When readers first visit your website, its first impression matters. The vibe of your website will influence how potential customers feel about your business. Your website and branding is an essential part of establishing a strong online presence; your colors, fonts, and images matter! But how do you define your brand identity??
I spend a lot of time educating new business owners about website structure, SEO, and WordPress itself. That’s because what’s under the hood definitely matters and is often overlooked by shinier things like colors, fonts, and logos. However, both pieces need to go hand-in-hand. My passion is delivering websites that are beautiful outside AND powerful inside in order to pair brand identity with performance.
When you work with me, my signature brand discovery process helps you define your brand’s colors, fonts, and overall mood before any website work begins. Yes, it’s that important! Whether you plan to DIY it or choose to work with me, these tips will help you make sure that your personal brand identity shines through in your website design.
Define Your Brand Identity
The first step to creating your brand identity it getting clear on what you offer and who it’s for. When you understand your target market and the types of customers/clients you can help, you can appeal directly to them.
You also need to spend time thinking about your brand. In some cases, this will be YOU as the face of your brand. In other cases, this will be a separate entity that you’ll need to consider separately from yourself.
Then think from your brand’s perspective. How should it come across? Is it serious and to the point? Fun and creative? Think about how you would describe your business and how you want others to describe it.
Choose two or three words to represent your brand (e.g., vibrant, moody, earthy, playful, sophisticated, calm, inviting). Then test these phrases on Pinterest or Adobe Color Explore to see if they bring up the vibe you had pictured in your mind. Save any images that stand out to use as inspiration. You can use these as a starting point for building the rest of your brand pieces.
If you’re a more hands-on person, you can print several of your inspiration images or grab paint chips, magazine clippings, etc. to layer and move around into groups.
Defining your vibe is an important first step to overall brand identity because it’s the foundation for the rest of your brand pieces. Your specific colors, fonts, and images will evolve from this initial exploration and carry through when you design and build your site.
Once you’ve defined your vibe, the next step is to choose your brand colors. Be careful here! The colors for your brand aren’t necessarily your favorite colors (although they might be). For example, my favorite colors are pink and teal. Not only do they happen to be complementary, but they also work for my largely female target audience. Plus, I’m personally comfortable with feminine branding. However, if I was an accountant instead of a designer, I’d choose a more serious or neutral color palette for my brand identity instead.
If you’re having trouble nailing down a color scheme, go back to your original inspiration pictures. Organize the clips and pictures into color groups. Which colors and hues of those colors show up the most? Are you seeing earthy shades of green and blue, bright jewel tones, or muted neutrals?
You can also look at your existing brand products in this step, if you have any. Consider your Teachers Pay Teachers resources, tutoring office furniture, and brand photos if you’ve had any taken. Which colors show up often and fit with your brand goals? For example, a preschool teacher will likely have a different set of colors than a high school biology teacher.
Think about how each color relates to both the overall feel of your business as well as how it pairs with other colors. Also consider how each hue can be used specifically; for example, a brighter color might be used for call-to-action buttons whereas softer tones may be better suited for backgrounds or larger text elements. By being thoughtful about how you use colors throughout your brand, you’ll create an experience that truly reflects your goals.
If you’re still feeling stuck, you can also consider the psychology of colors for further inspiration. Caution, do not get stuck here! The bottom line is if you like it and it works for your brand goals, use it.
Colors are one of the strongest indicators of emotions. Imagine yourself in a sunny yellow kitchen. What feelings does that bring about? Probably bright, cheery, lively, etc. A pale mauve bedroom could easily evoke feelings of relaxation and peace. Fast, expensive race cars are often painted bright red to show speed, power, and exhilaration.
However, the psychology of color isn’t an exact science. One person can enter a bright green room and feel energized and excited, while another feels like it doesn’t leave them space to create. Most people, however, generally feel the same emotions from similar shades. The hue of the shades also matter though– hot pink is very different than pale pink.
Red hues often imbue passion, excitement, or love. If you’re catering to a very creative, upbeat crowd, then red might be your jam.
Shades of pink give off soft, reserved, earthy feelings. Do your clients come to you for your serene, calm nature? You might choose pink as part of your brand identity.
Are you a step above the rest? Purple is often associated with glamor, royalty, and nobility.
Blue is a strong color that gives off peace, reason, and wisdom. It shows your clients that you’re confident and capable.
The entire spectrum of green shades connects people to nature, fresh ideas, and new growth. If you’re encouraging your clients to evolve, change, and embrace new beginnings, then green might the way to go.
Orange gives off feelings of kindness, joy, and warmth. Just like a cozy fire, a fresh sunrise, or an inviting sunset, orange gives people positive feelings that keep them coming back for more.
Vibrant, vivacious, and lively, yellow is a color of life. When people see yellow, their energy is brought up a notch and they’re encouraged and inspired.
If you want to explore color even more, try these tools:
- How To Pick Brand Colors (blog post with more examples)
- Canva Color Wheel
- My Pinterest Board
Find Fonts That Send The Right Message
You’ll likely choose two or three fonts that work together to represent your vibe and highlight different areas of your brand and website. Just like with colors, your font choices should also align with your brand identity. Is your business more serious or playful? Bold or subtle?
Types of Fonts
Specific font families can be used to convey certain feelings. If you’re using a more stylized font, you might also want to reach out to others for their opinion on how legible your choice is. Also explore different font weights (i.e., extra light, light, standard, bold, extra bold) and combinations.
If you want to exude a traditional, elegant style, go for serif fonts. Choosing a serif font conveys that you are intelligent, serious, and capable. Familiar brands that use serif fonts include Prada, Vogue, Rolex, and Tiffany & Co.
