ABCs of Branding

It’s time to think about your school or education service’s visual brand! When building your business and working to connect with your audience, consistency is key. Creating a look and feel that can be identified across all your communications (website, social media, mail, print, ads, etc…) helps build familiarity with your product or organization.

Myths about branding


Myth: A logo is a brand.

Fact: A logo is a piece of your brand and helps identify your product or organization to the public. Your color palette, fonts, image style, illustrations, etc… are all pieces that build a memorable, visual environment. Chick-fil-a’s brand is a great example. When you see a cow writing in big, sloppy black lettering, you know it’s Chick-fil-a; no logo shown, but the brand is visible and recognizable.

Myth: A logo should communicate my mission, beliefs, goals, and the product I am selling.

Fact: A logo doesn’t need to “communicate” anything; it is only there to identify. Someone’s face doesn’t communicate their beliefs, interests, or goals, but when you get to know them, their face will identify them for you, who they are, what they do, etc… i.e. “That’s Tanya, she’s a cyclist, barista, and volunteer at the women’s shelter.” Your audience needs to get to know you before they can identify your logo with your product or organization.

Myth: Branding is just for large companies.

Fact: Branding is for everyone, big or small. Big companies are often the best at branding, because they know how to commit to a visual look and use it carefully and exclusively. From trucks to store fronts, TV Ads to bathroom signage, Target® never drifts far from their red, white, and Helvetica. Lucky for you, if you can stick to a look and be intentional about the design of everything you do, big or small, then you’ll excel at branding!

Myth: My logo should “POP!”

Fact: Many of our favorite logos are simple. Nike, Apple, Google, and Amazon all have logos that don’t “POP!” The brands are beautiful, well-developed, well-implemented design ecosystems, that some might say “POP!”, but their logos, in a vacuum, are rather minimal. Focus on making your brand “POP!” with fun colors, illustrations, and images, not your logo.

Hire a designer for your brand.

If you have the resources to hire a designer, that is always preferred. A well-designed, well-implemented brand can bring legitimacy, excitement, and familiarity to your education service. A poorly designed or implemented brand can be a missed opportunity. 72% of American consumers say that product packaging design influences their purchase decisions. What this means is that, without knowing specifically what they are buying, the design around it can push a consumer one way or another.

A well-designed, well-implemented brand can bring legitimacy, excitement, and familiarity to your education service.

What should your brand designer provide you? Here is a shortlist:

  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Typography
  • Illustrations (if applicable)
  • Icons (if applicable)
  • Images (if applicable)
  • Brand Guide (this will help you implement your new brand on your own)
DIY design my brand.

For professional branding, the investment can sometimes be out of reach when starting up. Below are a few tips and tricks when building a visual brand on your own. 

  • Less is more. Your logo doesn’t need to communicate everything about who you are, just be unique enough to be identifiable.
  • Don’t overuse graphic elements. If you have a butterfly in place of a letter in your name, don’t use it or another graphic again in place of another letter.
  • Design the logo in black and white first. This will ensure it is simple and can work in many applications. After it’s done, then work on your colors.
  • File types. Designing a logo as a vector file is necessary to allow your design to be infinitely scalable – as small as a twitter profile or as big as a billboard. Look for .ai, .eps, or .svg when saving your file. If you don’t have access to Adobe Illustrator, Canva or Inkscape are great options for free design software!
  • The bar napkin trick. Show your friend the logo and then ask them to draw it on a napkin or small paper without looking at it. If they struggle to remember the whole thing, it may be too complex.
Color Palette
  • One bold, two muted. A small, refined color palette will help you stay consistent in your designs and not be too distracting. Pick one bold color, and then two muted colors, one light and one dark. With these three colors, you can layer any combo. The light as text will work on the bold and dark color backgrounds, the dark as text will work on the light and bold color backgrounds, and the bold in text will work on light and dark color backgrounds.
  • Only one of your colors should be primary; meaning you will use it on more than 50% of a design. For a bright, airy brand feel, use that light, muted color as your primary. For a vibrant, punchy brand, use that bold color as your primary. And, for a deeper, moody brand, use the dark, muted color as your primary.
  • No more than two fonts. To be recognizable, you need to give your audience less to memorize and associate. If you have too many fonts, it will take viewers longer to identify and remember you. Too many fonts also make you look disjointed and lacking clarity. Less is more.
  • Don’t try to be too creative. Pick clean, easy-to-read fonts that don’t steal the show. Just because it is fun to look at, doesn’t mean it is fun to read.
  • Pick complementing styles. For your main headline font, choose a sans serif, and for your paragraph text, choose a serif. Or, for your main headline font, choose a serif, and for your paragraph text, choose a sans serif. Two different serif fonts or two different sans serif fonts, paired together, can clash.
Illustrations (if applicable)
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency. If you are using illustrations, whether creating your own, or sourcing them online, ensure that the styles match. If one looks like a watercolor illustration, and the other like a comic book, it will lose its effectiveness, because the consistency a brand relies on is missing. Pick a style and stick to it.
Icons (if applicable)
  • Similar to illustrations, make sure the icons you choose all look the same. A hand drawn look and a geometric one will look disjointed. Check out The Noun Project or Font Awesome for easy, comprehensive icon libraries!
Images (if applicable)
  • Avoid cliches. When sourcing stock images, look for natural, candid, approachable images. Natural light, organic expressions, and movement are all qualities to look for in a stock image. Heavily posed, themed, or literal images should be avoided. Images of a 3D compass, kid with a superhero cape, a word written on a keyboard key, or a whiteboard with a posed model writing marketing buzzwords, are all examples of cliché, overused images to avoid. Have a budget for images? Purchase a subscription for Adobe Stock or iStock. On a tight budget? Find stock photos for free at Unsplash and Pexels
  • Remember, you are not always your target market. Maybe you like lavender and butterflies, but you are creating a science curriculum for kids who love technology. Think about what your audience will like. What type of packaging would intrigue a 12-year old boy who loves building computers?
  • Narrow down your demographic. “Everyone” is not your target, even if you would love to have all people buy your product. The more you narrow, the more impactful your brand will be!
Brand Guide 
  • This will help you implement your new brand on your own and stay consistent. After your brand is complete, outline the hex codes for colors you used, the names of the fonts, the logos in all their variations (stacked, horizontal, just the icon, etc…), in a document, so that others in your organization can also use the branding elements. Be clear about any ways you don’t want your brand used, logo modified, etc.

So, as you set out on this DIY adventure, keep it simple. Consistency will be the “make it or break it” for your brand, not creativity. So, design a brand that is easy enough for you to replicate in all your marketing and communications, and you and your audience will love your brand forever…

…or, at least the next few years 🙂

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