"Design is the silent ambassador of your brand." — Paul Rand
You need to LOVE your brand. Each element needs to feel right and when it doesn't, a few tweaks may be in order.
At SketchDeck, we understand great design, but we also know when something isn't quite right.
In the past, one of our previous brand iterations was having challenges. The design team was struggling to work with its complicated instructions—something was amiss. We loved a lot of the elements of it—the bold black background color and awesome new logo, so we embarked on a brand refresh.
The refresh tweaked our color palette, brought a new illustration style everyone could enjoy “doodling” and developed a bunch of previous ideas further. The result was that in no time at all we had a brand we really loved and could implement well in all our work.
If you have not yet considered a brand refresh, now may be the time to do. Changes will likely be subtle in any one given area, but collectively, they can make a huge impression.
Are rebranding and brand refresh the same?
Companies are constantly evolving based on market trends. For those who are not overly familiar with the wonderful world of design, a rebrand and brand refresh strategy may seem one and the same. However, these two terms are like night and day.
Think of rebranding as a total teardown. As in starting again, from scratch. Perhaps you want to change your personality or overall values, develop a new backstory for your brand, reinvent your entire brand image, or even enter a new market. Depending on your objectives, this process can be risky and costly. After all, confusion may bring chaos.
In comparison, a brand refresh is more like a fresh coat of paint in terms of your voice and visual branding. It may involve tweaking your logo or color palette, testing out a new font, sprucing up your marketing material, or updating your tagline. Meaning, a brand refresh is far less dramatic (and less costly).
Being a lot faster and cheaper, a brand refresh is essentially a makeover—a makeover that reflects your updated image. Whether you plan on reaching new customers (while tending to your preexisting customer base) or would simply like to inject new vitality into your company, a brand refresh is an excellent (low-risk) growth strategy.
In summary, a brand refresh:
Is not an overly dramatic change internally or externally.
Maintains the same core aspects of your business but aims to reconnect with your customer base, particularly in regard to the promises you make.
Depending on the size of your company, a brand refresh could help realign your team so that everyone is one the same page.
Allows you to reintroduce who you are to the market, potentially attracting a new audience, as well as new potential partners.
Helps you showcase a more consistent brand image and message.
How to successfully kickstart a brand refresh
Although the age of your company is often the number one reason to undergo a brand refresh, it's not the only reason to consider this valuable journey.
Whether your design is outdated, your online and offline branding don't exactly align, your vision lacks clarity, or your growth has flatlined, the following steps will guide you as embark on a brand refresh—or a visual update if you will.
Step one: Complete a "brand audit"
It's time to sit down and really think about your brand's strengths and weaknesses. This is the "discovery" portion of your brand refresh journey.
A brand audit will allow you to identify and address problematic areas. Perhaps your brand has recently reached a plateau and is starting to lose relevance—or you feel as though your customers aren't as connected as they once were.
Mind-mapping is a great tool, encouraging you to spill all sorts of information out of your brain, encouraging a more organized, analytical approach. Some of the areas to consider include:
Your main competitors — how have they evolved recently?
Potential points of misalignment — are you making promises that do not currently align with your brand?
Your website — what are you currently using your website for, what's the purpose, how does it look visually?
The strengths and weaknesses of your brand's image. This may refer to your website, marketing materials, or even your event booth.
Current (and potential future) trends within your industry.
As you target various areas of your business, industry, and niche, remember to focus on a "brand refresh" strategy. Think visual elements and messaging in terms of your brand's tone, look, and overall presentation.
Step two: Conduct research
Once you've identified the "what" aspects of your brand refresh strategy, you'll want to focus on "how" you'll achieve your goals. Ask yourself, based on goals x, y, and z, what steps do I need to take? Take this time to research tools and services that will assist your efforts.
Some questions to ask include:
What does your sales and marketing team like AND dislike about the current brand? What about your designers? Your customers?
Based on your current brand, do you face implementation challenges? For example, is it hard to use your logo on a normal background because of its colors? The team at Slack changed their logo partially based on this reason.
It's also important to consider the following:
Your brand's values
Your brand's personality
The brands you like and dislike – what can you learn from these brands?
What do you wish to achieve with this new brand? For example, do you need to create a brand that is capable of having many sub-brands for each product?
You will also want to conduct research in regard to your competitors. What are they doing differently, and more importantly, what can you do to stand apart from the pack? During your research, you may want to revisit step one. Your competitive analysis may make you rethink your current key messages, digital and social presence, content marketing, logo, style, etc.
Step three: Alter your brand's design
A unique visual identity is critical to your brand's long-term success. While focusing on design elements, consider the following in order to convey the true essence of your brand:
As you develop your brand's refresh, it's important to create a design that conveys the ideas and values of your brand. Leverage the research you conducted to help guide you before deciding on the overall scope of your rebrand.
How much time and money do you want to spend on your brand refresh? Do you simply want to focus on your website? Or do you need to redesign your marketing materials, product, and website?
Next, review each piece of your brand (e.g. logo, each color, fonts, illustration style, photo style, page templates, website pages etc.) to answer the following questions:
Does it tell your story?
Does it communicate your values?
Is it liked or disliked?
Is it practical to use every day?
Is it working for you?
Is it the best it can be?
Does it inspire you and your customers?
Step four: Plan your brand refresh roll out
Now that you figured out what pieces of the brand you'd like to change, it's time to take action.
At a minimum, you'll want to:
Create an updated brand book explaining how the newly refreshed brand works
Introduce everyone in the company to the brand
Supply everyone with assets (e.g. new logo files, font files, etc.)
Update templates (e.g. new PowerPoint slide template)
Redesign major assets to fit into the new brand (e.g. redesign main website pages, any upcoming marketing/sales materials, etc.)
Depending on your budget, it's more than reasonable to pick and choose. To decide what you should update, consider the following:
How often is an item seen? For example, at SketchDeck, we did not re-illustrate old blog articles for our refresh. However, we did redo the header illustrations for the most popular blog articles.
How badly is the item out of compliance? We decided to refresh our product UI’s brand in phases, starting with icons and basic colors, which is easy to update, then later the more subtle UI details (e.g. dashboard layout).
What parts of the new brand are OK to break and what MUST be adhered to? E.g. we decided that the new color palette had to be adopted everywhere in website + web app CSS, but our previous illustration style could linger around.
In order to execute all of this, you'll require professional assistance. We like to think we're the perfect team for the task. We can quickly scale-up large volumes of projects, which would typically overwhelm an in-house team. We also offer a sharp team of Design and Quality managers who can make sure everything is perfectly aligned to your new brand.
Whether you require web graphics, branding material, infographics, presentations, logo support, illustration work, or custom design services for your brand refresh strategy, SketchDeck is your "always ready design team."
Covering all the bases in regard to your sales, marketing, and communication needs, you can gain access to high-quality brand design assistance today!
Get more of our original articles on how to level up your marketing and design:
Join us for a consultation
Our expert design team will spend an hour helping you with your biggest design challenges
Krista graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied psychology and neuroscience. Still active in her research, she now focuses on all aspects of health — both mental and physical. Based on her strong research skills, she is confident in a wide range of topics. Her specialties are health, nutrition, neuroscience, and business. She also owns a small business, which is most certainly her creative outlet!