When should I rebrand my business?

There comes a point in time when you seriously think about overhauling your business. Besides understanding branding on a fundamental level, timing and assessing the right approach is everything.

First off, what does a rebranding process typically look like? Many tend to fixate on a company’s logo in the press, but there is usually a lot more going on. A rebrand looks at your business as a whole. From your identity system to applications – print collateral, digital presence, environment (if you have one), etc. there are a lot of nuances. Besides the overall look and feel, what is the brand personality?

A brand exercise addresses challenges you face now and in the future. A rebrand can position your business for growth. Maybe you’re creating new products or sub-brands. Or you’re just in need of a refresh.

The first thing I would do is ask these questions:

  • Do I *need* to rebrand?
  • Is my organization ready to take the journey?
  • Do we have the budget to do this properly?
  • What’s the total cost of rolling this out?

Aligning your brand internally

You and your team are an extension of your brand. Make sure you have leadership that can drive those values. You might find going through the process that what makes you stand out is a key member of your organization or the combined efforts of many that are unified in their goal. Getting on the same page and unearthing insights is part of the process.

What’s the shelf life of your brand?

It depends on your industry and the needs of your business. How long will your rebrand last for? How do you quantify any ROI? If you’ve been in business for 10+ years and you still have the same logo from when you started, chances are you’re overdue for a rebrand. A rebrand done well should last you at least a few years. A solid brand system could work for many years.

Brand Equity

Consider the legacy of your brand. A business that is 1 year old is very different from one that is 10+ years and so on. Often, a refresh with a few small tweaks and adjustments optimizes your image for today, while not straying too far away from what’s already there. Sometimes that is all you need. It has to make sense for the business. Your customers and potential customers are already familiar with your image, how does this influence brand direction?

Do it right the first time

You’ve got a great brand, spent a good amount of money and that’s it…forever? That’s all well and good but there are several factors that are at play here. Besides “getting it right”, the reality is; a brand evolves with the business over time. Your needs are not necessarily the same today as they once were or will be later. While it would be amazing if we could predict and anticipate all future needs, a brand update, to some degree, could be required every couple of years to keep things current.

Critical stage of your business?

The timing is just right. You’ve been anticipating a major change for a while now and you’re ready to get moving. Your business demands more attention and needs to reintroduce itself to your customers and clients. A business gets to the point where it needs to bring things to the next level and a rebrand plays a huge role as part of this plan.

Just for the sake of it

Don’t always go chasing trends because you feel like you need to. You’ll see a lot of startups go through a transition period where they are constantly growing and adapting. Changing your brand every couple of years might be a good strategy or it might not. I would caution you to think twice about updating your brand “just because”. Make sure there is sound reasoning behind it.

Other factors

A new CEO comes in and wants to shake things up. This could be good or it could be a make-work project. If it aligns with the needs of your business and where it’s at, go for it. But be wary of someone who comes in and just wants to leave their mark behind. They might not be around to see things through.

Time to dive in

Are you ready to go the distance? In that case, embark on the journey, you’ll be happy you did. It’s not always a painless process, but it will pay off in the end when aligned with the right strategy and goals.

Life moves at a rapid pace, especially in the technology world. What you build today will improve over time. Sit back and appreciate the evolution of your brand and be proud of the journey.

It starts with a rebrand. Stay consistent, maintain and build on it.

So what is Branding anyways?

Let’s go back to Branding 101 so we can get a better understanding of what it is that we do. What is a brand, and what is branding? This post isn’t a 7-step listicle blog, but it’s a quick brand low-down.

Brand

Traditionally, and where the name comes from – a brand is a mark that has some negative connotations. It is still used today to mark animals as property and was also used to mark criminals and slaves with a searing hot branding iron. Talk about leaving an image in the mind. Its origins might be controversial, but as a tool for your business – it can be effective.

More than a logo

A brand is typically a combination of elements working together. Developing a cohesive image for your product or business, a good brand can build awareness, affinity and customer loyalty.

It’s a name, design or symbol that is identified by goods or services unique from the competition.

Beyond visuals, it’s a representation of what you’re all about.

Branding

The process of branding covers a broad spectrum of areas, so it can be difficult to articulate with a finite sense of confidence, but we’ll try our best.

Some of the largest brands in the world bring to mind specific associations. For example, we could look at McDonalds or Nike and understand what their brand is. It’s something that is so prevalent that we just take it for granted that they exist and what they stand for. Appreciating what the brand system is and the mechanics behind it elevate our relationship with businesses as emotional, intelligent beings and how we interact with the world as it is.

Branding shapes perception in our minds about what a product or service represents. It’s why we have affordable products on the market that are comparable to premium products with similar attributes. What’s the difference? Positioning, quality, market segment, advertising. All of these things and more.

