The Ins and Outs of Designing a One-of-a-Kind Logo

What makes a great logo?

It’s not enough that a logo looks visually pleasing or stands out among the competition; it’s most important that it appeals to potential clients and customers.

But if you’re starting from scratch, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

There’s definitely creativity and a basic design knowledge involved in creating a one-of-a-kind logo, but there’s also a system behind it all. 

The Ins and Outs of Designing a One-of-a-Kind Logo | Elle & Company

So in my second Ellechat webinar last week, I took attendees behind my screen to walk them through what my logo design process looks like from start to finish.

And I’m sharing the replay with you today!

Whether you’re a business owner who’s building your own brand from the ground up or a brand designers who works with design clients, you’ll greatly benefit from this content.

You can watch the replay by registering through the Crowdcast window below, or keep scrolling and take a look at the webinar slides and transcript.

Lauren Hooker: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s Ellechat  on the ins and outs of creating a one of a kind logo.

We are going to move right into the contents and talk about the ins and outs of creating a one-of-a-kind logo. I've been doing a brand challenge throughout the month of February to try to help you all streamline your brand. We're still towards the beginning of 2017 and I thought it might be helpful to just reevaluate your brand, starting with laying the groundwork of your mission statement, ideal client, brand key words, moving all the way through logo design, choosing colors, and then all the way to icons and patterns as well.

We're on day 14, which is hard to believe, out of 20 days. We just covered logos a couple of days ago, but if you're still struggling with creating a one of a kind logo, a distinct logo, if you're not sure that your logo is 100% there yet, or you just wanna make sure that you're on the right track, this is a good place to be, because I'm gonna talk all about it over these next few minutes. So let's jump right in.

Our agenda, what we're gonna cover first is the five characteristics of iconic logos. What makes a good logo? What should you be aiming for? Second is my own process for creating custom logos. I've worked with 40 plus clients over the last three years, it's been a lot of fun. Logo design is one of my favorite parts of the branding process. So I'm gonna share exactly what I've learned, and any secrets I might have for this process. Then we'll cover some dos and don'ts of logo design as well.

Five Characteristics of an Iconic Logo

All right. The five characteristics of iconic logos. Number one is simplicity. A simple approach makes a logo more versatile and easier to remember. I remember in college one of my design professors said, "If you are able to draw a logo from memory, it is an iconic logo." So if I asked you to draw the McDonald's logo, you could easily draw those arches. That lends itself to simplicity. If your logo is really detailed and not very simple, it's gonna be hard for someone to draw it, and to remember it actually. The simpler it is, the easier it is to remember. Consider simplicity. Don't go nuts with the details, just choose one detail that will help it stand out, which I'll talk about in a second, and just keep it simple. That "KISS" formula, "Keep it simple stupid." You're not stupid, but keep it simple.

 A great example of this that logo for the Food Writer's Guild. If you look at it, it looks like a calligraphy nib, but then you look in the negative space, and it's a little spoon. I just think it is so clever and it's so simple. You think, "Why didn't I think of that already?" That makes a really great logo, this is one of my favorites of all time. I just think it's really clever, and it's a great example of using negative space in a design. Not just thinking about this space right here, the little nib, but also thinking about that negative space. I thought this one was so clever. But keep your logo simple.

Number two is relevance. Your logo should be relevant to your industry and appeal to your ideal audience. For example, these two logos are for two totally different industries. Kate Spade is fashion for women, and ESPN deals with sports and tries to appeal more to men. You can see the styles are two totally different styles. Kate Spade is feminine, classy. ESPN is bold and it's even italicized to show movement as well. Think about that. Does your logo apply to your industry? Would it make sense with what you do? Your logo needs to be relevant.

Number three is to consider tradition. Iconic logos don't just go for a year or two, they last for the duration of the business. They aren't necessarily trendy. This can be hard. It can be hard not to go with the trends when you're creating your logo, but the mark of an iconic logo and a great logo is that it stands the test of time. You think of brands, I think of Pepsi. If you looked at Pepsi's brand 50 years ago, it might look a little different, they've updated it since then, but only small tweaks throughout the years. Same thing with Coca Cola. Nike has been the same for I don't know how long.

So you think of those brands, and the reason that this is important, and the reason it's important not to switch up your logo all the time and rebrand, is because of recognition. You want people to easily recognize your brand, and if you're switching it up all the time, people aren't going to be able to easily recognize your brand. You should only be making small changes if you do choose to update and rebrand. Think about that. Is your logo gonna be applicable for you 10 years from now?

When I was designing the Elle & Company logo, I just tried to choose that simple serif font, with a really pretty ampersand on it. It's just simple, it's classic, I don't see myself switching it up for the next 10 years. This one's good to go. Keep that in mind as you're designing your logo. A great example of this -- I just love this logo so much -- Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. This is a great logo. It's just very classic, it isn't too trendy and it will stick with them for years and years. Keep that in mind.

Number four is distinction. Distinctive logos have one feature that helped them stand out just one. Nike, it's the check. Kate Spade, it was the cute little spade symbol. If you look at the most iconic logos they don't have a ton going on. There's usually one feature that helps them stand out. You do want it to help you stand out. You don't want it to be too plain. One of the great benefits of branding is that it can separate you from others in your industry. Consider that while creating your logo. Just choose one main thing to stick it out, one main feature.

Love this logo, I think it is so fun and so applicable and I wish you could see all the different logo variations because The Great Catering Co. lettering stays the same but they have a different kind of food splatter for each one. But this food splatter, even though the type face is beautiful for the text of their logo, the main feature that they chose to make their logo and their brand distinct are these food splatters. I just think they are so fun. Keep that in mind. What is that one distinct element of your brand that helps it stand out?

You can get really creative, it can be a background image. I did a logo for the Bloom Workshop that uses a B, but instead of filling it in with the color, we filled it in with an image of flowers, which made sense with the Bloom name. Keep that in mind. What's that one distinct feature that's gonna help your logo stand out?

Number five is scalability. We have a rule of thumb as graphic designers, if a logo is sized to an inch or smaller, that's supposed to say, it should maintain all of it's detail. Your logo should look great blown up on a billboard, and it should look great on a pencil. It needs to be scalable. If it's too detailed -- this goes right along with simplicity -- if it's too detailed, it's not gonna scale very well. You're not gonna be able to read it if it's smaller or see all of the logo if it gets smaller.

An example of this, I think it's Moxham, is how you say it. It looks like a little fox, but also like a little diamond here. You can see that it looks great blown up on a bag, but it also looks great really small on this business card. Think about that, it needs to be simple enough and scalable enough to be all different sizes.

Those are the five characteristics of an iconic logo to keep in mind as you're designing your logo. But how do you go about designing a logo in the first place? I've got you covered, I'm sharing my process for what it's worth.

My Logo Design Process

Number one is to start with inspiration. This comes in handy. Here's the inspiration board that we started with for my client, Bulos's Photography, and we pulled from the elements of this board to create this logo right here. So start here, start with some visual inspiration. Create a Pinterest board, look for commonalities among the images that you pin to that board, and then you can go for bigger. But have a visual starting point for your brand and for your logo.

Number two is to sketch out ideas for the layout of your logo. Don't skip over sketching. Even if you don't consider yourself to be an artist or a designer, some of the best graphic designers don't have very good motor skills when it comes to drawing on paper. I don't necessarily love sketching, because I'm a perfectionist and I can't get everything just right. But it's helpful just to get your ideas down on paper and to fill up a whole page with ideas. Ideas that you think might be silly or wouldn't work, you might come back to and go, "Oh, that could actually work." Or you could combine it with another idea that you write down. You don't have to be an artist to sketch.

Here's an example of my sketchbook. I just sit there, and I have the inspiration board always at the ready, always by my side. I usually print it out or have it up on my phone or my iPad, and shut down my computer, and I just sit there with my sketchpad and sketch out ideas. I usually work off of the inspiration board to see what shapes are on there.

There was some architecture in Amanda's inspiration board and that's why I pulled this shape right here. We didn't end up using it, but it came in handy when I was just trying to come up with ideas. She had a lot of leaves in her inspiration board, and so you can see I tried to use them at the end of this letter form. Even here in the frame around the A.

This is what the logo ended up looking like. You can see just from these sketches where it came from. I combined the J and the A of this sketch concept. So sketch them out. Use that inspiration board and pull from it. Come up with ideas. This is just a place for you to get your ideas down on paper. Nobody else has to see it. You don't have to snap a photo or share it to Instagram. You can keep it hidden in your sketchbook, but fill up a few pages.

In design school we had to come up with 300 sketches -- it was crazy -- for one logo. Then we would go through and highlight contenders and narrow down to 10 and digitize those concepts in Adobe illustrator, and then we would narrow it down from there. I know other graphic designers who do the same thing on their own. I don't do quite so many now, but I do try to fill up a few pages with concepts instead of going right into Illustrator and trying to design the logo in there. It never works out well.

Number three is to explore and customize fonts. For example, I love to go on, and actually I might show that to you all in a second. Usually on font websites they let you take fonts for a test drive to see what characters will look like in that font.

