How your images, colors, fonts and more come together to create a cohesive brand

We’ve all heard that brands are important, but with so much content out there about brands, it can be hard to figure out exactly what a brand is—let alone how to come up with a solid one for your business. 

Is a brand just the logo or the fonts you use? Is it your website? Is it the messaging or the story? Is it all of the above?

TL:DR - it’s all of the above. The colors, fonts, imagery, and language you use all work together to appeal to your ideal client, communicate your message, and (hopefully) get you booked by the right people. 
 
In this guide, we’ll walk you through all of the different aspects of a brand you should consider and give you examples of ways to unite your entire online (and physical) presence to present a cohesive brand that appeals to your ideal client. 

Anatomy of a Brand

audience

Brand Positioning

Voice

Logo

Icon

Tagline

Mood BOard

Color Palette

Imagery

Fonts

Website

Social Handles + URLs 

Gifts

Packaging

Lead Magnet + Email

Who does your brand serve?

WHO DOES YOUR BRAND SERVE?

Your audience is always the first thing to keep in mind when creating a brand. Who does your brand serve? The best brands choose a very specific person to serve. It’s really impossible to serve everyone and do it well. Even major brands like Target and Apple don’t try to appeal to everyone. Some people prefer upscale, boutique brands to budget shopping and some people are Microsoft people (why?!?)

When we advise our branding clients to think about their audience, we recommend thinking about a very specific person. Where does this client shop? How do they spend their free time? What kind of art decorates their walls? How old are they? Where do they work? What do they do in their free time?

Audience

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Let’s pretend that I’m a newborn photographer in the Richmond, Virginia area. I might describe my ideal client like this:

My ideal client is a soon-to-be or brand new mama. She’s in her late twenties, has been married for a couple of years and still shares photos from her wedding on Instagram at least once a month. Several of her friends have already had children and she has a checklist of all the things she needs to do before, and after, her baby arrives. She knows this season will go quickly and she wants to make sure it’s captured as beautifully as her wedding. 

She has a job she loves but she’s not sure if she’ll head back to her career after the baby arrives. She has a household income that allows her to be flexible with the decision to work full time, part time or not at all.   

She’s college-educated, informed and always aware of the latest trends - even though she’s careful with how she implements them. A minimally-designed home (her first one!) with neutral colors—yes! Bike shorts—no. 
She’s looking for bright images with somewhat muted colors that will look beautiful among the wedding prints + abstract art and travel photos that hang on her walls. 

Her weekends are filled with dinner parties with her couple friends, weekend trips to small towns, the occasional European adventure and church on Sundays. 

See what we did there? Can you picture this ideal client? The more specific we can be, the easier it’s going to be to target this client. You’re already probably picturing what her home looks like, where she shops, and the kind of values she has. Maybe you’re even thinking about the way she speaks and the kinds of images she shares on social media. 

When you understand who your ideal client is, it’s easier to pull together an aesthetic, language, and overall brand that will appeal to her. 

great brands tell a story 

A brand positioning statement is a short statement that explains what your brand does, who you do it for, and the benefits of your brand. Ours is “We help creative service-based businesses build a brand that books.” Publicly, we just use the phrase “Build a Brand that Books.” 

Great brands tell a story in which their clients are characters. Stories have five essential parts: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Take a minute and think of your two favorite businesses. Can you identify the five parts of a story in their brands?

One of Davey’s favorite businesses is Chubbies. Chubbies is “the shorts company,” and as their manifesto states, they believe “pants are a necessary evil—built for the work week because your boss just doesn’t get it.” Their brand positioning statement is “The Weekend Has Arrived.” 

If we were trying to identify the aspects of Chubbies story, it might look something like this:



Brand Positioning

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Late teens to early thirties, type of guy who was in a fraternity, maybe working his first “real” job, but still has limited responsibilities in life.

characters (ideal client): 

The beach, golf course, deck party

Settings:

A typical week includes a corporate job full of uncomfortable blue and grey suits.

Plot/Conflict:

After a long week of dry, monotonous corporate work, trade in the khaki pants for Chubbies’ shorts and let loose by hitting the golf course or the beach. It’s time to relax and enjoy life. 

Resolution:

You don’t need to sell a product or be a major brand to have a brand positioning statement. Any business can create one (even if it’s only something they share internally). 

