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Many creatives feel that they have an innate sense of style, or what they believe looks good. But for those who don’t believe they are “aesthetically inclined,” it can be hard to find their style, both for themselves and for their business. Instead of embracing their own creative style, business owners often look to trends to see what’s popular in website design, branding colors, fonts, and even the overall tone of their messaging.
It’s the same phenomenon we see with fashion; we follow trends and magazines to see how to dress or accessorize, and many of us adopt a similar look as styles gain traction.
This is not a bad thing, per se, but it is something that many people—creative business owners especially—wish they could change. Whether it’s the clothes in their closet, or the look and feel of their brand, creatives innately want to identify their individual style.
Finding your unique style as a person is not all that different (in theory) than creating unique branding. We piece together a “story” with our clothing, from our black combat boots to our old pearl earrings; each item we wear has been run through our internal system to see whether or not it really reflects who we are. Of course, some pieces slip through: last season’s shorts or that scarf you thought you had to have. But when you wear these pieces, you don’t feel aligned with yourself… and maybe even a little uncomfortable.
This is because that style doesn’t align with your “why.” Branding isn’t much different.
Consider your personal fashion choices 10 years ago. Things change, but you’re still you, right? That’s because you know why you’re changing your style. You’ve grown older, you fell in love with the color red, or you enjoy rocking a wedge heel. Whatever it is, you’ve changed your personal style to reflect your “why.” The same should go for your branding.
A brand is like a puzzle that tells a story, and each piece plays a critical role. When you develop your branding style, it’s important to ask yourself why you are choosing those colors, why those patterns are the best, or why you’re working with that particular font. What do each of these components do for the overall picture you’re putting together? Is it reflecting your “why”?
Every brand’s style goes through refinement over time (just like every person’s), but being rooted in your “why” prevents you from jumping on the next trend’s bandwagon. It also helps you ease into a more timeless brand that can grow with you, rather than one that jumps around. With your “why” in mind, you (and those within your business) will be able to evaluate new trends or new information to determine if a change in your style is really what’s best.
With our personal decisions in clothing, accessories, and even makeup, we’re usually not keeping an audience in mind. We might have friends and significant others we want to impress, but our personal style is usually just for us. When you develop your brand style, however, you have to take into account the audience you are trying to capture. There is very much a look and feel to each demographic and what they gravitate towards visually, which plays a large role in identifying your brand style.
Brands also shouldn’t change as dramatically as one’s personal style does. You will likely lose your audience and customers if you reinvest your entire aesthetic overnight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t evolve. It’s also possible to leave room for seasonal colors, save certain fonts for special campaigns, and slowly integrate branding upgrades over time. As long as you take your audience along for the ride, they’ll be happy to watch your brand evolve.
In both personal style and in branding, there’s always room for evolution—as long as you’re rooted in your “why.” To help you get started developing your brand style, I’d recommend hiring professionals who can help. But if you’re unable to do that right now, I’d recommend taking your time to see what works. Collect elements that you gravitate towards and identify the commonalities between them. You can also develop a list of keywords that align with your “why” (like ‘fresh’ or ‘rustic’ or ‘authentic’) to use alongside tools like Pinterest or vision boards.
From there, it’s just a matter of exploring and seeing what feels right. Like last season’s shorts, you’ll begin to understand what does and doesn’t work for you and your business.