Design is both an art and a science, a set of routines and practices, a language even, in the sense of a worthwhile expression, created from available materials. The following guidance assumes some knowledge of the basics of visual arts, giving way to topics in design thinking, action principles and ways of knowing. In this overview you will find a toolkit for the new designer, and possibly a reminder of the beginner mindset for the more experienced in the field.

To practicing designers, what I present here will seem basic. Nonetheless, I don’t mean to be rudimentary but foundational. This blog’s ‘curriculum’ derives from experience in the discipline, with design studies through formal education. The suggested books, tools and reference lists provide touch-points in your introduction to brand identity design, and in the final section, links to more in-depth courses to learn more.

Sections

Gratitude for deliberate practice.

Gather—All that work buried on your hard drive, now looking quite presentable.

01

Expanding an entrepreneurial mindset.

Define—Discover new content formats to showcase your brand and expand your materials.

02

Guidelines for active momentum.

Build—Structure solid code, then develop for interestingness over impressiveness.

03

The Step Before Design

Why You Should Invest in
Ongoing Content Creation

1

Uncover Added Value

notice the images that attract, seek out positive styles, train your eye to see the beauty
2

Learn A New Technique

time is yours to use productively and above all else, be sure to make something
3

Build on What You Have

collect favorites for a mood, a pin-board or inspiring screenshots and clippings
4

Keep Folders Organized

a welcome incidental as you sort and sift, incorporate the purification phase
5

Share What You Make

remember to appreciate the results, whether you choose to share with others or not
6

Backup Your Archives

prioritize tasks of importance not of urgency, compress, quit stuff and decompress

START YOUR PROJECT

START YOUR PROJECT

START YOUR PROJECT

START YOUR PROJECT

Take a moment to pull design elements together from their disparate sources. These can be out of order, placed into some holding container, until you can organize them in a subsequent phase.

You may not even have a sense of what the project is to become.

The possibilities will make sense later on when defining your brand.

The process of bringing together and reviewing previous work can also be a good time to make assessments, glean any strengths and areas for further research. Perhaps this can become a periodic task, for example as motivation for the following year’s creative projects. That’s my kind of annual review.

The starting elements of design do not come from scratch, as one would have to invent the very tools and so on. Whatever the present level of your work, claim what true foundation you have, and elect to value that. Move forward and promote your creative inclinations with a healthy dose of playfulness.

Logo As Synthesis

Platforms That Facilitate
Visual Thinking

Whether you are an individual brand or a larger company, the scale of a visual identity doesn’t matter so much as its cohesive implementation. Since brand recognition develops as a result of consistency and longevity, any good design strategy will include a roadmap for managing the visual brand identity.

The design guideline provides that roadmap, as well as the fuel for moving from initial concept and personal style guide, to business branding and complete design system. These free and many open source design tools can help you create an initial style guide and simplify your brand management through the use of living documents and flexible structures.

“Creative projects—everybody’s got em’. With so much to make and do, how do we ensure that an idea gets realized? After all, a project must be realized to be creative.”

Markup

Collaborate and annotate any linked or uploaded file. Post and share content on public, private and secret boards.

Notion

Wiki type public and private spaces geared toward creatives. Simple note taking with big styling in multi-markdown.

Milanote

Helps you organize your ideas into visual boards. Great for creating moodboards for branding inspiration. Supports all types of content as well as notes and checklists, making it great for sharing and collaboration. Export an entire board as a pdf document.

Dropmark

Another similar visual organization tool that allows you to organize almost any content into moodboards for creative direction, or curate collections of a particular type. There is a slideshow mode to easily present your ideas. You can also tag, search and browse your collections.

The combination of technology and design has enabled the proliferation of tools and apps to make the practice of creativity more efficient.

Many of these platforms help you with what is essentially design thinking: first getting your ideas out in front of you in a rich layered manner with visuals, notes, and other content while organizing and making sense of that content on some type of canvas.

