What is a moodboard?
 
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I’ve been designing moodboards for as long as I can remember. Whatever type of creative you need, whether it’s a branding project, website or marketing collateral a moodboard will steer your project in the right direction.

So what is a moodboard?

A moodboard is an arrangement of colours, imagery, textures, mock-ups, words, compositions and reference pieces that makes up the thoughts, feelings and look that you want your branding or project to take.

Why is it important for my project?

  • It keeps you and your designer on track: A moodboard acts as the guiding light for your project. It’s a vital step in the process, especially for a branding project. But really any type of project can benefit from a moodboard. Depending on the type of designer you work with, they will create a moodboard for you or collaborate with you. Often I’ll ask my clients to send through inspiration at the start of a project so I can see what good looks like to them. It allows you to be apart of the process and collect a bunch of images that you feel reflect the style and dreams you have for your project.

  • It saves time: Although creating a moodboard can be a time consuming exercise up front, it generally saves time during the ideation and concept phase as both client and designer are on the same page. I will always have my client sign off the moodboard at that early stage before doing any concept work. It allows my client to really understand what they should expect to receive back once the first rounds of work is sent to them.

 
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A moodboard is an arrangement of colours, imagery, textures, mock-ups, words, compositions and reference pieces that makes up the thoughts, feelings and look that you want your branding or project to take.

 

How can I create my own moodboard?

Programs such as Canva are great places to start to create a moodboard. You can also start collecting imagery and content in Pinterest boards. Another great tool is Adobe Spark and you can get started using their free moodboard maker.

Alternatively, even if you don’t want to use any fancy online software you can always print out imagery from the internet and arrange on the wall with blu tac. I often still do this as it’s a nice break from being on the computer and allows me to draw on scrap paper, stick it up, move it around and then reflect on the moodboard before I send it off to my client.

Happy moodboarding!

BrandingRachel WardComment
Branding essentials for small business
 
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Clients often ask me ‘what are the essentials for branding?’ or ‘I’m on a super tight budget, what do I absolutely need vs what can we stagger and plan to do later?’

I’m on a super tight budget, what do I absolutely need vs what can we stagger and plan to do later?

The Now’s:

  • Logo

    • Your logo is the face of your business. It allows potential customers to identify with your business. Your logo is one of the most important investments you can make with your business. Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, consider how you want to be perceived and how you can brand ‘you’ as a business.

  • Secondary Icon (super important)

    • We believe the secondary icon is super important! Today we are all over social media and I can’t count how many times I have seen a logo squashed into a small avatar or profile picture. You either need to resize your primary logo so it works in this space or create a shorthand version or icon that customers resonate with.

  • Business Cards (and letterhead)

    • We don’t have to say much about why a business card is important. Business cards leave a lasting impression and in today’s society they are still relevant. Especially if you are out and about, or at networking events. It still looks extremely professional if you have a business card.

  • Email Signature

    • The business card of the digital world. A modern, clean and informative email signature looks so professional when potential customers or clients contact you for your services. Consider if you want a static email signature or a simple animation.

  • Suite of Social Graphics

    • We recommend designing a social media pack so you can start creating a consistent look across your feeds and channels so customers start to resonate with your brand. We can happily to look at Canva templates if this is an easier solution for your business.

  • Website

    • Having a website allows your business to market online. Without one, your customers won’t know where to go and they will feel like they cannot trust you. A website gives potential customers the feeling that you know what you are doing and you are professional. They add credibility to your business. Our favourite platform for small business is Squarespace. Squarespace is simple to use, it looks great and you can get one up and running within a matter of weeks!

  • Imagery

    • Humans are naturally visual creatures. If you’re a business that needs lots of engaging imagery (which most of us are) consider what type of imagery you need and come up with a plan. Your graphic designer can guide you through this process. Will you hire a photographer? Do it yourself? Or look at stock sites. There are some really great ones out that are inexpensive.

The Laters:

  • Brand Style Guide

    • Some designers might gawk at me for saying a brand guideline is a nice to have. Large corporations pay an exorbitant amount of money on brand guideline creation and maintenance. Don’t get me wrong I wish I could say to every one of my clients that a brand guideline is the utmost most important thing when it comes to your brand (because it kind of is) but for small businesses it’s often once of those things that can be parked and developed overtime.