So I will take the name of the business, or in this case I was branding for an author, and I took her name and I just put it in my fonts and scrolled through the fonts to see what would be some good contenders based on the sketches that I came up with. I landed ... This is actually a font, it isn't hand lettering. I took a screen shot of the font just before purchasing it just to see what it could look in Adobe Illustrator and play around with it.

I took a screenshot, took it into Adobe Illustrator and live traced it to play around with the letters and saw how it could fit. I went in and added these swoops here, and I added these little leaves. But you can go and search for fonts that could work based on the composition of what you've sketched out in your sketchbook. Then play around with it using something like Adobe Illustrator to make it your own, so it's not just a regular font, it's actually distinct and looks more intentional.

"Do I have permission to edit the font?" Sadie asks. Yes. When I just live trace it, that's mainly for my clients to see what it could look like, and if they approve it, then I go and purchase the font if they're gonna use it. A lot of fonts you need to go and check the usage rights, so go in and see can you use this for a brand? How can you use it? A lot of times on font websites they'll have that right there ready to go for you. Even on free websites see the terms of use for your fonts as well. So, yeah. I hope that's helpful. Your welcome, Sadie.

All right. Really, I feel bad even admitting that I take the snapshots, I take a screenshot of the font and do it that way, but I always go back and purchase it. I just want to make I'm not paying hundreds of dollars for a font if I don't need to, if they're not gonna go with it.

All right. Number four is to add that one-of-a-kind feature. Once you have the fonts in there ... Usually I love, like in Christina's brand, I love off of the fonts in a lot of mine. Even for Amanda Jameson's, adding something to the actual text. But just think about that one-of-a-kind feature that can make it different. So get creative, you may have already sketched out that one-of-a-kind feature.

This is one of my client brands. This is actually one of my very first ones when I started my two week design classes. Emily Gerald was my guinea pig. She does babies, bumps, and births photography. So we went off of a storybook theme. She loved Beatrix Potter, and so we choose that storybook text. At first we didn't have the ducks here, it was just the text here. But that was a little bit boring and we wanted it to be more memorable and more distinct.

So I went in, and in Illustrator I drew out these little ducks. She still uses this brand to this day, and I absolutely love it. She's even taken the ducks now and had fabric made for little blankets and she gives it as client gifts and they have the mama duck and the baby ducks on it. It is absolutely precious. But the ducks make her brand distinct. Even if people now, who are familiar with Emily's brand, or just to see the ducks, apart from it saying "Emily Gerald Photography" they would know it was her brand. So that one distinct feature helps set it apart. Think about that as you're designing your logo.

Bridget, you asked if I purchased fonts myself or bill clients? I bill clients. If it's a font that's gonna be extra, usually I try to use free fonts, or fonts that aren't super expensive. But yes, they have to purchase the font, and I'm up front with them about that from the get go. Great question though.

All right. Number five is to experiment with color. I usually recommend, even back here in these drafts before I added the little bit of color in here, I do it all in black and white. The reason for this is because I don't want to color to be a distraction from the overall form and composition of the logo. So I highly recommend to wait until you have designed the logo and gotten the composition right to then go in and add color, because it can be a distraction.

So, you can go in and then come up with some color variations. This was a recent project, it was last fall that I did for a client, Full Circle Photo Project. We came up with it in black and white first. I wish I had put that in these slides. But it was just black and white, all the text, all the little graphics here were white, and then the background was black. Then once she approved it and liked that concept, then I came in with color based on her inspiration board, and came up with different color options. We ended up going with this green option, but opted to use this on other collateral items as well.

Start in black and white first, just focus on the form and the composition and then go in and add color. It's really tempting to just add color straight from the start, but I promise you, you will come up with a better result if you just focus on the composition first.

Number six is to consider variations. A lot of times, like with Emily Gerald, this works really well for the top of her website, but when it comes to fitting it into a square and sizing it down like we talked about, scalability. This shape for the logo, the composition doesn't work extremely well, so I usually come up with a secondary logo option. I have an example of this as well. Reveleigh and Co is another one of my clients, and this is her primary logo, but it doesn't ... I mean, it does fit well vertically, and it fits well even within the square, but when it comes to horizontally we needed another option.

So when I'm designing logos a lot of times I'll keep in mind how I can break it apart and reuse to simplify it and create other logo variations. In this one we were able to easily pull it apart and just use this. This fits perfectly in a circle or a square, it works great for a profile image on Instagram or on Facebook, works really well for stickers and packaging items, even for a stamp.

The R works really good for at the top of the screen, if you go to a website and right on the tab is has a logo mark, that's where we put the little R. Then we could break it apart too and just use this text down here instead of using the full logo mark. So that's what I would recommend. Think through logo variations. How can you simplify it so that you have a more versatile brand? You're able to use it in all sorts of ways and all sorts of collateral items, on your website. Consider that.

Natalie, you asked, "How do you present your logo designs to the client?" I do it in stages. First I do the primary logo in black and white. Then I come up with the color versions. Once they approve those, then I do the alternate logo variations. Sometimes I'll do all the logo variations in black and white before adding color. But it's in stages, usually the stages that I've just shared with you.

Number seven is always to revise. Step away from it for a little while, and then come back to it again and see if you can revise it and make it even simpler. Ask other people too, get other opinions on it. I recommend getting it in front of as many people as possible to see what they think, and people who are with your industry, people who have good taste as well. But get it in front of people and get feedback on it, especially people in your ideal client or customer audience, get their feedback on it and see how it resonates with them, because it's really important that your logo appeals to the right people. Going back to that Kate Spade and ESPN example. Always be revising.

Shae, you asked if I present multiple design options or just one logo option. I present three, and I never present a logo option to a client that I don't love. Because I've noticed that if I just put one on there and I'm like, "It's okay, they won't choose it." They choose it every single time. So don't do that. I go with three that I'm really confident with, and I do that because I want their feedback. They know their brand better than I know their brand. They know their ideal client better than I know their ideal client. I always explain my rationale behind the design decisions I made for each logo option and try to educate them, but a lot of times they have some really great feedback during that process.

Do's and Don'ts of Logo Design

All right. Some dos and don'ts of logo design before I get to more questions. We'll start with the don'ts, so we can end on a happy note with the dos. Don't switch up your brand every other year or switch up your logo every other year. Again, you want to create consistency, you want to create brand recognition and memorability. If you're always switching it up, you’re not gonna create that recognition with your audience.

It's hard especially as creatives, you want to switch up colors and we get bored with it. But I promise you, you might be bored with it, but other people will not be bored with it. We can also get creative with patterns and icons and that sort of thing, smaller changes, but don't switch up your logo every other year. Make small adjustments to it.

Don't imitate. Don't pin other brands, don't look at other logos when you are trying to create your own logo because even subconsciously it will get in your head and you'll end up copying. I know from experience, it's really hard to shake one of those ideas if I get it in my head. I highly encourage you, don't look around at other logos, hide away with your sketchbook and your inspiration board and just go to town coming up with new concepts. You'll be so thankful you did when you land on a one of a kind result for your logo.

Don't be too literal. I know the Food Writer's Guild, it was writing and food with the spoon, but you don't have to be super, super literal. You can hint at it subtlety with things. Try to get creative. You don't something to be too abstract to where it doesn't make sense, but you also don't have to be super literal.

With Bloom we used the flowers behind the bee for the logo, but I didn't ... That was more from a creative perspective. All I'm saying, I wish I had a better example here and I had some off the top of my head, but you don't have to be super, super literal. Oh, for example, you don't need to have a camera if you're a photographer. You don't have to have a camera in your logo. You can get creative with it.

All right. Don't go crazy with fonts. Keep it simple. If you have the hand lettered font or a font that's a little more distinctive, you might want to go with some fonts that aren't so distinctive either in your tag line or across the rest of your brand. But don't go crazy with fonts.

Do define and research your audience. Always keep them in mind as you're designing your logo. You want it to attract the right audience, so you need to know who that audience is. Hopefully if you've been participating in the Brand Challenge you've done that ground work already and that you've had that in line then through every step of the process. But it is an important part of the process. Don't just create a logo based on what you like, create a logo that your ideal audience would like.

Do strive for something different. Don't just do a hand lettered logo, because everybody else out there is doing a hand lettered logo. Do something a little more clever and creative. Don't be afraid to break the mold. Strive to do something different, maybe that hasn't even been seen before. That would be great too. If you think about the most memorable brands, they're memorable because they're probably different than other people's out there. I encourage you to do something different.

Do sketch out ideas. I can't stress that enough. Don't skip over that part. Again, you don't have to be an artist to do it, but just sit down and just sketch out ideas for your logo.

Do pay attention to spacing, composition, and negative space. I always say that good logos should fit together like a puzzle piece almost. Go back to Christina Fox, let's see, here. You can see it kind of fits together. The F kind of swoops up, it's on a slant. It kind of fits together in that way. That's composition, it should kind of puzzle piece together. This too, even though it's stacked the composition works. The spacing is equal.

