Branding is a crucial part of the entire design process. When launching a new project the goal should be to draw attention from early adopters, or to at least stir some buzz around the Internet. Creating a powerful identity for your website or product will allow for viral marketing to take place.
This can be spurred by a memorable icon, logo, graphic, or some other branding symbol. People like recognizable things because they are easier to relate with. But it’s not just a cute logo or icon. You also need to create a label – a name or nickname for your product. Something easy to say and easy to repeat when talking with others.
In this article I want to outline a few tips which I use when branding my own products. Not everything you create will be perfect the first time. But if you can think of a catchy name then there is always a possibility to go back and update your design/logo in the future. Identity is crucial for websites and online projects because people naturally like to organize ideas through labels. Thinking of catchy brand titles can be difficult, but it’s all part of the creative process. And with more practice the ideology of brand creation will become a whole lot easier.
Brainstorming Words & Phrases
The initial concept should begin with brainstorming. I like to type out ideas into notepad but you could write them down or whatever works best. Ideally you want to come up with a small list of names for your product, all of which relate through wordplay or conceptual meaning. It should be instantly recognizable and not too difficult to pronounce.
I like to call this technique “pooling ideas”. Come up with around 5-8 different names and then step away to do something else. Come back to the list in a few hours or the following day and go through what you have. See if anything in the pool stands out among all the others. Think about how somebody else might react to seeing that name on your website. Would they quickly understand the purpose of what you’re doing?
Also you need to consider what would be a good domain name for this product. A lot of the .com/.net choices have already been registered and sometimes you’ll need to think big. As long as the domain is fairly simple then it can all tie together. But if you have a great branding without a good domain, it might not even be worth pursuing. Online products need a domain which makes sense and sticks to the same premise as your identity.
Do not rush this process as it could take days or even a week or two. If there is no deadline on the project then wait to make a final decision until you have found the perfect choice. I can usually tell just by looking at the name if it will be a really great choice or merely average. Our day-to-day sporadic thoughts contain a lot of creative energy. Attempt to derive your ideas from this “nothingness” of random thoughts and you may be surprised at what you can come up with.
Using Shorter Nicknames
If you have a great name for your project then the hard part is already settled. But nicknames and alternate branding styles also contribute value, especially where the name is fairly lengthy. Then you might try shortening it for more colloquial speech. This process really isn’t necessary when talking about projects named with a single word. But for example, Facebook can often be abbreviated FB and people will still understand what you’re saying.
This has paved the way for icon designers releasing buttons & badges with the FB logo. It is almost like an unofficial branding paired with the blue background and white letters. Not everyone will have a need for this shorter identity but it does have some benefits. Especially if your product is 2 or 3 words, which can take a lot longer to speak and type.
I’ll preface this by saying I am not an expert in typography and you don’t need to be one, either. In fact many of the free fonts you can get from online font galleries may work perfectly for your logo identity. If you understand how to make some basic text effects in Photoshop, this can go a long way towards the branding process.
But the actual graphic design of any branding can be very loose and flexible. Companies have launched with a bland, contemporary branding for a couple years before updating to a better design. Even if you have regular static text for the logo, it can work if the site offers real value to its visitors. But it also depends on the size of the project and what other materials could be used.
Immediately I would think of business cards, online social profiles, and similar things which may require a nice logo design. Building an identity for a new media company is certainly different than a local daycare service. Think about the final goals for any project and what should be the end result.
Remember that the graphics or typography could always be changed down the road with fewer issues. But attempting to change the entire name of a project once it’s online is almost crazy, and often creates a lot of confusion. Do not rush brainstorming the initial project name and make sure it fits really well before purchasing a domain. Everything else can be smoothed out as time goes on.
Not every project logo will need some artwork to go along with it. But graphics are more noticeable than text and they can be used in various locations aside from just the website logo. I have seen many layouts dropping branded graphics within the site footer, sidebar, and other page elements such as input fields within a contact form.
If you are talented at illustrations then you might even consider designing a small mascot for the brand. Vectors and illustrated characters are very recognizable and memorable. But even if you are not a designer at heart you can still create powerful graphic identities by using freebie designs. Countless PSD & AI vector graphics are released for free online every day. Here is a small list of websites you may check out:
Working with pre-made graphics will save you a lot of time. It helps if you already have a good idea in mind which can be paired with a simple icon – maybe a light bulb or a radio, for example. These various graphics are used to invoke a certain mood or sensation when people see your website branding.
As I mentioned before, lots of companies do not have any graphical component aside from their logo. TechCrunch and Mashable are two great examples of online magazines with recognizable text-only logo identities. Both companies have evolved tremendously over time and this branding style can provide a similar case for your Internet-based projects, too.
Have Fun with It!
Some of the best projects I have ever launched were done on a whim. I mean staying up all night tinkering with a design, listing out some ideas, and then purchasing a domain for the best one I could think of. Over time there will be projects that you work on and love so much, the branding will come almost immediately. Trust your instincts and try to have some fun with the process.
Identity is very important for nearly everything. But this is especially true with projects online because you need to create something that people will remember. Even if the domain is somewhat confusing, people should be able to guess your name in Google and find the website quickly. All the other colors and graphics and vectors will come as an offshoot from the original idea. Creating a brand is much more like labeling a project through fancy naming conventions.
One thing that I can say with certainty is to just keep practicing. Keep building new ideas and try to learn from what other people are doing. Your most creative ideas will come once you are willing to let go of the normal ruleset. Because when creating an identity the most important rule is to make it recognizable and relatable. Spelling, grammar, pronunciation, tonality, symbolism, and other ideas can all be reinvented solely to fit the needs of each individual project.
Branding is an area where I take great interest because of how difficult it can be. Some projects have a great concept but launch with a terrible name, while others can have a very impactful domain with no real vision. Identity alone will not get your project noticed. However great projects often do get noticed by using an alluring identity. Keep thinking of newer techniques and don’t be afraid of trying something even if it seems terrible. We often learn best from mistakes, and in doing so we also learn what attributes to creating great ideas.