If we continue with the example above for the newborn photographer, this is what our story might look like: 

Soon-to-be mom in her late twenties

characters (ideal client): 

Her home in the Richmond, Virginia area

Settings:

Her first baby is on the way and she wants to make sure it’s captured beautifully. She knows she’s not skilled with a camera and she wants photos that will capture this season (she knows it’s going to go quickly!)

Plot/Conflict:

She finds the perfect photographer, someone who understands all the anxieties she has about being a new mama and makes her feel at ease. Even though she’s not quite feeling herself post-birth, the photos are more beautiful than she could have imagined and they’re hanging in frames on her walls before her baby is out of the newborn phase. 

Resolution:

It’s also helpful writing out a short narrative using your ideal client as the main character. Who is he/she? Why is she looking for someone like you to solve a problem for her? What resolution do you provide? Have fun with it!

Voice

WHO DOES YOUR BRAND SERVE?

Voice is something most people don’t think about when it comes to a brand. A voice is the language your brand uses to communicate its message. It’s important to point out that a brand’s voice doesn’t need to be your voice. It could be, but only if your voice also resonates with your audience. 

The Draper James brand voice is very different from Harry’s brand voice. It’s warm, friendly, and “steeped in Southern charm, feminine and pretty.” The words it uses sound like they could have come from your friend who was a sorority sister at a Southern college. Its voice is younger and very clearly female. 

Case in point:

Voice

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Harry’s target client is male and its voice mimics that. It’s a bit more casual, it uses jokes and it keeps the language more straightforward. While we’ve seen some brands really play up the “bro” vibe, Harry’s keeps its voice just as clean as it’s soaps. 


If we continue with our example, the voice for our newborn photography brand would sound like a mix of a best friend, doula, and older sister. Warm, relaxed, reassuring, and pulled together. It calls it’s clients “mamas”, references fashion icons + storybook characters, uses words like “treasured” and notices the beauty in simplicity. Overall the brand is a bit aspirational in nature. It’s the Instagram ideal mixed with compassion and a bit of real. It shares beautiful, polished images along with its heart and real stories on Instagram. 

Not all brands have an icon, but many do. Icons serve as a simplified version of the brand and can be used as favicons for a website, social media profile images, stickers to seal packaging, accents in print pieces, and on a website and so much more. 

Our brand’s icon (the palm tree) appears both in our logo and by itself. 

A simplified version of the brand

Icon

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Example

The Carolina Jayne icon is the mother holding the child and it could be used in any of the instances I mentioned above. When this icon is used smaller, it looks best if it’s simplified and the brushstroke that makes it look like a pen illustration is removed. I also made it thicker to be easier to see at small sizes.

05/15 - The Icon

05/15 - The Icon

Taglines are often shorter versions of a brand positioning statement. “Just Do It”, “I'm Lovin' It”, “Build a Brand that Books”.

Your brand doesn’t necessarily need a tagline, but if you do want to include one, make sure it’s short, communicates what you do, and appeals to the person you do it for. 

capturing life's sweetest moments

Tagline

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Example

If we were going to give the Caroline Jayne brand a tagline, it might be something like “capturing life’s sweetest moments.” “Capturing,” tells the audience that Caroline is either a photographer or a videographer. “Life’s sweetest moments” communicates that she captures memories—not products or interior design. The tagline is benefits-driven and it immediately gets her audience thinking about the kinds of memories they value and what might be worthy of being documented. 

capturing life’s sweetest moments 

A mood board isn’t necessarily something that would be shared publicly, but it’s something that can be helpful to determine the visual aesthetic of a brand. Our team uses mood boards for our clients to make sure we’re on the same page as far as the look and feel go. The mood boards also visually represent the kinds of imagery we envision the brand using and we often pull the color palette for a brand from the mood board. 

In general, when we create mood boards, we try to stay away from including too many design elements. Including design (especially websites,) can often take away from the impact a mood board can have. Outside of two or three images to show design to show illustration styles and possible fonts, we try to stick to interior design, clothing/fashion, locations, brands our client mentioned, visuals that would appeal to the brand’s ideal client (such as dinners al fresco or coffee in bed with a book on Sunday mornings,) and our client’s own work. 

We talk more about that process and share a template for creating your own mood board in this post

Your Brand's Look & FEel

Mood Board

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Example

This is the mood board for our Carolna Jayne brand. We pulled inspiration from fine art newborn images, classic wooden toys, soft knit stuffed toys, neutral, upscale yet minimal clothing, and brands like Solly. The color palette includes muted versions of pink, blue, and gold as well as a light tan color. 

create your brand's aesthetic with this mood board 

A consistent color palette helps make brands more identifiable. Think about Target red or Southwest Airlines’ blue, red, and gold. If someone were to hand you a teal jewelry box with a white ribbon, you would probably know exactly what is inside. 