You need to think about these things. Spacing between the top of the L and ducks is the same as it is on the bottom of the Y in photography. Consider that. Negative space is just as important as the subject. So consider that. Where was I? Here we are. All right. Do pay attention to spacing, composition, and negative space.

Do get feedback from others. I mentioned this a moment ago. But get others feedback on it, especially those in your ideal audience. The reason for this, is…Has anybody ever seen Jeni's Ice Cream, the logo for that? Let me know if you have in the comments. I'm gonna share my screen with you again so I can share with you this logo. Let me pull up ... Can you all see my screen? Hopefully you can. Jeni's logo.

I'm not gonna say exactly what it looks like because it's a little inappropriate, but had they asked a bunch of people what this looks like, they might realize that it doesn't necessarily look like it says Jeni's, they might use a capital J. I know that's a funny example, but it drives me crazy every time. Every time I think, "Why did they do this? It looks like a terrible word." Just keep that in mind. Maybe if they had asked more people for feedback they would've seen that.

I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has noticed this. Yeah, a little humor there for ya, but make sure that you get feedback. I've also heard stories in design school, there's another hilarious story where the negative space of a logo wasn't very lovely, and so just consider that too. It's always good to get another pair of eyes on your work.

All right. So, I'm gonna answer questions now. If you have any questions feel free to add them to the questions section.

Hannah asks, "Do you have any advice on how to use a hand drawn logo? What are the logistics involved on transferring what's on paper to a usable graphic for your website? I'm an artist and I'd like to show my creative side for my logo." I love that Hannah. I would recommend ... You said that you don't have Photoshop or Illustrator, which does narrow down your options.

If you were a hand letter or creative, Photoshop or Illustrator could really come in handy for you, even if there's a monthly subscription to Adobe Illustrator. Even if you just got for time to do your brand, but I have a feeling you're gonna come across other needs as you create the rest of your brand. It's really, really simple to go into Adobe Illustrator, if you scan in your work, or even take a high-res photo of your logo sketches, you can take it right into Illustrator.

There's tool called Image Trace. Sometimes that's really helpful and you can get a really good result. It'll trace your image in a sense and vectorize it, and you can go in and make tweaks. Or you can go in with the pencil and trace over the lettering and that's really easy to do as well. That's what I would highly recommend doing.

So with logos, like I said, with scalability a logo can be, needs to be really small or it needs to be blown up really large. There are two types of images. If you take a photograph, which is what you would use a lot in Photoshop, you're dealing with what's called a raster image, that's made up of pixels. If you zoom in on that photo or any photo, you're gonna see boxes of color. What can happen is if you try to blow up your logo and it's in a raster image, like a jpeg or png file, it will only blow up so huge before getting really grainy.

If you use Adobe Illustrator to create your logo, and it's a ... Let's start over there. It works with vector images, and vector images are made up of algorithms and mathematical equations. So you can zoom as far as you want into infinity and it's not gonna lose any quality. You can blow it up huge and it's not gonna lose any quality. Which is a big difference between Illustrator and Photoshop.

Long story short, I would highly recommend pulling it into Illustrator and vectorizing it there. Even if it's just for a time you can purchase a monthly subscription to Illustrator and do it there. Or you can hire someone who does know Illustrator and who can vectorize it for you. Great question though.

Jessica asks, "Do you create all of your logo elements, or do you purchase any prints or elements from a place like Creative Market?" I try to create all of my logo elements. A lot of times ... Oh, and you already said a free trial that Adobe offers. That would be super helpful too. Thank you for saying that. Yes, I create all of my logo elements. I try to draw them, and if it's outside of my realm ... I try to also play off of my ... Or utilize my clients creative talents too. So with Bloom, one of the founders of that workshop is also a photographer. So she had a couple of photos of different bouquets and I grabbed those photos and used them actually for the logo.

I don't necessarily recommend pulling from a place like the Creative Market, just because somebody else can purchase those same elements too, and you want to create a distinctive logo. If you find a really great pattern or something like that you want to use on collateral images or collateral files, feel free to do that. But for your logo itself, I would try to create them all from scratch. All right. Great question.

Susannah asks, "What is the best way to go about creating a logo. I tried to make one in Illustrator and gave up when I couldn't figure out how to save it properly, et cetera." I again, am really biased, but I work 99.9, actually 100% of the time with design work, all in Adobe Illustrator. If you know how to use it, it makes it a lot easier to go about saving it and using it for collateral items and all of that stuff. I actually have a class coming up and ... I put the link, a big green button to it. I've taught a course on Adobe Illustrator, it's coming on five times.

Started the course almost, I guess it's been two years ago now. I walk you through how to not only use Adobe Illustrator, but also create a logo and customize a logo, create website buttons, create an inspiration board, create a multi-page PDF document. All of that is covered in the course. I teach you how to save things properly. So is you want to sign up for the waiting list -- any of you tuning in -- I'll be sending out a special offer next week. So be sure to join the waiting list there through that button. But I would highly recommend using Illustrator. There are also a lot of tutorials out there, especially for saving it properly. But that's what I would recommend Susannah.

All right. Jessica said, "How to cover some creative block when trying to create three logo options to present to a client?" Whoo, I know the struggle all too well. It's always the hardest ... The third logo option is always the hardest to create. I would recommend filling up three pages of sketches at the very beginning just to get some good ideas. I also found that my environment plays into how creative I am sometimes. Sometimes I need to hide away in a coffee shop with my favorite drink and just sit there for a little while, turn on my favorite Spotify station or something and just get in the zone.

Sometimes I just have to put a time limit on myself and just push through it. Sometimes if it's down to crunch time I can become a lot more creative too. It might be helpful, Jessica, for you to partner up with some other designers and ask for feedback. I have a couple of friends who I can reach out to and just say, "Hey, look at this. Can you think of any other creative options just to help me?" Or, "Which one is your favorite?" Or just to get some encouragement and support to keep pushing through it is often helpful as well. If you all have any ideas or ways to become more creative too, or beat creative block, feel free to mention it in the comments section.

Cynthia says, "Is it okay to use commercial fonts, or should you hand create your own?" It depends on what kind of look you're going for. Some people want the more hand drawn logos and so you might decide to create your own. My personal style, I tend to use a lot of fonts and so I'm all about that. I just need to check the licensing requirements for the fonts and make sure that I can use them for brands. Some of them won't allow you to do that. I say it's okay to use either. It just depends on what kind of look you're going for and what the style of your brand is.

Teresa asks, "How many different versions of your logo should you have? A vertical and a horizontal option. Should you have type and a logo mark? If you have both a logo mark and a logo type, what are the rules for using them together and separately?" I like to come up with a system. I like to have one option if they're ... Usually I have a horizontal option that works well at the top of websites and saves space at the top of websites too, because everything is so mobile now. Then I like to have one version that fits well in a square. So at least two.

Sometimes you might come up with another logo mark that might be a little bit simpler, just like the Reveleigh and Co example that I shared with you. Then come up with a system for how to use them. If it's in a horizontal space at the top of a workbook, or on the top of your website, then you use that horizontal logo. If you are using it for something really small or your using it for a profile photo or something like that, use that square option. That's how I would go about it, it just depends on what your primary logo looks like and what the format of it is. That's what I would recommend.

Sarah asks, "How long does it take you to design a logo from start to finish?" Whoo, sometimes it depends on the logo I'm trying to create. Including the inspiration board, it can take quite a while. The inspiration board sometimes takes me three hours by the time I find the images, save them, organize them on my art board in Adobe Illustrator. Then sketching can take a few hours as well. Digitizing can take a few hours.

So I would probably say 10 to 15 hours, maybe a little bit more. My whole design process, I have it written out in an Asana board including website design is 52 hours, 55 hours and 20 minutes. But that's not all logo design, it's also collateral design and website design. I'd say 10 to 15 hours. Great question Sarah.

Elizabeth says, "How would you go about designing a logo for your personal website that serves as your portfolio?" I would go about it the exact same way as the steps that I just shared with you. A lot of times when you're starting out a business or a portfolio, just like with me and Elle & Company. I had no idea that it would expand into courses and webinars and any of this. I'm now able to build on my website and it keeps changing and evolving. So you never know what your online portfolio, your personal website can turn into. So I would treat it professionally and go about the same process for designing your logo, Elizabeth.

All right. Last one. Amber says, "I am designing a logo for a brow salon at the moment and I'm struggling with the inspiration part, mainly because I want it to be as original as possible. I don't have any images to work with either. Have you ever had to design a logo with very little inspiration to work with or images to work with, and how did you overcome this?"

Sometimes I also look at imagery. So when you think of brows, I think of the brow shape. Sometimes even apart from the inspiration board, I'll look at icons and things like that to start getting ideas for something along those lines. I would recommend pulling together images, even if you want it to be original, go into Pinterest and pull images. Don't pull other logos or other brands to keep you away from copying, or even subconsciously getting other logos in your head. I would pull those images and start with that inspiration board. I hope that's helpful for you Amber.

