The final deliverable product will include variations of your new logo, intended to appear in various sizes, light or dark backgrounds, and on a variety of digital and print mediums.
STEP NO. 4 | DESIGN STRATEGY PROPOSAL
When we receive your completed content and collection of images, the next step we take is to create a design strategy proposal. Through careful consideration of the information you’ve provided to us, we visually layout our recommendations.
These recommendations include variations of your logo and submarks, color palette, typography, Inspiration & Mood Board, and other signature design elements.
We will upload the proposal to your Project Page and you may request up to two revisions for this step.
Here’s an example of a Design Strategy Proposal for our own VAGABONDORIGINAL.COM:
Most things that are worthwhile and of value have a few things in common. Whether it’s an intricate sculpture, a finely tuned piano, or a thriving relationship – those things didn’t just happen by accident. They took planning, precision, and extra helpings of hard work.
We think the same is true for a great brand and website. That’s why having a design strategy guide is so essential. As the name indicates, this guide is a strategic, visual reference for the core design elements of your brand. This detailed guide will aid you – and any members of your team – in creating content consistent with your brand, like styling a blog post, Facebook event, Twitter announcement, fliers for print, etc. etc.
STEP NO. 5 | SUPPLEMENTAL GRAPHICS
To supplement your new brand, you will choose up to two media types for web and/or print. Media types include social media branding, ad campaigns, fliers, business cards, thank you cards, label/sticker design, email content, etc.
STEP NO. 7 | WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT & LAUNCH
Prior to starting any design or development of the website itself, there is one more action item for you as the client:
With the Inspriation & Mood Board done, and the Design Strategy Proposal approved, you can expect to be feeling more confident with the direction of your brand, and the tone/mood/attitude you’d like to establish.
Your next task is to gather and create the content. Before we can begin putting together the “bricks and mortar” of your website and print materials, we require all the content you wish to appear on your site. This includes all text, photos, and media for every page. We’ll give you guidance, consultation, and send you requests for the specific copy (approved text content) or photos that we’ll need you to provide on your end. We have access to large libraries of stock photos, and we can help you search for appropriate image content for your pages; but remember that page content is different from design. Page content is your responsibility.
Later on in the design process, we’ll begin the photo post-production work (enhancement, color/style treatment, optimization for web, etc), formatting/presentation of the copy, and creation of any necessary graphic elements.
1. It’s important to understand that – while there’s room for minor revisions, edits, typo fixes, etc. – all copy needs to be as close to a Final Draft as possible. You are ultimately responsible for the grammar, wording, and accuracy of your statements.
2. If you need help with this process (copywriting/creative writing, consulting) we’ll make sure to add it to our contract.
3. Don’t worry about formatting it. We’ll handle the formatting, layout, and presentation on our end.
Consider this another way: Your copy and photo content are the foundation for the entire project. To design without content is as if we started building a house without knowing how many floors, rooms – and what’s going in them. Is this a kitchen? Bedroom? Do you already have a bunch of furniture that needs to fit? Where should we route the plumbing and electrical? Imagine if a home builder found a bunch of great looking cabinets and counter tops and started installing them wherever, only to find out that the fridge and stove you bought doesn’t fit at all.
Rather, we design for your content. Designing your website for the content allows us to be strategic about the layout and presentation of it. So we need that copy before this strategy can take form.
To help you with this process, we will refer back to your Website Workbook and other questionnaires which will help you get started creating and gathering the necessary content. When you submit your content, do your best to ensure that it is “publish ready.” Ideally, that means no typos, errors, or rough drafts.
Before we launch, there will be several rounds of revisions where you can change things around if necessary. But it’s best practice to submit only copy that you’d feel confident posting online immediately; this practice helps us design more effectively and efficiently.
At this point, you will have completed and submitted the content for each page of your site. We will now begin the process of designing each page. The home page is likely most important of those, so we’ll start there. Once you’ve had a chance to review the mock-up of the homepage, you will have the opportunity to request two revisions.
Please note that if any changes are requested by the client afterthis approval, they will billed separately.
With approved content handed off to us, we can start the development phase. Depending on the level of complexity and the amount of content for your site, this stage can vary from 2-8 weeks.
When we’ve finished, you’ll be given a link to test and review your site. The only revisions allowed at this stage will be for minor details or mistakes on our part like typos. Other changes or additions will be billed separately.
TESTING & QUALITY ASSURANCE
Once revisions are complete, we will begin the QA (Quality Assurance) phase. On our end, we will do QA passes looking for technical/functional errors; we click every link, image, button, etc. We fix any technical bugs, bad URLs, etc. We test for functionality and appearance on mobile phones and tablets.
On your end, you and your team will go through each page of your site with meticulous detail. You will read every line of text. You are the final say in approved content. Once more – unless you’ve contracted us to do the copywriting – all the grammar, spelling, and accuracy of your statements is ultimately your responsibility. Final approval is yours alone.
With the QA passes complete, we’re ready to do one of two things: Beta Testing (if necessary) and Official Launch.
With your green light and our final checklist is complete, we will launch your new brand and website to the world. We’ll post it on our own blog and social media, and encourage our followers to go take a look at your new site.
Depending on your Hosting & Management Package, you may need to learn how to make updates to your own content. We will walk you through logging in to the back-end of your new site, show you how to make updates, add pages, update menus, and add content like new blog posts.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to orient yourself to our process. Hopefully it answers questions and helps you better understand why we value our work and services the way we do on our Pricing Guide. If you have more questions or you’re ready to get started, shoot us an email or give us a call.