    • Why is a brand guideline important? A brand guidelines acts as the steering ship for your business. It brings your vision, mission and look and feel + more together in one document. A brand guideline can keep employees on the right track and it’s also a great guide for when you need to outsource a designer. Package everything up and your designer will be able to understand the thought process behind your brand, who you are and how they can design the assets that you need whilst keeping it within your brand look.

    • We always include a small 1-3 page guideline for all of our clients as part of our branding packages. We can tailor the guideline to add more content as required or depending on the size of the business. The reason why we have kept it on the nice to have list as often we develop this for our clients after they have launched their business.

  • Favicon

    • A favicon is the little icon that appears in the URL section of your search bar. Its main purpose is to help visitors locate your page if they have a sea of tabs open (which we are all guilty of doing).

  • Imagery Guide

    • Have you ever seen an Apple billboard before even resonating with the actual logo and name itself. I argue that Apple could even take all their branding off and you would still know it’s them. Their aesthetic is so strong! But under that, their imagery is strong. They stick to a guide. They know what they are and what they are not. Take the principles from the big players and apply it to your business. The same goes for Nike, Google, H&M… all the big players… and the list goes on.

    • If you want for example, your customers to feel happy, light-hearted and feel good from your brand using bright, eye-catching, engaging imagery will leave them feeling this way. But using dark imagery with muted colours, lots of black and overall morbid tones your customers won’t be able to make the right connections to your brand.





BrandingRachel WardComment
How to create value for your audience?
 
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“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell.”

Quote: Seth Goddin

 

If you haven’t heard of Seth Goddin then stop what you are doing right now and jump onto Google to read everything and anything that he has produced. Seth Goddin has been described as ‘the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age’. One look on Google and you’ll learn he’s got over 30 years in marketing, written 19 best selling books, helped over 60,000 people like you through his workshops and he’s worth a whopping 34 million dollars! He specialises in marketing and branding, but above all in creating value and relevant content for your audience.

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.

Quote: Seth Goddin, Define Brand

 

Generosity:
There’s an old saying that ‘a little goes a long way’ and in todays society this has never been more important. It’s extremely hard to stand out from the crowd, especially in business! Do you catch public transport to work? I can take a bet that almost 70% of people on your weekday commute to work are heads down, locked in to their phones either on Instagram scrolling mindlessly, reading the daily news or checking their emails. Our brains are consuming so much data that we just cannot process it all.

So how can you stop potential clients scrolling through and disregarding what you have to offer? You need to go back to the core of your business. What are you selling or what service are you offering? Then think of small ways in which you can give back to your community through value rich content.

Perhaps you have an online homewares store. Some ways you could create value rich content are:

  • Start a styling blog using your latest stock showing customers ways they can incorporate your pieces into their homes

  • Ask customers how they have styled pieces – use these pics on your social media & ask them to share

  • Is summer on the way? Why not curate collections or pieces that work together

  • Do you sell lots of dinnerware? Why not show customers how to style a table for a dinner party

  • Better still… give them some of your favourite recipes

  • Do most of your customers buy for gifts? Show them how to wrap it beautifully

Connection is king:

In the old days of marketing, businesses would just talk to their customers, generally with offers they thought their customers wanted. Today, our customers are often the ones talking to us with opinions and ideas and we need to listen. Our job as business owners is to engage and truely connect with our audience. For once we have that connection with them, we can nurture it and they will be our brand’s best marketing tool.

Authenticity is key:

We’ve all heard it before… be authentic. But what does being authentic actually mean for businesses? Well it’s about living and breathing your business through the eyes of your customers. Fashionista and founder, Pip Edwards from PE Nation is the epitome of authentic in our eyes. She lives and breaths her brand from the inside out. You’ll see Pip day in day out showing up wearing her brand and wearing it with pride. How can you show up for your business?

Stories sell:

Do you have an amazing story to share? Have you built your business from the ground up? We all love listening to stories, it’s engrained in us from our upbringing. Do you ever remember sitting with your grandparents whilst they told a story about their childhood? I know I was almost always hooked! Stories engage our senses. They allow us to imagine, dream and relate what you are telling us back to our own lives. Above all, a good story leaves a lasting impression.

Check out Seth’s blog on why stories matter.

Creating value for your audience is not easy but just start small. Give back to them through value rich content, listen to their opinions through connecting, tell a story and above all, be authentic. Truely start to understand your customer and what their challenges are and how you can solve their problems. Remember that you can’t solve your marketing problems by buying your audience, or through buying advertising space. We must deeply connect with our audience. Start small, create a plan and show up frequently backing your brand. It will take time to grow a following, it won’t just happen overnight.