One more. I'll do it. Alyssa asks, "What other programs do you utilize most often other than Illustrator?" For design wise, I only use Adobe Illustrator. I could use Adobe Indesign for PDFs and I could use Photoshop for images, but I can honestly say that I don't even have them downloaded on my laptop right now because they were taking up too much space and I didn't use them often enough. Everything that you see, all the graphics you see, everything on my website, literally everything for Elle & Company would be the exception of the photos that I have done, are all through Adobe Illustrator. It goes to show you just how versatile it can be.

If you wanna learn more about it, please feel free to go on that waiting list. Like I said, this course is only offered once a year and registration will open March 7th through March 10th, so feel free to sign up for the waiting list, learn more details. I hope that this Ellechat was really helpful for you today.

Next week I have a dear friend and designer joining me, Melissa Yager, to talk about how to put together a brand style guide. Be sure to go to to sign up for that, or you can go through my profile on Crowdcast and sign up for it that way as well. It'll be a lot of fun. Thank you all so much for tuning in today and I hope see you in another Ellechat soon. Bye guys.

Does your logo meet all 5 characteristics of an iconic logo? What’s been the most challenging part of the logo design process for you?

How to Create and Utilize an Inspiration Board

Creating a brand can be a little overwhelming at the outset. 

With so many details to pull together - colors, fonts, patterns - it can be difficult to know where to start. 

That’s where an inspiration boards comes in.

How to Create and Utilize an Inspiration Board | Elle & Company

In one of last week’s Ellechats, I shared an inside look at my process for creating and using a creative, cohesive inspiration board. 

Whether you're a designer or professional who's seeking a starting point for an upcoming project or a client who is preparing to undergo a rebrand, you’ll walk away from this webinar replay with all the knowledge and resources you need to create and utilize an inspiration board. 

You can watch the replay by registering through the Crowdcast window below, or keep scrolling and take a look at the webinar slides and transcript.

Lauren Hooker: Hello, everyone and welcome to today's Ellechat on how to create and utilize an inspiration board.

I'm just going to go ahead for the sake of time and just jump right into the content. Some of you might have a great idea of what an inspiration board is and how it's useful and some of you might be following along with the brand challenge and are a little unclear of what an inspiration is and how it can be used for your business. Some of you might be great at creating inspiration boards, but maybe you don't know how to utilize it for a project. Inspiration boards are great not just for your brand, but if you work in a creative field like design or it could be interior design, event planning, anything like that, inspiration boards can come in handy as well.

First, why inspiration boards? Inspiration boards are great for a visual starting point for your brand. A lot of times, and if you've been following along with the brand challenge you've seen me talk about or read my content on the starting point, laying the groundwork, creating a mission statement, creating those brand keywords, identifying your ideal client, coming up with a tone of voice for your brand. That's all great, but when it comes to visuals, it's kind of hard to create a logo or a color palette off of those words. I like to jump on Pinterest, which I'll show you in a moment and compile some visual inspiration and put it into an inspiration board so that as I'm designing the logo or color palette or choosing fonts or anything like that for the remainder of the brand, I can refer back to that inspiration board.

It's also really helpful if you use inspiration boards for client work. It can be extremely helpful to make sure that you and your client are on the same page. When I'm creating brands for my clients, an inspiration board is a great visual starting point. I can compile those images, come up with a color palette, present it to my client and say, "Is this a good direction? Does this reflect the kind of brand that you had in mind?" If they say yes, we'll continue to move forward. If they say no, I might have some revisions to do, but it'll save me time in the long run and make sure that we are both on the same page visually. Inspiration boards can be extremely helpful for creating that visual starting point for your brand or whatever project it is that you're working on.

For example, this is a visual inspiration board that I did for my client Amanda Jameson, who is a wedding photographer. You can see how we pulled in some of that wedding inspiration. You can see a color palette start to arise. The way that this board makes you feel, it's just elegant, it's very classy, very feminine. This is what her brand ended up turning out to look like. We took these images and you can even see them across here and I was able to build a logo and color palette and all of these aspects of her brand, based on that visual starting point.

Same goes for another client of mine who's a calligrapher, Sincerely Amy Designs. We've started here with the inspiration board, kind of got on the same page, she even wanted kind of a postage theme, but she liked the copper elements and the greens and the blues and the whites. We ended up with this brand and the little postage inspired stamp there too, but that board provided a good starting point for the project.

Then one more. This was for Bulos Photography. It's bright and cheerful. She wanted to attract cheerful brides who are very easy to work with, very excited over their wedding day, feminine and so we ended up with one of my favorite brands probably to date. You can see how it makes sure that we're on the same page and we're headed toward a final result that we are both happy with. That mimicked that same inspiration board from start to finish.

That's how inspiration boards can come in handy, but how do you create one? Where do you start? I'll walk you through step by step and then I'll even demo how to create one. Number one is to create a secret board on Pinterest. Pin images that reflect your brand. Hopefully you've already done the groundwork, laid the groundwork for your mission statement and your adjectives and your ideal client and you have all of that in mind. Then go on Pinterest and pin images that reflect that. A good rule of thumb is if you look at that image, does it make you feel what you want your ideal client or customers to feel when they look at your brand? Is it a good representation? If so, pin it to your board. Don't worry too much about having all the colors look pretty at first and everything looking cohesive. You might start to see a trend as you pin, but go ahead and pin them.

As you pin them, make sure that you use the descriptions. In the pin description, make sure that you're explaining why you chose that pin. That's super helpful. I tell my clients to do that too so that as I'm looking through the board, I know exactly why they chose the image that they chose, whether it was for the color palette or the texture or whatever it might be. That can really come in handy and as you look over the board again, you might start to see trends in why you chose the images. I encourage you to take full advantage of the pin descriptions.

Brianna, I saw your question in the comments. Do you do the Pinterest board, or do you ask your clients to do the Pinterest board? I ask my clients to do the Pinterest board and sometimes I'll go in and pin images myself too, but I want to see what images they would choose based off their brand homework and see their reasoning for it because they know their brand better than I do at that point. It's really helpful for them to do that. If they don't know how to use Pinterest, you might, depending on who your clientele is, you might go in the back end and pin to a Pinterest board. I've had clients do that or misunderstand the purpose of the Pinterest board and so I've spent a little bit more time going down and hunting down images that I think would reflect the brand and then working from there. Great question.

All right, so a few things to consider and a few things I tell my clients to consider. Steer clear of pinning other brands, so steer clear of pinning other logos, other brand boards. One of the best benefits of branding is differentiating yourself and separating yourself from all the other businesses in your industry. Your brand has a great opportunity to make your business distinct. Even if you're pinning and saying, "Well I just like this one aspect and I'm not going to copy it completely," subconsciously it can get in your head and as a designer, I find it really hard to move past that inspiration. I don't even want to see it on there. I'd rather just see other images on there, rather than logos so that I can create a one-of-a-kind logo. I would recommend that you steer clear of pinning brands and logos as well.

Number two and I already said this, but I'll touch on it again. Utilize the pin descriptions. Go in there and say why you chose it. It also makes you actually think through it, that you're not just choosing that image just because it's pretty, that you're using intention for why you're choosing those images and why they might be a good fit.

Number three, take a peek at the related pins section. Underneath a pin if you keep scrolling, it'll have related pins. A lot of times if you're trying to hunt down images, especially for your brand, those related pins can really come in handy.

Then number four is to consider the color, but also consider the subject matter. Does the subject in the photo, does it go in line with your brand or is it just a pretty photo? Think about the subject matter as well as the colors that you're choosing for your board.

All right so once you've utilized that secret brand board or Pinterest board, you can make it public if you want to, but a lot of times people want to keep it secret and that's okay too, is to look for similarities among the images. As you're going in and looking at those photos, try to see, "What do all of these images that I've pinned have in common?" That's a good place to start because then as you create your logo and other brand items, maybe it's icons or color palette or patterns, you can go back to those similarities and say, "What was it that really made this Pinterest board pop for me? Why did I choose those images and how can I implement those similarities in my brand?"

Lynn, I see your question about there's hundreds of images, where to start in terms of looking for photos. Sometimes in your own Pinterest boards, so I went back to my Pinterest boards and looked at a lot of the home décor that I posted and the outfit ideas that I posted and food and flowers and all of that sort of stuff and just looked in there to see what I was drawn to already. A lot of times, that's a good starting point and then the related pins section, sometimes objects or subjects might come in your head like for Amy's, she loved the Moscow Mule mugs, those copper mugs and so I typed in copper mugs to see which image might be best. That sort of thing can be really helpful.

Number two is to look for those similarities among the images to see what stands out. An example, here is a Pinterst board for one of my clients. I scrolled through and I said, "Okay what do these images have in common? What are some common themes here?" White interiors was a common theme. You can see it up here, down here, pretty white linen tablecloths. You see a lot of white space. Pink florals, you can see them popping up everywhere, all these pink flowers. Splashes of greenery all over the place, stripes both up here in this napkin, over here in this place setting so I was seeing tons of stripes and then touches of gold as well, just scattered throughout this board. As I'm going to create this brand, I'm thinking, "White space, pink florals, splashes of greenery, maybe we can incorporate some stripes, maybe some touches of gold here or there in icons," so I'm starting to get ideas for what this brand could look like based on this inspiration board or this Pinterest board.

