As bloggers and business owners, we breathe life into our brands all day, every day. A brand is much more than the logo, the engaging Instagram posts or our brand colors. A brand is our vision, our purpose and our visuals all combined together. Our brands our sources of emotions—they create meaning for the individuals we serve.
We narrow down our focus and target audience. We fine-tune our brand’s sole reason for being. At the same time, we encompass these ideas into our visual branding. Fonts, colors, spacing, patterns, and graphical elements make our brands come to life. All of these pieces come together in a brand board.
If you’ve worked with a designer or DIY-ed your design, you may be familiar with a brand board. A brand board is a quick reference guide for your brand’s visuals. The foundation of a brand board includes: fonts, colors and a logo.
Other elements to enhance your brand board include:
- Alternative logos or watermarks
- Styled photography
- Signature patterns
- Graphic elements (icons, buttons, illustrations etc.)
How do you make a brand board?
Start with the basics. Do you already have a logo together? Are you looking for 1-3 fonts to complete your visual branding guide? Do you want to add a color palette? Or are you starting from scratch?
If you are starting from scratch with your brand design, you can follow these tips for developing your brand visuals. If you like to DIY your design, this can be a fun process, but may take some time. If you would like to work with a designer, I would make sure you discuss all the aspects desired for your brand board.
Quick Tip: The number one thing to think about when creating your branding guide is to think about where your brand will live. Will you have a website? An Instagram? PDF documents? Business cards? Letterheads? Bumper stickers? Billboards? Presentations? What are the most important materials you use for marketing and everyday business?
After you think about where your visual brand will appear, start the brand board process. Here are the steps I follow to make a brand board.
1. Gather inspiration and create a mood board.
First, you need direction for your visuals. Are you going to go bright & bold? Simple and minimalistic? Pretty and girly? Adventurous and light-hearted? What are the words that define your brand? Where do you see your brand going in 2-5 years? How can your vision drive the visuals of your brand and communicate your message to your audience? Take some time to brainstorm.
After you have a direction, browse through Pinterest, Flickr and your favorite image sites. Also, look through magazines, brochures or other paper material to collect images and ideas for your logo, fonts, and colors.
Gather similar images into a mood board to generate color palettes and a visual style. A mood board drives the direction of your brand’s logo and additional graphics. It helps you to simplify the look and feel of your brand as you begin to design the logo.
2. Choose your color palette.
When selecting colors, it’s always good to keep these things in mind:
- What emotion reactions do the colors promote?
- Does the color complement your message as a brand?
- Will the colors be readable across different platforms and uses?
- What colors do your competitors use? How would you want to differentiate?
- What are your personal preferences for colors?
3. Research and design your logo.
Brainstorm what you would like your logo to look like. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What represents my brand?
- Would I like my logo to be text-based or include some graphics?
- What is the most important thing my logo communicates?
- What are the key values being portrayed in my logo?
- Where will my logo be used? How many versions or alternative logos do I need?
While there is a lot that goes into building a logo, your logo is the centerpiece of your brand board. Everything flows from your logo—your colors, fonts, graphics, etc. Be patient with designing your logo, go through several different versions, and get feedback from others. Sleep on it before making a decision.
4. Choose complementary fonts.
While choosing fonts and colors will overlap with designing your logo, you can also select additional fonts that will be used with your other brand materials (website, business cards, brochures, stationery, etc.). Select a basic serif or sans-serif font to be used as body text that’s readable and appealing to the eyes. You can then spice it up with some script or display fonts. My suggestion is to keep your font selection to less than three fonts in order to maintain consistency.
5. Create patterns, icons and other graphical elements.
Patterns and icons are great for adding to your brand story. These are extensions of your brand visuals and should complement your logo and the vibe from your branding so far. Consider using these patterns as backgrounds for your web design, part of your business cards or on other graphical layouts for social media.
6. Bring them all together into a brand board.
After you have created your branding elements, open a new document to create a brand board. Organize these elements in a grid, with your logo in a featured spot. From there, you can add your font names and the hex codes for your color palette. This way, it is easy to know what your select colors and fonts are at all times. Many designers choose to label sections such as, “fonts,” “colors,” “watermark,” “style,” “logo,” etc., but this is optional. Go with what works for you!
Use a Brand Board for Design Consistency
One reason you should make a brand board is to ensure consistency across your brand’s visuals. This means you are only using the same fonts, colors and graphic elements no matter what you produce. There is room for flexibility (if you are making a stand-alone product like an e-book, for example), but in order to establish brand authority and recognition, consistency is key in our graphics. A brand board can help us stay on track.
Now, don’t confuse a brand board with a style guide. A style guide gives more detailed instructions on the fonts, styles, colors, spacing, etc. for your brand. You can have a style guide for your website, for your logo, for your business cards and for worksheets you make. However, all style guides should follow your brand board. It’s one place that quickly goes over how you will communicate your brand in a visual way.
Are you ready to make a brand board? And put all the pieces of your brand together?
Be sure to download my brand board template for InDesign! You are now ready to start making a powerful brand statement with your visuals. You go for it.
For more branding inspiration, I’ve gathered my favorite brand boards and branding inspiration on a Pinterest board: