The Brand Behind the Brand Designer
  • Jenny Henderson

THE BRAND BEHIND THE BRAND DESIGNER

Updated: Apr 7



It’s been an interesting journey getting here as a freelance designer. You know, I never really thought I’d actually get to work for myself. It’s something I’ve daydreamed of from time to time but never did I believe it would actually happen.

You see, I started out as an artist — a painter — and if there’s one thing they taught us in art school it’s that only 1% of us would ever become professional artists. But as an artist I have always been chasing creative outlets, which eventually led me to design.

And now that I have somehow found myself working for myself doing what I really love… how did I get here and what is MY brands’ story?

EVERY BRAND HAS A STORY


For me as an artist, I’ve been signing my initials since I was little. At the bottom of every drawing or sketch I did would be that little squiggle that represented me. And sure, it had different iterations through the years, but fundamentally it was always following the same stroke along the page.

So it made sense that this would be the right symbol for my brand. It’s authentically me — and a brand should always strive for authenticity.


A CASE FOR SIMPLICITY

The best logos are the simplest ones. At least in my opinion. I’ve always been of the mindset that less is more — and when it comes to branding and logo design, this is particularly true.

They say an effective logo should be easy to draw from memory. The point being that it is easily identifiable and therefore memorable. Think Nike, Apple, Adidas, Target, McDonalds.. the list goes on and on. Their logos are all stripped of extraneous detail or decor and they work.


If I could offer one piece of advice to those in the early stages of branding: don’t overcomplicate it. It can be really difficult to do well but if you can stick the landing with a logo that, in its simplest form, best represents your business — it’s one hell of a feeling.


HOW MANY COLOURS ARE TOO MANY?

My logo has tried on a few different colours over the years. For me personally, I have a strong pull towards colour, in particular, bright and vivid colours. If you look at my paintings, each and every one of them uses a very saturated palette. It just seems to be my default setting.



As a designer, I grant myself permission to change my brand colours every so often. Because I’m in a creative industry and work with colour all the time, I think it suits my brand to be able to introduce new colours from time to time.


Mind you, this is also one of the benefits of having a minimalistic logo. If you decide from the get-go and if it makes sense for your brand, you don’t have to have to limit yourself to one or two brand colours.

Nike's logo is versatile and is used in nearly every colour

Think, again, of Nike. If I asked a group of people what Nike’s brand colours are I doubt there’d be one common answer. Maybe black. The point is, because their logo design is just a simple swoosh, it becomes very versatile.


IT’S A PAY IT FORWARD VALUE SYSTEM

As a brand designer, I push my clients to dig deep on who they are as a business in order to try and distinguish their uniqueness. It’s the best way to try and clarify their vision and purpose as a brand and a business.


Recently, as I’ve been growing my design business, I’ve also had to start asking myself these same questions. Not from a visual identity standpoint (I already have the logo) but from a brand strategy standpoint.


Listening to a podcast last year — I can’t remember which, probably Oprah — they were talking about money and how money, fundamentally, is just an exchange of value. You know, livestock for grain or what have you.


And so I started thinking about this in the context of my business. What value does my business provide in exchange for money? I don’t just mean the service but the real value it provides.


My conclusion was this: I lend my ability as a designer to a business so that they are able to lend their ability [whatever it may be] to their people.


A pay it forward value system.


What I mean by this is, whatever product or service they have to offer as a business, it’s my job as a brand designer to create a brand identity that will resonate with their target audience, providing them the credibility they need as a business.

Without a strong brand identity, you won’t be taken as seriously, leaving you less likely to acquire those customers and therefore unable to offer your service or product to begin with.


This part is hard. It takes some serious time and effort to get to the point where you feel you’ve landed on your fundamental value system. But once you do, it sets the course for the rest of your business.

And this is how I’ve built my business — by helping others brand theirs. The branding process is creative, challenging, and very rewarding and hopefully my clients feel that way too. Because during the process they get to look at their business through a different lens, trying to uncover the deeper value they are bringing to the table and creating the foundation for their business.


So let me ask you: what value do you offer?