This one is very different. It's kind of moody. It has a lot of texture, both through the ceramic bowls, the ribbon. Down here is a rocky coastline and some fabric and so you can see a lot of texture in this Pinterest board. I'm keeping that in mind, "How could we use texture for this brand?" You see a lot of soft white, movement in these photos, architecture. You can see it in the buildings here so I'm thinking, "Kind of linear, but also some movement, neutral tones.” Okay so texture, soft white, movement, architecture, neutral tones, so I'm keeping that in mind.

Then here for this Pinterest board, this is actually for a client who photographs babies, bumps, and births is her tagline. She pinned a lot of different kinds of images so I looked for those similarities and saw a lot of neutral grays going on, both dark, light, and mid-tone grays. Some bright whites as well in the palette, golds you can see in here and here, even up here. Then there's a playfulness to the board. Her maiden name was Ferris. She put a Ferris wheel here. Here's a storybook, kind of Beatrix Potter look which I thought could be really neat for a storybook kind of theme. You just see youth here as well so those were some common themes that I saw in her board. I'd encourage you after you pin to your Pinterest board, go back through and see some similarities. Even if at the outset, the photos don't seem to have much in common, dig a little bit deeper. You can probably find a lot more similarities than you originally think.

Something to note as well is that even though you or your client, depending on who you're creating this board for, might be drawn to a certain color palette or pattern or style, doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best fit for attracting your ideal audience. As you're pinning, keep those brand keywords in mind. Keep your mission statement in mind and think through use and intention to decide whether it really is a good fit for your brand. I've mentioned this story several times, but it's worth mentioning again. I had a client who came to me and she wanted to do, or she was starting an event planning business trying to attract Southern brides, but she wanted to use her favorite colors, purple and teal. Just because they were her favorite colors and probably she had some Pinterest boards full of things with purple and teal didn't mean that it was a good fit for her audience so we went back through and pared down that Pinterest board and added flesh and navy and pearls and Southern charm into her Pinterest board and built it from there. Do keep that in mind.

Number three is to choose and save the strongest images from your board to your desktop so you can pull them into a program like Adobe Illustrator and start creating your inspiration board. I save them to my desktop just because that's an easy place to grab them and then I usually save them into another folder or something, but nevertheless just choose the strongest ones off of your board. You don't need to choose every single one. You might have 100 images in there, but I would recommend having more than 20 just to have some to pull from. Then save the strongest images to your desktop.

Number four is to pull those images into Adobe Illustrator and arrange them. I'm going to show you how to do that. I'm going to make sure I didn't ... Another thing to note, I just added last week some new inspiration board templates to the Elle & Company Library so they're ready to go in Adobe Illustrator. There's actually four of them and I'll show them to you in a moment. You can use those to get started, pull your images right in, and you'll be good to go.

All right so I'm going to stop sharing this screen for now. Bear with me just one moment and I'll share another screen with you. Let's see. Screen share, all right. I'll share my entire screen with y'all. Okay so, and I'll make this one bigger so you can see it nice and big as well. Sorry for the tunnel vision. All right, hopefully you can see my screen right now. Let me make sure, yeah. We're good.

Okay so underneath here I've created three secret Pinterest boards and this is what I was talking about for the poll, one that's classic and simple. I don't have the 20 images that I told you all about, but I went and grabbed some images. We'll pretend this one is an interior design business. Sarah Scott, I saw that you're in here so I thought you'd appreciate this. Classic and simple so you can see we grabbed some interior photos, some patterns for fabrics, and some other photos as well. That's classic and simple. I didn't utilize the pin descriptions for the sake of time, but you get the gist. That one's classic and simple.

This one is rustic romance. We'll pretend this one is an event planning business, has some sparkles and pinks, some copper, some rustic elements in there as well. You can vote on this in the poll section if you like one more than the other.

Then pretty in pink. This one we'll pretend is a personal lifestyle blog with some fun, pink patterns, travel inspired, fashion inspired. This is what this looks like. Let me go back to the screen and see which one y'all have chosen. All right, classic and simple.

Caroline, you asked where the templates are found in the Library. On the screen there's a green button that says, "Elle & Company's Inspiration Board Templates." You click it. It'll take you to My Library and you can log in. Right here, you should be able to see it right here.

Awesome, so it looks like we're going to do classic and simple, which is great. I'm going to pull up Illustrator. These are those templates that I was telling you about that are in the Elle & Company Library. I'm just going to add another art board so for the sake of demonstration and I'll copy and paste. I'm going to use keyboard shortcuts for the sake of time. We'll just copy and paste it back here. I've gone ahead and saved the images on my desktop so I'm going to open those. We went with option number one. Usually, I just go up to File and Place and just grab all of the images all at once and then click Open.                

File, Place, there we go. Now I'll grab all of these. I'll just place them all at once over here to the side. All right, so here are the four to choose from. You can make your inspiration boards look like whatever you want them to look like. I've just found these formats to be really helpful, but we'll go with this one for right now. What I normally do is just play with trial and error to try to create my board. I'll kind of experiment.

This one is a vertical image so I'll just go ahead and place it right up here and kind of resize it and create a clipping mask. I'll just go ahead and Object, Arrange, send this to the back. If I select both of them and then go up to Object, Clipping Mask, Make, it'll clip it right down to that size so it fits well right there in that spot. Maybe to balance it out a little bit, we have some black and white shapes up here so we can put some black and white stripes down here. I'll grab this image and do the exact same thing. I'm going to use some shortcuts for the sake of time and add that clipping mask, maybe move this up a little bit.

I usually try to create some balance. If there's some black and white stripes up here, maybe I can balance it out down here. If there's some blue up here, I might try to add some blue down here. I like using the eye-dropper tool in Adobe Illustrator and I can just come here and grab a pretty blue color right from that photo. I might also want to use this pattern up here so up here in the big image that spans across the top, this one, I'll create that clipping mask. Here we go. Are y'all still with me? Okay, there we go, just wanted to make sure you can still see my screen.

Maybe we can use, I'm trying to see all the images that I have left. I like this chair a lot, but we have some greenery right here. Maybe we'll add this photo to balance out the greens and you can see a little green in the background of this image too. I'm all about balance for the inspiration boards. There we go. Let me also use this chair down here. That works.

You can also adjust these so I might move this in a little bit more so that I can get a full square here and use this ampersand. I'm a fan of ampersands so we'll do that. Maybe instead of these two blocks, I'll make this one larger, delete that second block. I love doing these. This is one of the most fun parts of my job is creating inspiration boards. Oops, zoom in a little bit so you can see it a little bit better. All that's left to do is just pull some more colors in so again, I like to use that eye dropper tool to grab maybe a darker blue. Maybe here we'll grab one of these gray colors, maybe something a little lighter. You'll notice that we didn't use all of the images, but it provides some visual direction. We're already starting to get a color palette. I'm going to go ahead and delete these. Maybe too, maybe I don't want the ampersand there. Maybe I want to see what this looks like instead. I like the look of that too. Maybe the ampersand is better. There we go.

We have our inspiration board. Then if you want to save it, I usually save it as a PNG file or a JPEG so I'll come up to File, Save As, and oops, sorry. File, Save for Web. I'm going to optimize it, art optimize it, save it 1,000 by 1,000, and I'll save it as Inspiration Board Example, My Desktop, and it's good to go. I can pull it up from my desktop. We can see what it looks like not on the portal. There we go. Here is the inspiration board that we just created.

If you know how to use Adobe Illustrator, this is really simple just to go in and create clipping masks. If you don't know how to use Adobe Illustrator and you want to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, I have my annual course coming up so I'd be happy to share more details about that as well. It's great not only for inspiration boards, but also for any other part of your brand and for business, creating your logo, doing multiple page PDFs for things like workbooks. You can use Illustrator for just about anything.

There is the demo for creating an inspiration board, but now I'm going to stop sharing my screen again. Evelyn, how do you save only one art board as a PNG file? You just select it and then go to File, Save for Web, and it'll only allow you to save one art board at a time, super helpful.

All right so, I will try to get back to the questions in just a second, but I'm going to share my screen again for those slides.

A few things to consider and you may have seen this when I was demoing the inspiration board. First, pay attention to background colors. They are just as important as the foreground colors. If you have some crazy background colors, your board isn't going to look super cohesive so keep that in mind. Evenly balance color. If you have a little blue on one side, you might want to choose a color with blue on the other side just to make it look visually cohesive. Use a variety of subjects that make sense for your business. Like I said, don't just choose images just because they look pretty and leave equal white space. In those templates I just shared with you, it already has equal white space around it, but it's good to create some separation between the images, instead of just stacking them on top of each other, or side by side.