AdviceRachel WardComment
How to find a great graphic designer?
 
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Tips & tricks so you can find a great graphic designer for your small business.

You might be thinking well that sounds like a pretty easy task (and for the lucky ones it can be) but for others it can be super daunting. I often hear clients say to me ‘it was so hard finding you’ or ‘it’s taken me ages to finally find someone that understands me’ so I got thinking that for some businesses the task of finding a great graphic designer might actually be a real challenge.

The best places to find a graphic designer:

There are many ways to find a graphic designer online. But first you must understand the places where designers hangout. By hanging out, I really mean where do we frequently go to ourselves… and I’m not talking about hanging out chatting about design or colours or any of those designery things… ain’t non of us got time for that. I’m talking about where we post work and where we look for inspiration. Designers love looking at other fellow creatives work for inspiration, feedback and are active in many of the below places:

Another great way to find designers is to use hashtags. Perhaps it’s important for you to find a local graphic designer that you can meet up with (more on that below). If you’re a Sydney based business, you might type #graphicdesignsydney or #freelancegraphicdesignersydney

So, what to look for in a creative partnership?

Similarities in style or personality:

At a basic level, you need to work with this designer quite closely either via phone, email or face-to-face so just like a friendship or a colleague you need to get along with them. It’s important for the chosen designer to understand your business and it’s important for you to be honest about where it’s at. Your designer should want to know why you started your business, how long it’s been in operation, your revenue streams, your goals for the upcoming year and why you are seeking their help.

Portfolio / body of work:

Does the designer have work similar to your brand or project? Don’t just skim through, really dig deep into what the designer has worked on. Consider also critiquing how they have presented their work. Is it clear, neat and tidy? This will give you an indication as to the pride the designer takes in their work and how they organise projects.

Industry experience:

Is your designer straight out of design college or have they got a bunch of industry experience? An experienced designer will have a broader portfolio and an understanding of how to bring a project to market, beyond what you visually see. Have a look at where your designer has worked as well, are they active on social media, do they have a blog or where else do they show up on the internet?

An experienced designer is likely to challenge you and evolve your thinking (never see this as a bad thing) provided they are respectful in their approach. A designer straight out of design college might not do this. Even though you might get a great deal, you might pay extras along the way for revisions. Not to mention your own time in reviewing.

Client testimonials:

Nothing has more weight than a bunch of client testimonials. Have a look on Google or on their website at the types of clients and businesses commenting on their work.

Briefing and project expectations:

A great designer will ask you to fill out a detailed brief. It’s a designers job to take your words and turn it into visual language. We need to understand the project in detail to do so. A great designer will also give you a clear timeline of the project and client expectations. It’s a two-way street between designer and client and we need to keep you in check with feedback every step of the way.

Accessibility:

Most designers love meeting face-to-face, especially if you’re local to them. Otherwise a great designer will ask to chat to you on the phone or via Skype or Google Hangouts. Especially for that initial meeting, it’s really nice to put a face to the name.

What types of questions to ask when screening a graphic designer?

Once you have found the designer you want to reach out to ask them lots of questions. You can’t put a price on your business but everyone does have a budget so you need to consider a mix of value, rather than just sourcing the cheapest design service. Remember that the cheapest quote is not always what’s right for your business. Ask yourself how much can you risk for your brand/project to go wrong? If you’re a cafe owner, choosing a designer that hasn’t designed café menus, signage, flyers or marketing collateral might not be the best choice for you.

Remember that the cheapest quote is not always what's right for your business. Ask yourself how much can you risk for your brand/project to go wrong?

A few typical questions you can ask before signing on the dotted line:

  • What previous work have you done that is similar to my business or project?

  • What do you recommend from a design point of view for my project?

  • How much experience do you have?

  • Do you offer rounds of revisions?

  • What are your payment terms?

  • Roughly how long will this take to create / design?

  • When can I expect to see the first draft?

  • How long do I have to review and make changes?

Similarly, your chosen designer should ask you a lot of questions too! If they don't, I would proceed with caution. A designer needs to understand your business or project goals from the inside out, otherwise we can’t make the right creative decisions. Give a clear brief to your designer so they know what you envision and so you are always comfortable that they understand the objective of the task at hand. Check in with the designer along the way and above all enjoy the process. It’s a very exciting time for your business as you’re bringing your brand/project to life! When you find the right designer that supports your business magical things are about to happen!