I’ve seen it happen time and again (even to some of my own work): where a business or non-profit hires a designer to create a brand for them (usually consisting of a logo, business cards, a brochure, and a website) but once the main projects are completed they don’t retain that designer’s services for future design work. This is often because of limited funding being available.
At that point it’s usually a member of that business or non-profit that takes over creative control of the design assets (flyers, social media posts, banners, etc) and since they’re not trained as a designer and they don’t have the skills or knowledge on how to work with the brand, it takes a turn for the worse. That’s not to say that person has poor taste, but they may not have an eye for graphic design (even if they have a good eye with other creative mediums).
In my experience, this shift from designer to “whoever is willing” happens when enough money is saved to have the brand created but not enough money has been saved (or generated) to have that brand implemented or maintained. Unfortunately, hiring a designer to create the initial brand is not enough, you need to retain their services to continue maintaining your brand if you want to have that brand stay consistent and professional.
Things You’re Doing that are Hurting Your Brand:
- Writing/Creating handwritten signs – don’t do it! Putting up colorful pieces of paper with handwritten message or directions doesn’t look professional and can actively turn customers away.
- Setting up social media accounts that you either don’t update or don’t know how to use. If you’re not on social media personally, don’t be on it for your business. The best thing you could do is to stay away, or learn to love it and actually USE it.
- Having mismatched marketing materials. If you’re using colors, fonts, and graphics that are outside of your brand, then you’re hurting the cohesive harmony that is your business’s identity and you’re confusing your message to your customers about who you are.
- Using different business names. Once you have an official logo, that’s the business name you should be using. Make sure that name appears on your website, your social profiles, everywhere and consistently!
- Setting up freebie websites that you “kind of” learned how to use. I’m not saying you can’t do this, but if you do, contact your designer to comb through the site for you to polish it up. Remember, just because it’s free, doesn’t make it better.
- Leaving it to unpaid interns, family, and friends to look after. Please don’t treat your brand like an after thought. This is easily the most important aspect of your business next to customer service and actual offered services. You should be actively engaging with your brand every week at least.
Some things you can start doing now to save your brand:
- Setup a retainer with your original brand designer, or a designer who can work with your brand and have them do the work for you.
- Do the work yourself BUT talk to your designer and find out about your brand’s colors, fonts, any stock images you’ve purchased. Ask what programs they’ve designed for you in, and ask for the original design files they’ve created for you. If you go this route I recommend installing those programs so you can work with the design files, this will require training on your part. Lynda.com has many great tutorials (usually free through your local library).
- Find a design or marketing intern. This is someone in school for this field, or who has worked in this field specifically (they may already have those design programs themselves).
At GMD, I encourage my clients to learn how to do things themselves because I know how challenging it can be to put aside design funding, or find grant money. HOWEVER – I will always advocate for and encourage clients to consider the overall budget for retaining a professional designer. Don’t spend your funds all up front, and make sure you have a practical outlook on your branding needs.