How to utilize an inspiration board, so we've covered how to create one, but now that you have an inspiration board, how do you utilize that inspiration board for your brand? I have a few helpful tips, hopefully helpful tips, for you. The first is to refer back to those similarities and look for the common themes like I told you about. Go back and see what does this board have in common? What do the images have in common?

For instance, going back to this brand, or this inspiration board for Amanda Jameson, I noticed a lot of organic elements in her board. You can see that through the bouquet here, even this design on the cake. You can see it here. There's some flowers and leaves and for the flower crown, so I'm taking note of there's a lot of leafy greens and organic elements. There's also a lot of movement. This woman is walking and her dress is kind of flowy. You can also see the bride here is walking and so there's some movement in this board.

Feminine and structural elements. This brand is very feminine with the shoes and the dresses, but you also have some structural elements in the shape of the chairs. You can see there's this neat detail. Let me make this bigger for you guys too. I'm sorry, so you can see it a little bit better. Hopefully that helped. Oops, all right so the church architecture too has some feminine flair to it.

Then there's some metallic touches. You can see it in the shoes. They're sparkly. There's even gold on the cake. The rings are metallic, the belt of the dress so I'm picking up on all of these different themes in the board. Then this is what we ended up with for Amanda's brand. You can see there's structural elements through the A, but there's also some of that movement and a little tiny leaf that mimics that organic element of her board. Then we also brought in some metallics. These were stickers. She sent out client gifts and so these were packaging stickers and we made one metallic, which was kind of fun. You can also kind of see some structural elements, even in the way that we designed the business cards and the way that we stacked the text on top of each other. Again, these were some collateral items for Amanda.

Two, pull from those similarities and start sketching out logo concepts. When I sit down to sketch those, I have the board right beside me as I'm sketching. You can even see this little A with the shape around it. That shape came from the architecture in this image. The leaves came from all the leaves in here on the board. I was even sketching out florals from the bouquet and trying to incorporate leaves into her name, just with the flowy text. You can see how I'm using this board to kind of inform the choices I'm making even in sketching out the logo concepts. Down here is kind of what we went with. I combined the two letters into one, but even with your sketching, look back at that board and look for shapes. Look for elements of the board that you might be able to pull into the logo.

Number three is to create a color palette. The inspiration board is extremely helpful for coming up with a solid color palette and a few things to consider when you are pulling together a color palette is to make sure that there's a wide range of tones. I talked about this in the brand challenge. You want to have light colors, mid-tone colors, and dark colors just for some contrast. That'll really come in handy as you build out your brand. Don't be afraid to make tweaks to the colors. Just because you may have pulled out a color in your inspiration board doesn't mean that it's the perfect color. You can go in and make tweaks to it. If it's blue, you might want to add a little green to it and so on.

Pay attention to how the colors are used and if some colors in your board are used a lot and if some are just used in small doses, that'll be helpful. Maybe the ones that are used a lot will be your primary brand colors and the ones that are used sparingly can be your secondary brand colors. Then consider your background accent colors too. Don't just think about what color the images are in the foreground, or the subject matter is. Think about background colors and that sort of thing too and how you might be able to incorporate those into the branding.

For example, Prairie Letter Shop was one of my clients. This was her brand board and so we pulled out the navy blue here, that yellow color that was seen time and again in some of these images, the pink, but also there was a little bit of purple here in this image here and also kind of in the necklace so we pulled that one out as a secondary color. The blue, you can see it here and there sparingly. We pulled that one out. Then as kind of just softer neutral, I pulled out this off-white, tan little pinky color there. I don't know what to call it. You all can come up with the name for it, but I kind of saw it here and there in these images and pulled that out as well. You can get creative with it. You don't just have to pull from the color blocks that you have.

Number four is to choose fonts and other brand elements based on the overall theme of your board. You don't have to use every single element in every single spot on your board, but think about the overall theme. For Real Food Whole Life, this was her board and it was very clean and streamlined. You can even see that in her graphics, so we just kept things really simple and I'm really thrilled with how this brand turned out. Robin was great to work with.

Same thing for Andrea Pesce, hers was that moody Pinterest board that you saw earlier. It had a lot of movement and so this logo was perfect for her, but then in a secondary logo we kind of brought some of that structure in with kind of a crest and we played off the branches that you can see here in the board as well. You can use it elsewhere throughout your brand.

Then just a few final tips on inspiration boards before I try to answer some questions before our time is up. Number one is to not be too matchy, matchy. It's okay if you don't use every font and color in every brand element. Some of the best brands are curated so everything doesn't match exactly. Don't worry about that with your inspiration board. Sometimes it's good to have that collected look. Some of the themes can be mirrored in photos and other, non-visual aspects of your brand so don't feel like you have to use green if you're using a lot of greenery.

If you remember with Amanda Jameson's brand, we can see that we didn't use green in her brand colors, but you can see green elements all around it. She had a lot of green. Actually, she photographed a lot of outdoor weddings so green was already seen all throughout her website and collateral materials when we incorporated her images. Don't feel like just because there's a color that you see often in your board that you have to make it one of your primary brand colors or even secondary brand colors. Some of your images might bring in those colors so keep that in mind.

Then lastly, if you're working with clients, be sure to explain the purpose of your inspiration board and why you use it. A lot of clients are really confused, I've found, about inspiration boards. They don't know the exact purpose of the inspiration board and so they will nitpick every image that you've chosen. Instead, you just need to explain, "Here's my inspiration board. Here's how we use it. I use it as a visual starting point. I keep it by my side as I design the rest of the project and it's really just for the overall look and feel of the board." I wouldn't say this to clients, but say it to you. You don't have to nitpick every single photo in there because nobody else is going to see it. It's just that visual starting point.

Those are my few final tips, but I'm going to close out this window and start answering some questions. The first, and I'll try to get through as many as I can in the next seven minutes before the next Ellechat starts. Mckenna, hopefully I'm not botching your name. She asks, when you're pinning to a Pinterest board for inspiration, what kind of topics and keywords should you use in your search to find relevant images? It depends on your industry. For me, I love bright colors. I would go for stationary and desk space, like desk office photos and start there and just look through what boards I've already hit or pins that I've already pinned to my boards and start there and then go and look in a related pins section.

If you're an interior designer, you probably have pinned a lot of interiors so start there as well. Look for fabric patterns and that sort of thing. You might even find pinners whose style you really like and they might have some good boards with pins on them. I would just encourage you as you are on Pinterest, if you find good photos, pin it to your board. As you're searching around, you might come across pins. I'm trying to collect more and more just inspiration photos for my Pinterest boards and I need to go back and share those three that I shared with you all today and you're free to pull from those as well, kind of a hodge podge there. If anybody else has found other ways to come across relevant graphics, feel free to share it in the comments, but that's what I would suggest, good question.

Yari asks, “do you ever get a client whose responses to your questionnaire don't match up to what they're collecting on Pinterest? Thoughts on how to proceed there.” Yes, that has definitely happened on several occasions. That's what's really interesting. I would go back through and pin to the board as well and see if there's any similarities between what you've pinned. I feel like as you read over client homework and questionnaires, especially if you've done a good job of what you're including in that questionnaire, you'll have a really good idea of what would be appropriate. Sometimes I will hardly use any photos from what a client has pinned to their Pinterest board and I'll just go back through and pin some images of my own. As a designer, I'm always pinning to secret boards just for future reference if it would come in handy for a client. Just explain and hopefully they'll like your direction too if you're able to explain why we chose certain images and color palettes and that sort of thing, but great question. I hope that's helpful for you, Yari.

Sarah asks, “where do you find the photos for your inspiration boards? Do they need to be royalty free to display on your website as part of a case study?” This is something I've just gone on Pinterest and pulled images. You might link so if you share the inspiration board, if you're just going to share it between you and your client I don't think it's a big deal. You're not publishing it anywhere. You're not technically getting paid for it, although it's part of your process. It's not like you're selling them the inspiration board. You're not selling them the images. If you aren't planning on sharing it with anybody else, I would say you don't need to worry about it. If you are going to share it on your blog, maybe you can keep a link to all those Pinterest pins and just underneath the image give credit there for the photos, but that's what I would do, Sarah. That's a great question. That would be a good question for Christina Scalera for legal advice on that question.

Joe asks, “how can I protect my business when it comes to sharing photos from Pinterest that I don't legally own the rights to? It's a common theme here. Is there a way around this when they are just part of an inspiration board?” Again, I would recommend if you're not sharing it with anybody, it shouldn't matter. You're not selling the inspiration board. If you're going to post it to your blog, I would just put the attribution underneath the image of the inspiration board. Maybe you could even do it back to the Pinterest pin or you can follow that pin and see what website they got it from and share that. That's what I would recommend.

Gabbie says, “do you ever experience restlessness in regards to branding? When is it a good time to rebrand?” That is a great question. Yes, sometimes I do get restless, but I know that if I just stay consistent it will create brand recognition and it will pay off in the long run. I think that it's also important to have a timeless brand and when you're choosing especially your logo, maybe once in a while you can add an accent color in there.

