Earlier this year, I was asked by the lovely Hayley Morgan to speak about design at The Influence Conference in Indianapolis. This past weekend – it happened! Speaking is an odd duck…especially as a blogger/designer. I spend most of my days in front of a computer and when I am interacting with people it’s with my clients or my best friends. All of a sudden I found myself with two speaking gigs. I kept thinking, “What could these people possibly want to hear from me?!”

It ended up going really well and I felt really great about it once it was over. It was easy to feel overwhelmed when all the other speakers seemed so extroverted and bubbly. I had to remember that we’re all different and that I still had something to offer (even if I get super nervous and forget to smile a lot). The best part of the conference was connecting with so many women individually and helping them out with their branding, blogs and websites. I do SO much better working with others individually (vs addressing a huge audience).

For those that weren’t able to attend my session, I thought I’d share a recap today along with some Q&A’s + a separate page with resources. Here it is:

Whether you’re a blogger, a small business owner or someone who just THINKS about starting a blog…you cannot avoid your brand and what you communicate through visual design. The idea of having a brand can sound so lame. I hear phrases like “I need to work on my personal brand,” or “My branding sucks,” but your brand is just YOU and what you decide to communicate.

  • You communicate through your social media accounts.
  • You communicate through your blog.
  • You communicate through your logo.
  • You even communicate through how you treat others on a daily basis.

I’m going to walk you through the 6 steps that I use to help my clients create a clear brand voice. I gave examples during my presentation that I can’t necessarily share here on the Internet (due to the fact that it would be open to everyone to see and my relationship with that client is ongoing). Hopefully it still makes sense! We’re essentially going to identify who your audience is, who you are, and how the two interact.

  1. Identify your Ideal Audience’s World. What gender? Age? What music are they listening to? What historical events took place to shape their lives? What issues are they dealing with on a day-to-day basis? What brands have their loyalty?
  2. Create a Profile for that Specific Person. You’re essentially giving your audience/demographic a character. This could be a celebrity or someone you know. Perhaps your small business is targeting college students and you want to use someone like Taylor Swift as your customer character. This is someone who is into the newest trends, loves music, very feminine and is dating actively. This would be way different if your target audience were stay-at-home moms! Disclaimer: you are not sharing this character with anyone but people working behind the scenes. It’s to use as a reference later on.
  3. Identify Your Competitors’ Voices. The idea of having a competitor doesn’t have to be as awful as it sounds. Just take a moment to observe what others are doing that is similar to what YOU’RE doing. How do they present themselves? What is their tone? Why are they successful?
  4. Outline How You’re Unique. This is where you shine! How are you different than the competitors you’ve identified above? What do you say when you describe your blog/business? Do you use big words or simplify things?
  5. Create your Brand Character. Now you’re going to do the same thing that you did with your audience profile. Your brand character does not need to be YOU. This can be an exaggerated or simplified version of yourself (or not you at all). This is the person that will be connecting with your audience day-to-day. It will help bring about accountability during times that you want to stray from that identity. Perhaps you feel that Oprah is the best representation of your business (in character form). She will be conversational, wise, influential and older. Will this character be able to connect with Taylor Swift? (I know this seems silly but I promise it works).
  6. Create a Plan. Now you create a plan. What do you need to do to get this to the streets? Set up social media accounts? Hire a designer? Get a website? Make corrections to your existing brand?
I have found that this process helps my clients better understand what they’re doing and who they are. If you’re looking to find a designer – this process will most definitely help them create something that fits your needs and speaks to your audience. When I work through these steps, I can design a few options for my cilents’ logos and take a step back and make sure that it’s aligning with the voice that we chose. Will their audience identify with it?

Before I left, I also had a few of you ask me questions that I wanted to answer here in this post!

Q1: My computer doesn’t have photo editing software, so I use Pixlr to jazz up my pictures. Is there a way to upload custom fonts to Pixlr? While it’s a great tool, their font selection is limited. If so, what’s your favorite resource for free fonts? Unfortunately (according to my research) Pixlr does not allow you to load new fonts into their software. However, if you decide to use a different program, I love getting my fonts here.

Q2: How do I find out how to brand my blog when making the logo and naming it? I would suggest first finding a name that you love and has meaning. Perhaps avoid using something that is SO specific to your life journey at this moment. Next, identify a few fonts and colors that you want to use consistently (it unifies your online space). Lastly – curate a list of logos that you love and figure out why you love them. It will help you stay on track with the aesthetic that you love.

Q3: What do you think will be trending in blog design over the coming year. What do you think will be new in layout, design, content (e.g. I’ve noticed a lot of instagram feeds popping up on sidebars)? On the flip side, what would you say makes a blog look dated? Instagram and Pinterest is definitely trending right now. Allowing users to see your IG feed + pin all your images has become quite popular as has having a responsive blog design. A lot of people read blogs on iPads, tablets and smartphones today and if your site isn’t working with those formats – people will leave or get frustrated. As for “dated” blogs – I think that GFC is on its way out (it only works with Blogger), default themes, and small, centered photos with borders seem to top the list for me.

Q4: I would love to know more about the elements of a good website design: i.e. how many colors should be used? How can you organize it so it’s easy to navigate? What kind of web software should you use (WordPress, Blogger, etc.)? I try to keep 3 main colors (with different variations of each) when I create a blog. When it comes to navigation – I definitely use the top navigation for outside personal links, a place for my readers to contact or read more about me. I use the sidebar to keep people ON MY BLOG. You can use your sidebar to get peoples’ attention once they’re done looking at the post and constantly clicking around. Oh and WordPress – always.

I’ve also created a page with free resources + ways to help you get started! Enjoy!

*Top and bottom two photos found on Instagram from some of my lovely attendees 

October 16, 2012