Ideally, a color palette should appeal to your ideal client and be an extension of your brand’s voice. Brighter colors communicate youth, energy, and a more relaxed brand whereas softer, lighter colors often communicate a more sophisticated high-end brand. 

If I had not muted the colors for the Caroline Jayne brand, they would have looked something like this: 

Make your brand identifiable

Color palette

08/15

color palette

That would be pretty bold for a brand that needs to communicate a sense of calmness to new parents. Those colors also would not have fit with the ideal client we described (minimal, bright images, wants to feel more confident and pulled together). 

We talked a bit about imagery when we discussed mood boards, but I think it’s important to note that imagery should be consistent throughout a brand. Ideally, the kinds of images you share on your website, social media, and marketing materials should carry hints of your brand colors. 

Let’s look at how four of the brands I’ve mentioned do this in their Instagram feeds. 

Even if products and logos were hidden in these fields, the styles of images they share, and the colors within the images themselves would give you a pretty good idea of who these feeds belong to.

Your brand should aim to be just as consistent with its use of images. 

the visual representation of your brand

Imagery

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You’ve probably realized by now that every single aspect of your brand carries a deeper meaning. The same is true when it comes to fonts. Thinner (“lighter”) fonts tend to feel more high end whereas thicker fonts feel more casual and youthful. Lowercase letters also tend to be a bit more youthful while uppercase letters feel more elegant. 

Tiffany & Claires both sell jewelry, but I bet you could guess just from the logos alone which one is going to be more expensive. 

the visual representation of your brand

fonts

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In general, we don’t advise brands to use too many fonts. A good rule of thumb is one sans-serif (fonts without the little “feet” on the ends of the letters), one serif, and one display font (a script or some other specialty font). 

Example

Our Carolina Jayne brand is using a thin, mixed case serif for its primary text (elegant yet the lowercase letters make it a bit more approachable), a thin all-caps sans serif for sub-headlines, the same sans serif but in mixed case letters for body copy and a hand drawn script for accent text (we recommend using scripts very sparingly!)

accent text 

This is a Headline

this is a subheadline

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Sunday's 

California Palms 

Questrial

Questrial 

browse our easy-to-customize Showit and WordPress designs

Whether you’re starting with a template (which we highly recommend), hiring a designer to create a custom website or creating your website yourself, if you’ve established all of the other elements of a brand we mentioned above, by the time you get to the website, it should be pretty easy to implement your brand. 

The logo, fonts, colors, types of images, voice, tagline/brand positioning statement all come together on the website. Your website should almost feel like an extension of your mood board. 

When we’re customizing a website template, we generally start by changing the colors + fonts first to match a particular brand. Then we’ll add the logo, images, and finally, copy. 

Just changing those few elements on our Kiawah Island template would give the Carolina Jayne brand a website like the website above.

Your brand's online home

Website

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10/15 - The website

It’s generally a good idea to create social media handles that are consistent with one another as well as the name and URL of your brand. Try to avoid adding underscores, numbers, or any other characters that might make it more difficult for people to find you. 

These days when we come up with a new business idea, we like to make sure that both the website URL and social media handles are available. It makes it easier for people to find you if they know you’re DaveyandKrista on all social channels. 

If you’ve registered for social media handles with a name that doesn’t match your URL, you can ask Instagram + Facebook to change them. Sometimes it takes a while for them to honor the request, but they generally do. 

Create consistency throughout the web

Social MEDIA Handles + URLs 

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Example

Our demo brand would use CarolinaJayne for it’s Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube usernames.  

https://carolinajayne.com

@carolinajayne

https://facebook.com/carolinajayne

https://youtube.com/carolinajayne

So technically, gifting isn’t a part of a brand, but we think it’s pretty important that the gifts a brand gives work with the brand itself.

Gifts are an opportunity to express gratitude for a relationship. Gifts are an opportunity to share in someone’s joy.

Gifts should be used as a way to remind clients how much you appreciate them trusting you to capture one of the most important days in a relationship.

It should say, “Hey, I am so grateful to be working with you two. Here’s a little something to demonstrate exactly how excited I am to be a part of your big day, and for what’s to come in your relationship.”