Visual thinking platforms help you design thoughtful references throughout, by brining order to your ideas as you plan and execute your unique brand vision. This kind of careful thought gradually moves you toward the perfect solution for your brand identity, product or project. In as much as you choose to document and explain your branding process, the assets that result from this design thinking can also serve to inform customers, communicate internally and build portfolios.

These app and tools will provide insight and practice into doing just that. In the context of branding design, the logo represents a conclusion drawn from this process, emerging as the foundational element, as an identity formed from the wilderness. The logo represents a distillation of ideas, and is the pivot point in a process of change that continues over the span of a design project.

#LOGOSYNTHESIS

Expanding the Brand: Momentum in Freelancing

A strong brand is one that is clear and consistent in its presentation. As a brand develops, it might incorporate a wide variety of imagery and visual communication materials, such that keeping cohesion will largely become a matter of practical organization. Any system developed to implement this organization will represent an important business asset and is itself closely related to visual design.

In this section we review the importance of organization on the back end with style guides and libraries. As a result of this coherence in organization, a brand demonstrates that integration of knowledge, education, and technical know how on the front end. Happily, organization involves picking out the best parts of something. Read on.

Design Thinking Produces Coherent Artifacts

The consistency that strengthens a brand’s story first evolves from the simple fact of showing up. In terms of presence in the digital space, that includes considerations from naming your business, securing its url, to hosting and social media handles for your online presence.

For a Consistent Online Presence: Namevine

Branding in the Wild

Visual design is the process of crafting with visual conventions. Developing a visual language generally involves creating graphics along with a context of typical usage patterns. The best patterns are to be found in their respective context, whether that is on the web or in print. What patterns are most common in the type of content you wish to create?

Creating consistent visual conventions is a matter of continual assessment of identifiable patterns. After a successful iteration of brand usage, new patterns can be reconciled to the visual guideline and added as part of a developing design system.

On the Importance of Design Consistency: UX Pin

Discern the Possibilities

Visual design shows and tells your brand’s origin story. Events, campaigns and many other on-brand custom projects provide opportunities to anchor a brand’s message, effectively creating the brand story and values in a tangible form. What’s more, when you make visual materials part of your communication strategy from the start, you create artefacts that you can refer to again when considering how to refine your brand’s image.

Business Plan
  • Business Naming
  • Domain Reservation
  • Username Handles
  • Copywriting
Graphic Design
  • Branded Stationery
  • Editorial Templates
  • Presentation Deck
  • Packaging Design
Brand Design
  • Logo Design
  • Color Scheme
  • Typography
  • Iconography
Web Design
  • Responsive Website
  • Web Profile Header
  • Social Media Posts
  • Email Banner Ads

Imagery Sites to Benefit your Branding

These platforms allow you to organize and share image collections, facilitate collaboration and support creators everywhere while making your branding more cohesive and inspired using professional resources for your project.

Unsplash
User submitted, free high-resolution photos.
Stocksnap
Hundreds of high resolution images added weekly.
PicJumbo
Totally free photos for your commercial & personal works.
Pexels
20 new high-quality photos daily.
Foodies Feed
Specialized niche for the culinary arts.
Death to Stock
Receive a new collection monthly to your inbox.
Visual Design Toolkits

Fonts, Palettes and Icons
Oh My….

There is a sense of motivation that comes from seeing an idea make it to physical reality, which in turn provides fuel for further growth. In keeping with this motivational sequence, it is opportune to begin a design project with the process of assembling a portfolio of elements.

Sourcing inspiring elements is an important phase because it is a major motivator. You get to enjoy instant progress by gathering potent ideas together with your best work, and essentially taking a bunch of messy parts through a clean-up process.

FONTS & FOUNDRIES

Font Fabric
Font Squirrel
League Of Moveable Type

OPEN SOURCE ICONS

The Noun Project
Iconmonstr
Iconoir

VECTOR WEB PATTERNS

Hero Patterns
Subtle Patterns
Gradienta

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Learn More: Design
Ebooks and Online Courses

Self-paced education and salient ebooks for the design curious and motivated autodidact.