cottage branding-design elements

Welcome back to Cottage Branding! So far, you’ve aced 101: Authenticity, you were head of the class in 102: Purpose, you identified your style in 103: Focus, and you got your creative juices flowing in 104: Logo ! You are well on your way to earning you branding degree from this completely unaccredited and unofficial university of cottage business! Let’s jump into the next step, which builds on your logo to establish specific design elements to unify your brand. Let me remind you as we venture into this course, I am not a marketing expert or a graphic designer; I am just a regular gal with an interest in and an eye for design who knows what she likes. Sound like you? Then you CAN do this!

The three design elements I’d like to focus on for the purposes of your cottage branding efforts are colors, fonts, and secondary marks, which are the images, water marks, and silhouettes that can easily be added to your branding efforts to increase your recognizable presence.

You might be wondering why you need to make these decisions if you are not selling patterns and you do not have a blog or a website of your own. First off, I am of the opinion that you should always be open to establishing a web presence outside of a third party selling platform, even if you are not ready for it just yet. It increases your professionalism and gives people a place to land where they can find out any contact information and links to multiple selling platforms. Other ways these branding efforts can be used are avatars, market signage, tags, business cards, and packaging. Knowing that all of these are unified and identifiably YOU is working your brand muscle like a boss.

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Making these design choices can be daunting-there is great inspiration out there, and I have often found myself stuck in the paradox of choice: there is simply too much to sift through to allow you to focus on what you really love, and you become paralyzed by options. Firstly, go and  pull out that mood board you built a few weeks ago. This is going to be helpful to you throughout these next few steps! Here are some further strategies I used when tackling these elements.

Colors: Take a look at your yarn stash or other supplies, your past projects, and your mood board. Do you see any recurring color trends? Jot down what you see. For me, it is all about soft whites, taupe, warm greys, all variations of khaki or olive green, and small touches of blush and muted green-blue. I took this list to the paint department and found some color swatches that spoke to this palette and added them to my mood board. I also started creating a design plan in Photoshop. I have used Photoshop for photo editing and graphics for years. I started with Elements and moved up to the big boy application later. If you are ready to tackle some of the graphic elements yourself and step up your images game, Photoshop Elements can be an affordable option, with a learning curve. I began by pinning a bunch of different website design plans, which are super easy to find. I began developing my own version by narrowing down various elements from those others had put together. Color swatches were one elements I knew I wanted to define for use on my blog, on my pattern style sheet, and in the various other uses I mentioned above.

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Fonts: So, I have a serious issue when it comes to fonts. I have downloaded too many free use fonts to count-i am always looking for something new in the font world. I knew that I wanted one script font, one clean, modern sans serif (meaning: without the little extra tab thingys at the end of the letters), and one all caps “title” font with a little flair. This particular mix of style allows me to keep things interesting AND consistent; it’s a great font formula to try. It took me a long time to make my font decisions. I played around with many, many different combinations before I found one that I felt played well together and stood independently. The script font I chose was from an independent designer and ended up costing a small fee for commercial use. The sans serif and title fonts were free. I use these fonts in my logo, pattern style sheet, business cards, and water mark. I added these fonts to my design plan to get a feel for how everything was looking when put together.

Secondary Marks: I knew that I wanted a few marks that correlated to my logo, which I could use as a water mark and  for secondary branding. I started with my logo and separated out the two key elements, the hook and the lavender. I also created a secondary monogram logo, with which I water mark my photography. Lastly, as I sell PDF patterns on Etsy, which can be confusing for potential customers, I created a translucent overlay for my cover images indicating the listing is for a PDF, not the finished piece. This has greatly reduced confusion for potential customers. These were all design tasks I felt equal to after having created my logo, but if these seem overwhelming, this is an area where hiring a designer may well be your best option.

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After pulling all of these ideas and putting them together into a design plan (no small task, and one which took me probably ten or more hours), I cam up with this:

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This is a visual synopsis of my branding choices, and when I clip it to my mood bard, I feel very confident that I am headed in the right direction. But, my way is certainly not the only way to tackle these important choices.

I asked a blog land favorite of mine, Stephanie of All About Ami how the design elements she has chosen have served to build her brand, and what resources she has found the most helpful in making these choices. Stephanie is incredibly creative and kind, and her blog welcomes you in with a feeling of friendliness and creative warmth. She was kind enough to share her reflections with us.

A couple of years ago, I decided to rebrand as I did not have a logo or customized header.  I wanted it to reflect my style and what my crochet blog is all about: clean, modern, and sophisticated patterns.  I hired a graphic designer who I had admired on social media named Leonora of “Yellow Heart Art”.  I knew I wanted my blog to have a blush pink/grey/white/gold colour scheme as it is my favouite colour combination and it has a beautiful elegance to it.  I asked Leonora to include a yarn ball and crochet hook in my logo, and she did a wonderful job designing a unique yarn ball with a strand in the shape of a heart!  She used a modern font for the “All About Ami” and a cursive “crochet” underneath as a lovely juxtaposition.  The gold leaves help frame my logo and remind me of crochet stitches as well! 

Hiring a graphic designer to help me create a unique logo and header has helped my blog stand out and be readily identifiable when I use this logo on other accounts, such as Etsy, Craftsy, Pinterest, and others.  It makes my blog more cohesive as I use these colours all throughout and incorporate the yarn ball motif in various places.  I found it helpful browsing through Pinterest and popular design/fashion/lifestyle blogs to see what colours and design elements I wanted, and I am definitely glad we hired a graphic designer to help our vision become a reality!

Hiring a designer for these steps can be a fantastic choice and most certainly does not have to break the bank. Stephenie’s design choices stem from the original logo done by the graphic artist she worked with, giving her a framework for future design elements. Stephanie is also currently working on re-vamping her blog design-I can’t wait to see how her choices add to her overall style!

Hire a designer, or take it on yourself-having these design elements well defined will serve you well in your branding efforts. Come back soon for the final two installments of Cottage Branding, focusing on Images and Packaging!

Visit the first posts of the series: Authenticity, Purpose, Focus, and Logo.

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