A lot of times I'll create new icons or something like that if I'm getting a little restless and it's still in keeping with my brand, but it's not a complete overhaul. It's a good time to rebrand if you feel like you aren't attracting your ideal clients. If you're not attracting the type of people that you want to work with or who are going to buy from you, then it might be a good time to rebrand, but I definitely don't encourage rebranding every year. I think it's maybe every 5, 10 years and it's good to invest in a good designer who can give you a brand that you won't have to rebrand every couple years, so great question.

All right, guys. Sorry that I didn't through all of them! You can grab the inspiration board templates below and if you go to if you want to know more about that Illustrator course, I will be sending out a special surprise to everyone on my waiting list for the Adobe Illustrator course that is launching in just a couple weeks. If you're interested, it's only offered once a year. This is a fifth time offering that Adobe Illustrator course so feel free to go there and sign up for the waiting list and for more details.

Thank you all for tuning in today. I hope that this was helpful for you! See you soon, guys. Bye.

Have you created an inspiration board for your brand? How have you used your inspiration board to create other elements of your brand?

Creating a Brand That Isn’t Easily Forgotten

It takes an average of 5-7 brand impressions before someone will remember your brand.

Which means that people have to come into contact with your brand through website views, social media posts, or third-party mentions an average of 5-7 times before they can recall your business from memory.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather someone remember my brand during the first or second point of contact. 5-7 seems like a lot.

But in today’s day in age - where all brands seem to run together and look the same - it seems to be getting even harder to stand out from the crowd and create a brand that potential clients and customers will remember. 

There’s so much competition. 

So how do you stand out? How do you catch people’s attention and increase the likelihood that they will remember your brand?

The answer lies in consistent, one-of-a-kind visuals. 

Icons, patterns, borders, backgrounds, photography style - they all give you the opportunity to differentiate your brand and become memorable. And I’m sharing exactly how to create them in this post, during the final week of Elle & Company’s Brand Challenge!

Creating a Brand That Isn't Easily Forgotten | Elle & Company

Elle & Company Brand Challenge, Week 4

By this point in our February Brand Challenge, you have:

  • Conducted a brand evaluation
  • Brainstormed your future goals
  • Crafted a mission statement
  • Identified your ideal client/customer
  • Listed 10 brand keywords
  • Developed your tone and terminology
  • Utilized a Pinterest board for inspiration
  • Created an inspiration board
  • Refined your logo
  • Designed logo variations
  • Came up with a primary and secondary color palettes
  • Outlined your brand’s color system
  • Set color options for each logo variation
  • Chosen your brand fonts
  • And determined the style of your graphics

If you missed out on weeks 1, 2, and 3, no worries! Read these posts and carry out the action steps included to catch up:

Week 1:  Laying the Groundwork for a One-of-a-Kind Brand
Week 2:  How to Come Up with a Creative Visual Direction for Your Brand
Week 3:  A Guide to Choosing Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics

Also, be sure to download the free Week 4 workbook to help you follow along! 

Download the free Brand Challenge workbook!


Subscribe with your name and email address to access to the in-depth workbook for Week 4 of this month's Brand Challenge.

Powered by ConvertKit

16  |  Consider borders + backgrounds

Differentiation is all in the details.

While borders and backgrounds may seem insignificant and small compared to logos and color palettes, they can have a large impact on the consistency and professionalism of your brand.

You already determined your graphic style last week, so considering your borders and backgrounds should be a fairly easy task.

A few things to consider:

How will you divide sections of content on your website and collateral items? Will you use a simple line or will you mix things up with a custom border like Sincerely Amy’s postage-inspired brand?

Will you use solid color backgrounds? Will you use semi-transparent blocks of color over images for text?

Will you use chalkboard backgrounds? Textured backgrounds? Wood? Metallics?

Will you utilize white space and keep things clean and airy? 

All of these questions should be considered and addressed before you start implementing your brand on your website, collateral items, etc.

As you work through this step, think back to the work you did in Week 1 with keywords and your mission statement, as well as your graphic style, and consider which options make the most sense.

Get creative with it, too! 

Small details like this may not seem to make much difference at the outset, but they can play a huge role in brand recognition and memorability. They’ll also make designing brand graphics much easier in the long run.

Use page 2 of your workbook to work through your borders and backgrounds and list them for future reference.

Creating a Brand That Isn't Easily Forgotten | Elle & Company

17  |  Create one-of-a-kind icons

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of emoji’s. Not a text goes by to friends and family where I don’t include at least one. 

Not only are they fun (and usually hilarious), but they help communicate ideas and expressions that aren’t often easy to portray through words.

The same is true for the icons you use throughout your brand.

Icons can also be a great way to:

  • Add interest to your website and collateral items
  • Create engagement
  • Differentiate your brand and help you stand out
  • Create memorability

The Lower Junction’s website features a “Choose Your Own Adventure” feature, and their use of icons makes it so much more interactive and distinct.

Do you see how the use of simple icons takes the design and experience to a whole other level? The same can be true for the icons you use in your brand.

Consider your graphic style as you watch this Ellechat replay: How to Create Custom Brand Icons

Also consider how you might use these icons and what words you might need your icons to represent.

I’ve left space for you to sketch and describe your icon style on page 3 of your workbook, along with space to brainstorm specific icon ideas for keywords and offerings.

Creating a Brand That Isn't Easily Forgotten | Elle & Company

You’ll probably continue to add onto these icons throughout the life of your brand and business, but developing a distinct icon style at the outset will help you differentiate your brand and make it easier to create new icons in the future.

18  |  Design custom patterns

Just like icons, patterns are another fun way to add interest to your brand and make it more memorable.

When you create a custom pattern that’s unique to your brand alone, you have the opportunity to stand out from competitors, communicate the message of your brand, and add some flair to your stationery, packaging, designs, and website.

Adobe Illustrator is a fantastic tool for creating both custom icons and patterns that fit your brand’s aesthetic and color palette.

I share step-by-step instructions on how to create custom patterns in my upcoming Adobe Illustrator Basics course (which launches in just a few weeks!)! If you’re interested in more details and first access, sign up for the waiting list below:

You can also find pre-made patterns on sites like Creative Market

But be forewarned - other people have the ability to purchase the same patterns and use them on their website and collateral, which can hurt brand recognition.

That’s why, again, it’s helpful to know programs like Adobe Illustrator to bring your patterns to life.

I’ve left space for you to sketch out patterns in your workbook on page 4, along with some creative ideas for using patterns throughout your brand. Be sure to take a look!

Creating a Brand That Isn't Easily Forgotten | Elle & Company

19  |  Determine your photography style

You can do a killer job on all of the steps we’ve covered over the past 3 weeks.

But if your photos are amateur or inconsistent with the rest of your brand, your brand will fall short. Every. Single. Time.

So, based on your keywords and the brand decisions you’ve made up until this point, consider which photography style would best suit your brand.

Should it be minimal and bright? Dark and moody? High contrast? Colorful and abstract?

Set the standard for the photo style of your brand.

Don’t base is off of what your current photo style looks like; try to take an objective look at what it should look like (within reason, of course).

It might also be helpful to look at the photo styles used in your inspiration board. 

The next step will be learning how to implement this style, finding/purchasing photos that fit this style, or hiring someone who can implement this style for you.

I’ve left space for you to outline your photography style on page 5 of your workbook for future reference.

Creating a Brand That Isn't Easily Forgotten | Elle & Company

Don’t overlook the visual impact that photos can have on the consistency and effectiveness of your brand!

20  |  Put it all together in a brand style guide

Congratulations! You’ve officially made it through Elle & Company’s Brand Challenge.

But before you start implementing your new brand on your website and collateral items, take some time to compile all of your hard work and create a beautiful reference for your brand by creating a brand style guide.

A brand style guide is a multi-page PDF that outlines all of your brand standards, including your:

  • Mission statement
  • Ideal client
  • Brand adjectives
  • Logos
  • Color palettes and color system
  • Graphics (patterns, icons, etc.)

Basically, it’s a cleaned up version of all the notes you’ve made these past 4 weeks in your workbook.

Graphic designer Melissa Yeager is a pro at putting together brands style guides, so I asked her to join me for this week’s Ellechat webinar to walk you through exactly how to create a brand style guide from start to finish.

If you can’t make the live webinar, no worries! Follow that same link to register and watch the replay. 

You’ve officially made it through our first Elle & Company Brand Challenge!

I hope these last 4 weeks have helped you create a consistent brand you’re proud of. All that’s left to do is implement the systems you’ve created this month on your website and collateral items!

Best wishes and please keep me posted on your progress in our new Facebook group. I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with!

A Guide to Choosing Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics

Tiffany blue. 

You know you have a strong brand when something as simple as a color becomes an actual trademark for your business.

If someone is carrying that signature blue box with a white ribbon, you know they’ve made a purchase from Tiffany’s. You don’t even have to see the logo to recognize the brand. 

Logos definitely help create brand recognition and add a visual face to your business, but seemingly insignificant details like colors and fonts can have just as big of an impact.