The word serif refers to a small line or stroke added to the edge of a larger stroke. These small lines on the edges of carvings also helped neaten the letters, giving them a finished look.
A subset of serif fonts is slab serif. These fonts are thick and designed to take up space. They appear to be written with a heavy hand and a large-tipped marker, giving off a feeling of importance and necessity. Brands such as Volvo, Sony, and Honda use slab serif fonts.
Sans serif fonts offer a clean, crisp lettering style for minimalist, modern style. Businesses that want to identify with simple, straightforward ideas often use sans-serif fonts. They’re also the most popular fonts for websites, blogs, and other screen-viewed content. Microsoft, Jeep, Google, and LinkedIn are among the successful companies that use sans-serif fonts.
Within this font family, sans refers to being without the serif. These fonts remove the small lines or strokes on the edge of letters.
You’ll often see sans-serif fonts called gothic or just sans.
Choosing a script font often gives a feminine touch. Script fonts can be more formal or more casual, depending on how “neat” they are. All script fonts offer movement and flourish. Think about the lettering of Coca-Cola, Cadillac, and Instagram, which all use script fonts.
Script fonts are often used for companies that have a brand identity in line with creativity, nature, and elegance. They give a personal touch that is difficult to come by with the serif families.
Many script fonts are reminiscent of cursive handwriting, so that’s something to think about if your audience might not be able to read cursive easily.
Handwriting fonts give a personal touch with a casual, fun flair and look like they are written by a human hand. Brands such as Barbie, Harrod’s, and Kellogg’s use handwritten fonts.
When using a handwritten font, your clients often feel more connected to you as if you had written right on the items yourself. If your brand identity includes authenticity, friendliness, and honesty, then an upbeat handwritten font might be for you.
Decorative fonts are the least common. These are also known as display fonts because they have unique features that set them apart from fonts used in the main text areas of branding and websites. LEGO, McDonald’s, and Disney all use decorative fonts.
While Decorative fonts vary, they often evoke feelings of originality, creativity, or fun.
How To Combine Fonts
In most cases, you’ll use two-three fonts in your brand identity. You’ll typically have one main font for your logo and largest headings. Then you’ll likely have another font (or two) for for the tagline and smaller website headings. One of the most common pairings is serif and sans-serif because it’s pleasing to the eye. Sans serif plays off of serif and makes the text easy to read.
Some businesses choose script and sans-serif, especially when a script font is used for the main logo lettering. Using sans serif as a secondary text gives the eyes a break after processing the cursive or handwriting style of a script font.
There are numerous free and paid font options to consider, but these are my favorites.
Create a Brand Icon
Many entrepreneurs choose an icon to represent their brand. Think of companies that you use or shop with (Target, Kroger, Amazon, Google). Some are just a name in a particular font or striking colors, some have only a symbol or icon, and some have both. An icon’s job is to boost the visual identity of your brand, making it more memorable. However, if it isn’t chosen and designed with intention, it ends up being distracting fluff. No matter what, you should always consider an icon carefully before moving forward.
If you decide that an icon will solidify your brand identity, you need to source one legally by purchasing commercially-licensed art or having a custom illustration created just for you. Some of my clients have actually drawn their own icons, which is always unique!
Your icon can be abstract or concrete (or even somewhere in between).
Types of Icons
Abstract icons include geometric designs, patterns, and illustrations that convey an idea or image without the full picture. These often have a carefully selected word that goes on top of or underneath the icon. The science of shapes, negative space, and angles is often a major consideration, which is another place where an experienced designer can really help.
Pictorial icons include pictures of something related to the company itself, such as the bitten apple for Apple products, the jumping cat for Puma, and the blue bird for Twitter. If your business has a concrete image that relates to what you’re selling, then a pictorial icon is a fun, creative way to set your business apart from the rest.
Brand icons take time to create recognition. You might need to add your company name at the beginning and then gradually phase it out over the years as your business grows in recognizability and credibility. However, using a brand icon from the start helps make that identification happen sooner rather than later. Think about Target. They started as the word and the bullseye, but now many locations have the bullseye alone on the front of their stores.
No matter what, keep it simple. If it’s difficult to tell what’s happening with your icon or what it represents, then it’s probably too complex. Make sure that your icon represents your brand and goes along with your core message.
This is another place where it’s great to ask for feedback from your early clients, colleagues, and trusted friends. When they look at what you’re designing, what do they think of? What feelings does it bring up? Does it remind them of any other businesses or is it unique? These are important questions that can refine your brand identity.
Curate Brand Photography
When it’s time to build your website, photos are an important part of your brand identity. When selecting stock photos, taking your own, or hiring someone to provide images, it’s important to keep the visual identity of your brand consistent. Here are some questions that can help:
- Will you select neutral photos that work with everything or pull in specific shades from your brand?
- Will you use flat lays that only show props and pages or will people be included?
- If you do include people, will you show faces or keep it more generic?
- Are specific tech items needed to represent your brand?
If you’re using a stock photo site, select a batch of photos that complement each other. For example, if you find a single photo you love on Adobe Stock, explore the entire series with “see more” or hit “find similar” to continue down that path.
Invest in Brand Design
Your brand identity deserves significant attention. By taking color palettes, fonts, and images into consideration, you’ll be able to create an engaging user experience that truly reflects who you are as a business and resonates with your audience. For more inspiration, you can browse my recent designs here.
You can also contact me to work together on your brand identity. Since 2012, I’ve worked with over 900 clients to create beautiful brands and websites. Let my years of experience save you time so that you can get it right, right from the start.