Small Shop Resources: Branding

In this blog, our very own Creative Director, Sarah, will be walking you through how to develop your own small shop brand! Prior to her position at Cara Supply, Sarah specialized in Small Business Branding Development & Advertising!

Branding for your small business - Cara & Co Blog Posts

Developing a brand is a big job! Make sure you give yourself the time to think through it! This blog post will have information you can use, as well as ‘homework’ you can take away and think through!

What is Branding?

Branding. If you have a handmade shop (small or large, just starting out or one you’ve been running for awhile), you’ve at one point or another had to wade through the world of branding. It can be overwhelming and inspiring all at once! Whether you’re looking to start your first business or you’re looking to update your existing business branding, this entire blog will apply to you!

Why? Because, big or small, your business branding is who your customers and potential customers meet first, and first impressions always matter.

Branding is so much more than a logo or carefully selected colors (although a logo and colors are important and we’ll dig into that!) Branding encompasses your business personality, ideas, concepts - the distinguishing factors that you have to set you apart from other shops! Your brand is who you want your business to be defined as.

Once that definition is set, the more obvious elements like logos, color schemes, product designs & influences, will line up in a cohesive way! So, let’s start there - what is your brand personality?

Setting Your Brand Personality

Much like meeting someone new, you quickly learn a lot about a person by the way they talk, dress, and act. Imagine your brand as a person. Who is your brand? Maybe your brand is a reflection of who you are! Maybe your brand is someone completely different! What kind of aesthetic does it have? Does that aesthetic match your products? When your brand speaks to people, what does it sound like? Is it happy-go-lucky and bubbly? Or confident and collected? Something else?

Your brand personality will affect every interaction people have with your shop. From Instagram captions, to checkout, to customer service and everything in between! Give some serious thought to who your brand is. A helpful hint: Your brand personality doesn’t have to match your own personality. It can make writing your captions a touch easier; however if you have a certain way you want your brand to come across, you get to choose that!

Your brand personality will also soak into all areas of your small business, like for example, the products you offer. If your brand is cool, calm and collected, you might find that neon soother clips and loud pattern print beads may not feel like a natural fit. You might prefer to keep your products earthy, cool & mellow. Maybe you want a brand personality that is loud and outspoken! Or maybe you want the opportunity to make whatever products you like (bright and loud OR soft and earthy) - a neutral, un-opinionated, easy going brand personality might suit you best in that case!

Your brand personality will majorly affect the way your business ‘speaks’ to people. In your captions, posts, website listings, stories - your tone and personality will come through. What does your brand sound like?

Creating your brand - Small business resources - Cara & Co

Brand Logo and Designers: To Hire or Not to Hire!

Now we’re getting into the fun stuff! One of the most gratifying parts of starting up a small business is having your very own logo and look. It takes an idea of a business and starts to make it feel real!

The first question on every business owner's mind? Do I have to find a graphic designer to have a good logo? It’s not necessarily a straightforward answer, but there are two routes you can go!

Option 1: Hire a graphic designer to come up with a bespoke logo and branding.

This option gives you the opportunity to find a designer with an aesthetic similar to yours, bring in unique new ideas, and completely build and customize a logo to your preferences. You can make icons, brand graphics, custom workmarks - the options are endless! However, this option tends to come with a price tag.

And rightfully so, a graphic designer will price their work according to their level of expertise, years of experience, and talents. Each designer sets their prices differently; however you generally will be paying for the time and creative brain of this person. If you’re looking into this option, try to remember that graphic designers price work differently than each other and there’s not necessarily an industry ‘norm’ for price. You’ll pay for the talents of an individual designer. Once you've completed the design process, you should end up with digital files for your logo in the following formats: .JPG (for regular use), .PNG (for a transparent background file), and .EPS (for a vector format).

Here’s a few good questions to ask yourself:

Creating your brand - Small Business resources - Cara & Co

On that last question, know that there’s no right or wrong answer. Your answer might be a resounding ‘YES!!’. It also might not be.

If you aren't able to make that monetary investment (which is okay!), there is still another option available to you!

Option 2: Use design platforms and apps to customize a logo to your tastes.

The progress of logo design apps in the last few years has meant that even if you might not be able to hire a graphic designer, you can still find high quality graphics and support for much lower costs (usually a monthly or yearly fee). These apps have been instrumental in helping small businesses develop and grow independently, sometimes with the only price tag being time and effort (yay for free subscriptions and trials!).