And in Week 3 of this month’s Brand Challenge, we’re diving into those details headfirst.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Elle & Company Brand Challenge, Week 3

By this point in our February Brand Challenge, you have:

  • Conducted a brand evaluation
  • Brainstormed your future goals
  • Crafted a mission statement
  • Identified your ideal client/customer
  • Listed 10 brand keywords
  • Developed your tone and terminology
  • Utilized a Pinterest board for inspiration
  • Created an inspiration board
  • Refined your logo
  • And designed logo variations

If you missed out on weeks 1 and 2, no worries! Read these posts and carry out the action steps included to catch up:

Week 1:  Laying the Groundwork for a One-of-a-Kind Brand
Week 2:  How to Come Up with a Creative Visual Direction for Your Brand

Your brand is beginning to take shape, but we still have work to do. We’re going to build upon the work you’ve done by choosing colors, fonts, and a graphic style for your brand.

But before we do, download this week’s workbook to follow along and record your progress:

Download the free Brand Challenge workbook!


Subscribe with your name and email address to access to the in-depth workbook for Week 3 of this month's Brand Challenge.

Powered by ConvertKit

11  |  Come up with a primary + secondary color palette

Color is a great way to distinguish your brand and create recognition.

In fact, color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.

Think about Home Depot, Target, and T-Mobile. Did their brand colors (orange, red, and pink) automatically pop into your mind? Of course they did!

The same should be true for your brand. 

The colors you choose to represent your business should not only be memorable and recognizable, but they should appeal to your ideal clients and customers.

Easier said than done, though. I’ve found that many business owners struggle to choose colors because there are so many to choose from. Can you relate?

If so, I laid out the exact steps you should take when choosing your brand colors in this blog post: How to Create a Distinct Color Palette for Your Brand

Once you’ve worked through those steps, consider how the colors you chose match up with your brand keywords, mission statement, and tone. 

For example, my former client, Amanda Jameson, used the words welcoming, delightful, joyful, inviting, refreshing, warm, intentional, invested, professional, and authentic to describe her brand.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

The color palette we chose for Amanda’s brand blended in well with those 10 adjectives listed above. 

The peachy pink lends itself well to "delightful" and "joyful." The soft blue/green is "refreshing" and "authentic." And the shades of brown are "warm" and "invested."

It’s important to use intention when you’re choosing colors and measure them up against the foundation you laid in Week 1. 

Once you’ve landed on a solid color palette, use page 2 of your workbook to list out the color values of each of your brand colors to create consistency.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

I’ve left space for you to fill in the hexadecimal colors for web and CMYK colors for print.

You can find these color values in the Color window in Adobe Illustrator. 

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

To switch between the different color modes, click the Options icon in the top right corner of the window and choose which mode you want to view.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company
A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Consistency is key in branding. The more and more you use these same colors over and over, the more your audience will recognize your brand when they come into contact with it.

Tiffany’s doesn’t use all different kinds of blue; they use one shade, over and over and over.

Rounding up these color values will help you maintain consistency with your brand colors. It will also come in handy when you go to change a button color on your website or choose colors for collateral items.

12  |  Outline your brand’s color system

I know what you’re thinking, “What in the world is a color system?”

Let me explain.

Your whole brand should be viewed as a system.

It’s sort of like an equation; you plug in the values to the framework and you get the right answer.

Throughout this brand challenge, you’ve been creating separate parts of the equation so that when you add them together to create a website, business cards, and other collateral items, you’ll achieve a cohesive, professional outcome. 

Now that you’ve chosen colors for your brand, it’s time to create consistency in how you pair them together.

For example, we chose the following colors for Jen Neal’s brand:

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

But in order to maintain consistency on Jen’s website, social media graphics, and business cards, we needed to come up with a color system, outlining how the colors would be used.

Navy blue would be used for backgrounds. 
The custom floral pattern we created for Jen’s brand would always be the lighter shade of blue on the navy background.
Pink would be used in small doses for a bold pop of color, mainly through thin borders.
Gold would only be used sparingly for the logo and headers.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

You can see the “system” start to develop. 

Having this system made it easy to design Jen’s website and collateral items because we simply plugged in the values and came out with a well-designed solution.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

So start thinking through your color system. 

It will probably continue to take shape as you add patterns, icons, and other visuals into the mix, but go ahead and define your color pairings.

Which colors will be used as background colors?
Which colors will be used on top of those background colors for text and icons?

Note that the best color pairings are usually those with contrast (which is why I had you choose light, medium, and dark tones for your color palette). 

Spend some time playing around with your brand colors to see which combinations pair best together. 

Once you’ve settled on some color pairings, set those standards on page 3 of your workbook.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

You might find that you need to go back and refine your color palette after this step to give yourself a little more versatility or create better color pairings, and that’s okay! I usually make small adjustments here and there throughout the branding process.

But be sure to take the time at the outset to set boundaries for how you use and pair your brand colors. It will make designing your graphics so much easier in the long run.

13  |  Set color options for each logo variation

Remember those black and white primary logo and alternative logos you refined/created last week? 

It’s finally time to add some color to them.

(And now that you’ve already outlined your color system, this step should be easy!)

Using the color pairings you created in the last step, come up with a primary color combination for your logo. 

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Next, consider what your primary logo will look like on different color backgrounds and photo backgrounds. 

For example, will it be white on dark images and navy on light images? Will it be navy on a light blue background and gold on a navy background? 

Do the same with your alternative logos, too.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Thinking through these different instances will help you maintain consistency, create brand recognition, and make it a breeze to design things like social media graphics, presentation slides, and website icons in the future.

I left space for you to outline these logo color pairings on page 4 of this week’s workbook.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

14  |  Choose your brand fonts

Your colors are all set! Now it’s time to dive into fonts.

Just like with the color process, I already have a detailed blog post on all the steps you need to take to choose and pair brand fonts: Finding, Choosing, and Pairing Brand Fonts

Once you work through the steps in that post, take some time to choose your header font, body text font, and possibly one accent font.

I’ve left space for you to list these fonts on page 5 of your Week 3 Brand Challenge workbook.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Be sure to pay close attention that all 2-3 fonts work together. 

If you chose an accent font, consider how and when that font will be used (again, creating a system of sorts). Scripts and decorative fonts can make great accent fonts, but they should be used sparingly and in small doses to call attention to certain words in your designs. 

But whatever fonts you choose, stay consistent.

Don’t switch them up every month or choose one font for social media graphics and another for blog post images. 

Some of you artsy creatives might get bored with using the same fonts over and over, but consistency is key to creating brand recognition and appearing professional.

15  |  Determine the style of your graphics

Your logo is taken care of, your fonts and colors are good to go. Next up: graphics.

But before you create icons, patterns, and borders, you need to consider the overall style of your graphics. 

Are they going to be minimal? Detailed? Geometric? Handdrawn?

What style would make the most sense for your brand based on your keywords, mission statement, logo, and font choices?

Skype’s brand style guide is one of my all-time favorites because they do a fantastic job of outlining their graphic style. Take a look:

“The Skype logo is constructed from a series of circles, and following that lead, our clouds are to be constructed with the same process.

Circles maketh the cloud. Use circles, any placement and shape, but make sure it looks… cloudish.

Circles good, ellipses bad. Don’t use an ellipse to construct a cloud, we like them round and circular, just like our logo.

“Our illustrations are all about visualizing the richness of conversation. So once you have your basic cloud shape you can incorporate some illustrations to the cloud.”

Skype outlines their graphic style and creates parameters around the types of graphics they’ll use throughout their brand. 

This creates consistency and cohesion, so even if you don’t see the Skype logo, you’ll recognize the Skype graphic style.

The same should be true for your brand. Take some time to determine the style of your graphics.

You don’t have to go into as much detail as Skype did, but having a graphic style in mind will be super helpful for you as you create borders, patterns, and icons next week. 

I left space for you to define your graphic style and sketch ideas on page 5 of your workbook.

A Guide to Choose Brand Colors, Fonts, and Graphics | Elle & Company

Download the free Brand Challenge workbook!


Subscribe with your name and email address to access to the in-depth workbook for Week 3 of this month's Brand Challenge.

Powered by ConvertKit

We are flying through this Brand Challenge! I hope you’re enjoying the process and seeing a lot of progress with your brand each day.

Remember to share your progress in Elle & Company’s new Facebook group and share your colors, fonts, and graphic style on social media using the hashtag #elleandcobrandchallenge. 

Best wishes - only one more week to go!

Honing in on a Distinct Style for Your Brand

One of the biggest benefits of branding your business is the opportunity to set it apart and differentiate it from all the other businesses in your industry.

But nowadays, too many brands look the same.

And it’s for one of two reasons:

1  |  There are so many businesses out there that it’s hard to come up with anything new
2  |  Business owners don’t know how to come up with a distinct aesthetic for their brand

I don’t buy the first reason. We’re creative business owners; new ideas should be a fun challenge for us.

I blame the boring brands on reason #2: People just don’t know how to make their brand stand out.