Alex Pemberton working in her office

Inside: a closer look at four important factors to consider when you're ready to hire a brand designer, especially if you're a solopreneur


When you’re a solopreneur, especially in the early stages, you don’t exactly have money to throw away. So it makes sense that when you’re hiring a brand designer, you want to find the right one. But, how? 

What exactly should you look for, and how do you compare the various offers in what feels like an apples-and-oranges situation?

Today, let’s talk about a few things that really make a difference.

Do you like their style?

Most graphic designers (which is what we brand designers are) have a fairly defined style. You can see it in their body of work. 

This is normal. And it happens because we all have our own prism through which we look at life. In large part, this is driven by each designer’s leading archetype.

“Huh, what archetype?” If that was your thought just now, my brand archetype overview was written with you in mind. Take a moment to read through it, keeping in mind that brand archetypes work because they are based on human archetypes.

Back to designers' styles. Someone like me, whose leading archetype is the Innocent, is likely to design in a fairly minimal but often colorful style, with lots of whitespace (room to breathe).

Contrast this with a designer whose leading archetype is the Outlaw (aka Rebel). You might see a lot of black or other dark-colored backgrounds, with bold accents meant to shock you right out of your reverie.

Even if we both work from the exact same design brief, our final designs will be markedly different. Because what we put into our work depends on how we see the world. And that’s exactly how it should be.

WHERE TO LOOK

So, where should you look to see a designer’s style?

I suggest you start with their portfolio. Here’s mine, for example. Look at the designs they’re showcasing and see if you can spot a common thread.

Are their designs bright and airy? Mostly pink and floral? Minimal in black and white? And do you like what you see?

Next up, check out their social media accounts and website (if they have one). Take note of their color usage, imagery, and copy.

And that leads us to the next point.

Are they on your wavelength?

It’s not enough to like a designer’s style. Ideally, you should also be on the same wavelength.

That’s not to say you need to have the same leading archetype or anything like that. Rather, that the designer should be speaking your language.

If you’re reading through someone’s website and she keeps calling you sweetie or girl boss or badass, does that make you want to meet the person or bug out right this minute?

Videos, if the designer has any, will give you another helpful glimpse of the human behind the brand. So if you come across one, do take a moment to watch it.

And, of course, we can’t leave out an actual face-to-face conversation. Not all designers offer them, but in my experience, short (15-minute) connection calls are excellent for figuring out how well you vibe with someone. My scheduler is here.

Does their branding package meet your needs?

Branding packages come in all different shapes and sizes. The most basic ones I’ve seen offer a logo with a simple color palette and two fonts.

All the other ones offer more, sometimes much more. 

Before looking at what you get, try to get a feel for what you need. Here are a few items to consider:

  • Logo for your website (typically wide and short)
  • Alternate logo for other uses, such as Dubsado (often narrower and taller)
  • Favicon or submark 
  • Extended color palette – this comes in handy when you have multiple products and want them to look like they belong in the same family, but not like identical twins
  • Comprehensive typography system for both web and print
  • Patterns that you can use for backgrounds throughout your brand’s digital and print materials
  • Decorative elements, such as dividers or space/corner fillers
  • Business cards (yep, they’re not dead 😄)
  • Social media templates
  • Opt-in resources for your audience, such as workbooks, journals, or e-books
  • Client experience items, like a Services Guide, Client Welcome Guide, or Client Goodbye Packet
  • Flyers
  • Outdoor signs, posters, or billboards
  • Brochures highlighting your services or products
  • Website for your business

Ideally, regardless of the size of the branding package you choose, the deliverables should also include a Brand Style Guide.

Now, in a fairly basic package, the “guide” might be more like a page. A brand board, if you will, showing your logos, color palette, and typography at a minimum.

A typical brand identity package includes a guide that shows the proper usage of your logos (and what not to do), which color combinations work well and which ones should never be used, guidelines for your brand’s images, and much more.

In the most comprehensive branding packages, the Brand Style Guide is accompanied by, or attached to, the Brand Master Guide. Which brings me to another important factor to consider.

Do they create the brand strategy for you?

Most brand designers aren’t trained in brand strategy. For the longest time, brand strategy was a tiny part of marketing, almost an afterthought.

But over the past couple of decades, especially thanks to social media, brand strategy became a must. 

And not just any must, but a must-do-first. In other words, your brand strategy is the very foundation of the business you’re building. So I hope you have one.

Otherwise, it’s no different from building a house on quicksand.

Now, I know a lot of brand designers mention strategy in their marketing. But when you dig deeper, you find out that it’s an hour-long conversation where they ask you a bunch of questions before they start designing.

This is good and bad. Yes, they should ask you questions. But no, that’s not what brand strategy is.

DESIGN BRIEF VS BRAND STRATEGY

If a designer asks you questions so they can create the design based on your answers, they’re basically putting together the design brief – finding out what you like, don’t like, and what your brand strategy is.

Let me repeat that for the folks in the back: they’re asking what your brand strategy is. In other words, you must have one established already.

Which, if you don’t, is going to be a problem down the line.

A brand strategist, like me, starts by creating your brand strategy. Yes, I too am going to ask you questions. A ton of them, actually.

I’m going to ask you to dump your brain, and then I’ll dig around for anything that might still be stuck there. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely necessary if you want to build a solid foundation for your business.

The next step is taking everything you said and turning it into a cohesive brand strategy for you. 

That means documenting your brand substance (like vision and mission, for example), positioning strategy, brand persona, and messaging framework in your Brand Master Guide.

We only move on to the design phase once the strategy is clear.

And there you have it – four important factors to consider when choosing the right brand designer for your solopreneur business.

If you’ve been nodding your head as you read this article and are thinking I’m exactly who you need, check out my services, and we can chat.

Or, if you’re thinking you’d rather get started on your own, I have a fabulous free resource for you. It’s called the Brand Clarity Workbook – 5 questions to answer before you change your brand colors (yet again).

Grab it below and get started building your brand foundation.

Don't waste time in Canva! Click this image to get your copy of the Brand Clarity Workbook.

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