My complete brand design process: 7 key steps

Jan 19, 2021 | Branding, For Designers

My brand design process has evolved substantially since I started my design business in 2018. Over the past few years, I’ve continued to invest in education and resources in order to create better work, more efficiently. Although there’s always room for refinement, I’ve reached a stage where I feel very at home with my brand design process and the results it’s capable of producing for my clients.

But don’t just take it from me; here are a few words of praise from recent branding clients:

“Stephanie was such a pleasure to work with! Amazing vision, perfectly outlined the strategy ahead of starting work. Her final branding was so perfect. I loved it right away, will massively help my business!” – Ester Fried

“I LOVE my new branding Steph created. I was looking to elevate my visual brand because my target market had shifted into a more sophisticated client base, and I wanted my online presence to reflect that. Steph was able to create branding that felt clean, minimal, and professional while also feeling unique — everything I was looking for! Now, I feel more confident and excited to show up online. 10/10 recommend Steph for branding and design!” – Krista Walsh

How have I been able to cut down on design revisions and present concepts that perfectly align with my clients’ vision? It’s all about the process. Whether you’re a fellow brand designer or a small business owner curious about the brand design process, this post is for you. Let’s dive in and explore my tried-and-true, step-by-step branding process.

Brand Guidelines for Krista Walsh Copywriter
A preview of the brand identity created for Krista Walsh Copywriter

My 7-step brand design process

Keep reading to discover how I create beautiful and strategic brand identities for my clients.

Step 1: The discovery call

The very first step every client takes before we start working together is booking a discovery call. This free and casual 30-minute chat gives each of us an opportunity to get to know each other a bit and see if we’re a good fit to work together. It’s a two-way conversation; not only does the client need to hear about my process and experience, I also need to learn about the client’s vision and goals and make sure that I can give them the support they need. If it’s not a great fit, I try to at least point the client in the right direction so that the conversation isn’t a total loss. And if it is a good fit, I’ll present one or two supportive options for how we can work together.

Related post: How to choose the right graphic designer for your brand

Step 2: Onboarding

If the client is interested in moving forward after our discovery call, one of two things will happen. Either I’ll send over the contract and invoice for the deposit right away; or if the client needs more time to weigh their options, I’ll first provide a proposal that lays out the options we discussed. Once the contract is signed, the onboarding process officially begins. I’ll send over a welcome email with a few important logistical details, such as the project timeline, questionnaire link, and next steps.

Check out my resources page to discover all the tools and programs I use to run my business!

Step 3: Branding questionnaire

During the onboarding process, the client receives a copy of my branding questionnaire. The questionnaire is an effective way to gather information about the client’s brand. It helps me understand their mission, goals, values, target audience, brand personality, and more. Many of my clients have told me that they enjoyed filling out the questionnaire because it helped them uncover some of the underdeveloped aspects of their brand. It also helps me start to shift into alignment with the client’s vision for their brand.

Step 4: Kick-off call

With the completed questionnaire in hand, I then hop onto a kick-off call with the client. This call is typically an hour long. The purpose of the call is to review the branding questionnaire together and “officially” set the project in motion. Some of my clients require a bit of guidance to hash out some of the intricacies of their brand identity, which I’m more than happy to support them with. During this call, we’ll also look at the client’s top competitors and review other brands for inspiration.

Step 5: Creative brief + mood board

By the end of the kick-off call, I’ve typically started to form a vision for the creative direction that the brand needs to take. To further develop this vision and make sure client and I are on the same page, I’ll prepare a creative brief and mood board. The creative brief neatly summarizes all the most important aspects of the brand identity in clear, accessible language. The mood board establishes the creative direction for the visual brand elements, such as the logos, colors, and typography.

This is one of the most crucial steps in the brand design process. It’s essential that the client approves of the creative direction before I move into the design phase. Sometimes it takes one or two rounds of refinement in order to get it right. But the more aligned we are at this stage, the fewer revisions we’ll need to make later on in the process.

Related post: What’s a mood board and why do you need one?

Step 6: Brand design process

Step six of the brand design process is the longest phase of the project and where the magic happens. First, I present two unique logo concepts in black and white. After gathering the client’s feedback, I’ll present refined concepts, incorporating options for the brand color palette and fonts.

Why two logo concepts? Through experience, I’ve found that one concept can feel too restrictive, whereas three or more concepts causes too much overwhelm. Although I create tons of concepts behind the scenes, presenting only the two strongest options has proven to be the sweet spot for both myself and my clients.

Each logo concept includes multiple logo variations (click here to read about logo variations and why they’re important). After gathering feedback on the refined concepts, we may do one more round of edits before finalizing the brand identity.

Step 7: File delivery + launch

Once the visual brand identity is approved, I package up all the files in labeled folders. Also included is a 10-15 page brand guidelines PDF. The guidelines contain detailed instructions on how to use all the different brand elements (as well as what not to do with them). The files are delivered as a zip file via Google Drive.

Finally, I’ll ask the client to provide a testimonial and offer to support them with any future design needs.

Ester Fried brand guidelines
A preview of the brand guidelines for Ester Fried

And that wraps up my 7-step brand design process!

I hope this post helped shine some light on what goes into the branding process. In my business, branding is typically a 4-6 week process, depending on the scope of work and number of revisions needed.

If you’re looking for support in bringing your brand vision to life, I invite you to book a free discovery call to start the process. I can’t wait to learn about your goals and vision for your brand!

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Steph Corrigan Design Blogger

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