When gifts can capture that spirit, they often become the kind of thing that hang on people’s walls or can be found in their living rooms. 

When choosing a gift for your client, try choosing something  thoughtful, useful, and also a reflection of you. Chances are the couple who booked you because something about you resonated with them. This is an opportunity to strengthen that connection.

Our favorite wedding gift was a pizza kit with two personal pizza pans from our friends Steve and Sara. We both loved pizza (who doesn’t?), although at the time it wasn’t something that was super meaningful to our relationship. But it was something we could do together. We really enjoyed making those first pizzas, and it became something we’ve done almost every Friday night since we’ve got married. (As a fun side note, Steve and Sara’s wedding would become the first of our wedding photography career!)

We’ve started giving our clients a personal pizza kit as a booking gift largely because of this experience. It’s become a symbol of our relationship, and something that we frequently share about on social media or when we’re spending time with our clients. (For those of you who follow us on Instagram, you know we love pizza and wine.) We’re trying to share with our clients that excitement around building traditions together.


Your Brand's Look & FEel

Gifts

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Example

Our Carolina Jayne brand might give a beautiful knit gender neutral baby outfit, a classic wooden toy from a brand like Petite Collage, a newborn gown from Solly (one of our personal favorite gifts to give!), a  luxury gender neutral onesie, a stuffed toy from BlaBla, hair bows from Wunderkin or something for the mom to use postpartum (a beautiful robe, essential oils, etc). 

The gift would be beautifully packaged and a bit of a luxury—something a client wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. It may have different tiers of gifts that it gives based on the collection the client books. Our team sends different gifts based on the project we’re working on. In general, a good rule of thumb is to plan to spend about 3-5% of what the client paid on a gift. 

If you have a physical product you send to your customers, it’s important to make sure that the materials you choose for shipping are cohesive with the rest of your brand. Pay attention to the weight and quality of the shipping container, tags, notes and receipts, etc. If your product is more of a luxury item, choosing heavier, textured paper stock will help your product to feel more high end. 

If you don’t have custom shipping boxes designed for your product, we recommend choosing a box color and packaging colors that coordinate with your brand (but make sure they still meet shipping requirements). Mailing labels and stickers to seal packaging are a great way to incorporate your brand without paying for a custom box. 

Client gift should also follow the same brand guidelines (unless you’re drop shipping!)

A quick search on Pinterest led me to the following shops for boxes and mailers: 

• Photo Mailers
• Custom Boxes
Custom Boxes
Custom Boxes

Tied with a bow

Packaging

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Example

Our Carolina Jayne brand would use a minimal, custom box to mail her client gifts (if she doesn’t drop ship them!) She would skip the crinkle paper and nestle her gifts in tissue paper or excelsior. If a client orders prints and she ships them herself, she would use either a thick, white photo mailer and tuck in a handwritten note or a beautiful, white custom box with her branding incorporated. She would have photo care cards printed with directions for maintaining your photos and she may even tuck a sprig of lavender or a beautiful piece of candy on top of the wrapped prints as a fun extra.

13/15 - Packaging

13/15 - PACKAGING

email

BUILDING and Maintaining your list

If you’re new to lead magnets and email communication, I recommend heading here as we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of articles we’ve written about those subjects. 

With most businesses, it’s a good idea to start building a mailing list as soon as possible. It’s something we wish we had focused on sooner with our own business. 

If you’re new to mailing lists, we recommend Flodesk. Their emails are beautiful and they make it easy to send lead magnets to build your list more quickly. 

Speaking of lead magnets, this is also something that should be on brand. Try to focus on creating a helpful piece of content that might appeal to your ideal client. 

Lead Magnet + Communication

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Example

Our Carolina Jayne might offer a lead magnet such as “5 Must-Capture Images During your Baby’s First Few Weeks”, “7 Tips for Taking Better Photos of your Newborn Baby” or “3 Tips for a Fuss Free Newborn Session”. 

Each of the ideas above is targeted towards the new mom who values images and wants to ensure that the newborn season is well documented. By offering a guide, not only do you get that new mama on your list, you also demonstrate your expertise in your field. 

And that’s a wrap! Thanks for sticking with us until the end! We hope this guide was helpful. If you’re looking to refresh your own brand or website, check out our templates and semi-custom brands. And if you’re looking for a bit more hands-on help, you can get in touch with us here. 

Thank you!