They say designing your own brand identity is the hardest. They weren't kidding.
I had the idea to launch Absolute JEM back in 2018, when I was 9 months pregnant with my second baby boy.
Crazy timing, right?
I knew I wouldn't be able to launch immediately. Who was I kidding—with a new baby on the way, I knew it would probably take a couple years.
The good thing about this time lapse is that it gave me plenty of time to mull exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to serve. I sat there with my baby in the rocker in the middle of the night, wheels turning, ideas spinning, anticipation growing.
When he was about a year old I finally felt like I could come up for air. Although juggling two young kids plus a full-time job didn't leave me with much spare time for this side project, I knew I could begin taking the baby steps necessary to get there.
I sat down at my computer, opened up Adobe Illustrator, and figured I'd take a short cut. Why do I need to map out my ideal client avatar or fill out an in-depth branding questionnaire? I know the answers to these questions already. I've been thinking about my business for over a year now. I'm gonna cut straight to the fun stuff – my logo and color palette! Woot woot! *confetti toss*
What ensued was a bit of a mess. Without any formal context other than what was spinning around in my overly-caffeinated head, I got to work on a logo and picked some colors on a whim. Precisely what I advise others not to do.
I'll admit, I'm embarrassed to show you this. But I hope my cringe-worthy transparency will reinforce the WHY behind a formal branding process—and how crucial it is to get to the core of your brand first:
As I looked at this logo and these color choices, something felt very...off. This wasn't me. It wasn't my brand. It wasn't what I needed to attract my ideal client. WTF? Where was the disconnect? I thought I knew these things inherently. But this visual representation of what was inside my head was sooooo NOT it.
Without my own signature branding process in place (hey, I was just getting started on this business!), I knew I needed a hand to get this right.
Though if I'm being super honest, I've always thought it strange when designers outsource the design of their own brand identity to another designer. I mean, aren't you supposed to be the expert here? Who else but YOU would be able to best design your own visual brand? (No judgment, of course.)
But now, sitting here feeling confused and stuck, I understood the thinking behind it. Sometimes you are so incredibly close to your own brand that it actually clouds your vision and blocks you from bringing it to fruition.
I knew I needed to design this brand myself. But, I needed to start from scratch. I needed to scrap everything I thought I knew about my brand and begin at square one. And I needed some help doing that.
Enter Nicole Yang's The Balanced Brand Lab Kit. *cue the chorus of singing angels*
I've followed Nicole for a while now. I'm Creative Director for the wedding website Here Comes The Guide and she's the former Art Director for Southern Weddings. I began following her in the wedding space and continued to follow along as she launched her own design business. She is one of the most prolific graphic designers out there and is absolute #goals.
Call it kismet or simply coincidence, but just as I was struggling to put together my own visual brand Nicole had just launched The Balanced Brand Lab Kit—a do-it-yourself online course to build a personalized brand from the ground up. Bingo.
Purchasing the course was a no-brainer, and I immediately dove into the process. It's similar to what I put my own branding clients through (but didn't have formalized at the time!), though it's catered to the DIY designer. It includes:
- An in-depth brand questionnaire where I really had to sit down and think through the who, what, and why behind my business and ideal client.
- Strategic pinning of images on Pinterest to create a mood board that evokes allllll the feels of my brand.
- Guidance in putting together a comprehensive style guide to ensure my branding stays consistent.
It was exactly what I needed—external accountability and a structured process outside of my own hands, while still allowing ME to make all my own design decisions and graphics.
Ready for a behind-the-scenes peek of my branding?
Sassy, savvy, empowered, fun, bold, modern, girl power.
Give your brand a sparkling personality.
She's a go-getter girl boss with big dreams and a perpetual latte in hand. She's as passionate about her career as she is about her family and friends, and is always on the hunt for ways to level up her small business. An on-trend woman that loves a bold lip and statement earrings, her inner fashionista just "gets" the importance of having a clean, modern, visually-pleasing brand. Her obsessions include chic office supplies, cheeky coffee mugs, marketing podcasts, reality tv, and red wine. And obviously she's got glitter in her veins. Caffeine, too.
Going through the process myself only solidified what I already knew about branding:
You have to do the pen-to-paper work to discover your brand's purpose and your ideal clients' essence FIRST.
There are no shortcuts.
Even if you're an experienced graphic designer, you MUST front load this part of the process. Every element of your branding should be intentional, strategic, and purposeful—based on all the homework you did before ever opening up your design software.
After doing the work, my brand is exactly what it was meant to be. It's fun, it's flirty, it's sassy, it's smart, it's strategic. And it truly feels like what was spinning around in my head for two years was finally brought to life.
It's amazing what can happen when you ask for a little help.