There are a few good apps that do this, but the most popular would be Canva. Canva is a super intuitive app that offers a number of supports to anyone looking for help with graphics. As with most apps, an entry level version of the App is available for free! It does have limited services, but a free version may be just the ticket to convince you if designing a logo in Canva, or using that platform for ongoing work, is what you want! The free version may also leave you wanting to invest in the subscription, which will open more options, plug-ins and design support.

Within Canva you will be able to adjust or create a logo to suit you, generate graphics for your posts, and so much more. It’s really such a helpful tool for a small business!

Logo Development

Regardless of which route you take to get your logo, the next items to work through will be important to help you set your branding into motion. You’ve had a chance to think through your brand personality and you’ve chosen an avenue to create a logo and brand graphics - now you need to do some research!

Depending on what your handmade shop will be selling or is selling, no doubt there is probably more than one shop doing the same thing. There always will be! Your challenge is to look at all those shops that occupy the same ‘space’ as you, and determine how to make your brand stand out. What’s different about you and what you offer? Don’t be intimidated by other brands and small businesses! We can all learn from each other, and each business will do things slightly differently!

In particular, look at the branding that they do, and save examples of some that you admire. Look through pinterest, google, etc., for logo inspiration and save those! Once you’ve got a number of logos and brands together that inspire you, you’ll start to see the graphic style that you’re drawn to. Keep comparing these styles to your original brand personality to make sure it all lines up. Remember to keep these logos as inspiration! Don’t copy them! You’re too unique and bring too much to the table to be a ‘copy & paste’ of someone else’s business logo!

Once you have a clear idea of the direction you want to go, either bring those ideas to your graphic designer, or have them available when you start designing your own logo. Your research will give you a clear picture of what graphics you choose, what fonts you use, and even what colors you’re drawn to!

How to create your brand - Small business resources - Cara & Co

Logo Tips & Tricks

Guidelines of how to design a logo should always be seen as guidelines and not hard and fast rules. As with anything that is visual or artistic, there will always be exceptions to the rules, but here’s a couple tips:

Fonts - Okay, maybe there’s ONE rule ;) Never use more than two types of fonts! Pairing fonts takes a discerning eye, but usually you can count on pairing opposites! A handwritten font will look great with a modern sans serif font. A traditional serif font will look amazing with a thick bold font. Modern fonts will look great with complex decorative fonts. Two or more fonts paired together that are similar in style tend to not work well. Using more than two fonts however can start to get messy really fast, and messy is something our brains automatically try to avoid looking at.

Here’s some basic examples of pairing opposite styles of fonts:

Branding tips & tricks - Font styles - Cara & Co

Branding tips & tricks - How to choose fonts - Cara & Co

Colors - Selecting brand colors has everything to do with what you want your business message to be seen as, and almost nothing to do with what your favorite colors are. Colors trigger emotions and responses in our brains. For example, red will always feel aggressive. Blue will always feel calming & clean.

When you wrote down your brand personality, what did you write down? Now, let's start connecting the dots with the below homework concepts:

Branding tips & tricks for your small business - Cara & Co

There’s a ton of information online about color theory, but here’s a few helpful concepts:

Branding tips for small businesses - Color theory - Cara & CoBranding tips for small businesses - Color theory - Cara & Co

Logo Composition - When you started to pull together logos you were inspired by, you probably noticed that there are an infinite number of logo compositions (or simply, the way a logo is layed out, lined up, or the shape it makes: stacked logo, logos in a shape, logos beside a graphic, etc.) When you make your logo, ensure that it's flexible enough to look good on most or all the places you’ll use it: a tiny Instagram Profile, your product tags, warning labels, your website, etc.

You may need one or two layouts for your logo to fit into different applications (for example, at Cara Supply we have a long ‘rectangle’ logo, as well as a circular logo. They are used in different formats, and give us flexibility in not fitting a logo in a place that doesn’t suit it.).

Branding Tips & Tricks - Creating a logo - Cara & Co

Supporting Graphics - If you find you need a graphic or pattern to help fill out your branding look, there’s a ton of beautiful options on stock image websites or within the Canva App. All of your work to select a brand personality & develop a logo can be supported by beautiful secondary graphics. Make sure they fit your style, keep it to one or two graphics, and use them sparingly! Support Graphics are like salt - a little goes a long way :)

Branding Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses - Cara & Co
Branding Tips & Tricks for small businesses - Cara & Co
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this blog give yourself a pat on the back!! Branding is a big job for a small business, but once you’ve got it sorted, your branding will be a source of pride and consistency! It will speak volumes about your business, and what kind of entrepreneur you are.

If you have any specific questions feel free to pop them in the comments below! Wishing you and your small business a successful and positive year!

Happy Branding ;)


- Sarah

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