What To Do If You Can't Afford To Hire A Designer To Create Your Brand Or Website
So you're starting a business and you know how important a brand is. We've covered a ton of topics that go over what a brand is, and how to start your own brand strategy (think of it as your mini business plan), but once you've figured out all those things, the next step is hiring a designer. But, what if you really really can't afford that right now?
Ok, first things first. Don't feel bad. When you're starting a new business there are expenses upon expenses and hiring a designer isn't always justifiable. As designers ourselves we were incredibly lucky that our start-up costs were low, simply because we could do our own branding.
The number one priority on your list right now is probably your website, and most designers (including us) will tell you that you need a brand in order to have an effective website. But when you're on a budget you gotta get creative!
So picture this, you're testing out Squarespace and you're experimenting with styles, layouts, colours and fonts. Lots of the things that go into a brand identity, right? Yup, if you're on a budget and you need a brand identity, Squarespace (or Worpress, or Shopify, or whatever) has a lot of the tools you need to get started without spending a single extra penny.
Before you decide on the colours, fonts and layout you'll be using, you really do need to know your brand and have some sort of road map.
This is called a brand strategy, and if you haven't already, head on over to this post and work through each item. In doing so you'll have a guide to your brand that can be used as a way of making choices and decisions. (Note - it's also pretty similar to a business plan, for a good reason!)
Your next step is to take those answers and make a mood board of some kind. Get visual with your ideas and pull imagery that shows the vibes, textures, atmosphere and colours you have in mind. Remember to keep your ideal client (and what they're attracted to) in mind at all times though!
With all of these things tied together, you can head back to your website and make choices on your style to pull together a site and brand! Yay! When you get into a site like Squarespace, you can literally type in the name of your company/ brand and set it in a font you like. Logo, done. Yup - it might hurt us designers to say this, but if you've got zero budget, you just need to have a name on paper, right? So type it out and be done with it! Keep it simple, don't go for decorative fonts, and call it a day. When the time is right to invest in a designer that will create the perfect brand for you, the invest will pay off, promise!
Here's how to get started on colours and fonts, before you put your website and brand together.
1. CHOOSING BRAND COLOURS
Having created a mood board for yourself, you'll most likely have a common vibe and set of colours that you can pull out. Find 3-5 from within your mood board that you're liking and double check that the grouping is complimentary and practical (i.e you have a range of bright/ light and dark colours). If in doubt, check out this post for how we choose brand colours and then refer to key psychology points:
Red speaks to love, anger and all sorts of bold emotions. It's full of energy, vibrancy and is very powerful. It's one of those colours that either shouldn't be anywhere near your brand, or will be the main colour of your brand. It's either perfect for you, or it's not. So consider how high energy, how bold and how vibrant you want to be - does red feel appropriate? In most cases though, red can be very neutral (which is surprising for such a high energy colour) but take a look at Staples, Uniqlo and Muji, and you'll see a range of reds in use very well.
Purple is typically a royal colour because it was a very difficult colour to find naturally in the world, and therefore wasn't introduced to natural dyes until much later in history. It's deep, rich colour makes you think of luxury, femininity and these days, magic! Purple can also be quite a neutral colour - and matched with most of the spectrum quite easily. Take a look at Oki Doki to see a strong purple in use.
Green is obviously known for natural companies and those with eco values. Because of this green is appropriate for food company's, and can even summon a feeling of hunger within you - think Staburcks, Good Stuff, and Vega for instance. Green can also be blended with other colours really well though, and is nicely neutral. Add in a touch of blue and you've got a really beautiful jewel tone. Go darker and you've got a lovely base colour that compliments a larger palette.
Black and white can be used as much or as little as you like. Make them your whole brand and you've got something really minimal and clean! Or, use them for text, on top of images and you'll have a neutral base colour to return to time and time again. You really can't go wrong here.
Yellow is pure joy. The sunshine colour is happiness, good vibes, fun energy and all those summer feels. Playing with tones and shades of yellow means that you can have creamy colours, or bold colours and always speak to the same emotions. Yellow is a contrasting colour with blue too - which brings in even more energy and is often pulled into sports brands, but can also be used at the softer end of the palette for some calming vibes. Check out Moment Meditation to see an example of a joyful yellow and some calm blues/greys used really well together.
Blue is a wonderfully dynamic colour because it feels so so different at all stages. As a light colour it is calming and relaxing and can be used for peaceful brands, such as spas or hospitals. It's slightly cold feeling lends itself well to cleanliness and sterility, but as a darker hue it speaks of trust. . Hospitals, banks and cops tend to go towards blue, as do lawyers. It holds respect, class and wealth.
Orange is a tough one to use! When used in a fun, vibrant brand, orange can compliment and tie a whole palette together - but as a main brand colour it certainly says something. Typical colour psychology considers orange to be a cheap colour. When found in nature orange has brown or yellow hues and is a lovely warming tone. As a pure colour though orange is bold and best used sparingly. UNLESS that's what you're going for! Tangerine and Home Depot both use orange, and guess what - they're the low cost options of their industry!
Pink is another tough colour - primarily because it's become such a feminine colour and it would be really nice to see us moving away from stereotypical branding. That being said there are lots of tones and shades of this colour that can speak to a range of vibes - add in some orange and you've got a nice coral. Make it a little dusty and you've millennial pink. I mean, we use pink in our branding so we really can't shun it! It's a flexible, fun colour that brings in a feminine hint. Just be nice to it, find the shade that works best for you, and be mindful when using colours that have social stereotypes attached to them.
If you're creating a brand without a designer, we suggest you choose a serif font and a complimentary sans serif, and leave it at that. Add in a more decorative font like a script if it's appropriate for you, but otherwise just work with 2 fonts for now and use them to create contrast. Play with one as the titles/ headline font of your website, and the other as the body copy and go from there.
So what is a serif or sans serif font?
Serif fonts have the little cap at the top and bottom of the letter. They were formed back in the days of carving, when someone chiselling into some stone would create a little 'cap' at the end of the letters to make them look neater. Typically serif fonts are used for book copy - large chunks of printed text. They're a bit easier on the eye when you're reading set copy in print, but that's not a hard and fast rule and most definitely does not stop you from using serif fonts on a website - just means you might want to ensure you've got a serif font designed for web, or one that isn't too small and hard to read.
Sans serif fonts don't have the little cap. They are literally sans (without) the serif! Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule, but sans serif fonts are often easier to read in digital uses, which is why you'll find a lot of copy set in sans serifs on websites. Large chunks of text without the serif make it easier to read on a screen because there's a little less detail. They are also more modern, and so often subconsciously speak to that within branding. You'll want to consider how geometric your sans serif is, and really think about what pairs well and what uses you're going to have for the fonts you choose.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON'T FORGET TO HAVE A STRONG FOUNDATION
The important thing to remember is that you can't create any of the visuals unless you know WHAT your business is, WHO you're selling to, and HOW. What is your business model? Who are your people? What voice are you using to connect with them? Is your product/ service fine tuned and feeling really good? Without those things, a brand is nothing - it's just a pretty shell. So at the end of the day, if you can't hire a designer, focus on building the other things up first and keep the visuals of your website clean, simple and consistent. Choose imagery without heavy filters and stick to a colour palette or vibe that will be consistent. Honestly that's all you need to begin with - so don't worry about all the other things, just get to work!
Want some help with your brand or website? Give us a shout and we'll talk over our packages with you - including our affordable brand development and website training sessions! Plus if you're currently at ground zero of your business and can't afford to hire a designer, give us a shout and let us know if this post helped you or what you'd like to learn about next! We'll take it up a notch soon so don't be afraid to comment below with your ideas.