To break it down, let’s look at key points of the branding process:

Communications
What your brand sounds like, and how it’s communicated. Your brand story, or narrative.

Experience
What kind of feeling are you left with? This could be in-store or online, etc.

Price Point
Is it an affordable product or service? Mid-level, or on the higher end?

Partnerships/Associations
Who you’re affiliated with speaks volumes about your business.

Visuals
Of course, essentials like your logo, typography, imagery, etc.

Integrations
Brand extensions such as customer service, campaigns, email signatures, etc.

Consistency
Staying on brand no matter your platform is important.

It’s a collaborative process

There is what you think your brand is, and what it actually is. In that I mean, one might think a certain way about something, but the reality is that the customer thinks something else entirely different. Realizing your brand limitations and listening to your business can open up more options.

At the end of the day, your brand is a dynamic, multi-channel, living, breathing entity. It’s constantly adapting to new technology and opportunities.

Your brand should have a personality that matches the demands of the industry you’re in, and the expectations of your clients or customers. Or not. Be an innovator and change the status quo. How do you stand out in a saturated market?

There are other niche segments that are interesting like personal branding, “no-brand” and several other approaches. But let’s save that for another time.

Be the brand steward your business needs.

What is Brand Strategy?

What is brand strategy and what does it have to do with your business?

Think about it in terms of goals. To satisfy the needs of your business, you’ll likely have short-term goals and long-term goals.

Brand strategy addresses the demand of your shifting needs. Perhaps you’re looking to grow or expand, competition has gotten fierce and your voice is getting drowned out. Or maybe whatever you’re doing now is getting stale, so you need to revisit a few areas that could be improved. It could be that you have nothing currently in place and are only just thinking about it now.

Figuring out what’s working and what’s not is the first step. That can be achieved through data, research, interviews and so on. Maybe you have an exciting new product launch and you’d like to ensure it hits the mark right out of the gate.

Having a plan is one thing, seeing it through and keeping on top of it is all part of a successful outcome.

Direction

Brand direction is usually a document paired with some form of a guide that will lay out goals, positioning and messaging that will tie into things like your print, web and campaign pieces. A well-thought-out action plan organises things that are already working and elevates everything else by adding any accompaniments that will help round out any gaps.

Getting it right is important and it needs to align with marketing. Appealing to benefits in a clear way will help. Knowing what you stand for is one thing. Cohesively communicating your brand in a concrete fashion activates potential.

This is where having a brand strategy and content strategy in tandem is highly effective.

Continuity

Tomato, tomato – call it consistency, whichever. This is making sure you stay true to the plan during the execution phase. If you spent a lot of time and money on a beautiful brand and then decide to use off-brand cliche stock photography in marketing material, you’ve got a consistency problem. Stick to the plan and constantly ask “Does this fit with our brand?”. Does it look like our brand? Does it feel like it? If you think it does fit, but it doesn’t the better question to ask is “Do I understand our brand?” or “Am I following the brand strategy?” or really, “Do we have a brand strategy”.

Relationships

Assessing your internal communications, values, external communications and partnerships will ensure everything aligns and every participant is on the same page.

Further, communication to your audience is ideally well received. Are you relatable? Have you over-thought or over-complicated things to the point that leads to confusion and frustration? People don’t have the patience to figure things out all the time. Make it easy for them.

Adapt

Don’t be afraid to change as needed dependent on how the tide is going. Being able to adjust as needed in a quick fashion can be instrumental in ensuring success. An extreme pivot is hopefully not necessary, but often you’ll find while underway that new insights are gained that will load you with actionable direction.

Remember, your brand is ever evolving just like your customer. People shift gears, grow up, get new tastes or interests. Understanding this, it’s best to revisit your strategy annually. Evaluate things and see if you need to change it up.

Follow through

Make sure your team is carrying the torch so to speak. This is important because internally teams need to work together to make sure that all the effort thus far was not all-for-nothing.

A successful brand strategy makes sure your customer will understand everything you offer, perfectly. Familiarity breeds comfort and it makes your job that much easier.

If done right, you’ve answered Maslow’s hierarchy for the brand. You’ve fulfilled basic needs and are now ready to respond to the harder questions like why customers should love you. Appealing to make them feel good about their decision and finally, should you reach self-actualization you will know who you are and so will your customer.

Final Thoughts

Be weary of brand strategists coming in and selling their hearts out throwing around a lot of buzz-words and telling you everything is great and wonderful. It’s all fun and exciting but leaves a lot to be desired. Usually, their knowledge on brands and doing the actual work can create a disconnect where things get lost in translation. They’ll tell you a lot of great things but have poor follow-through. Good brand strategy with good brand execution is everything.

Don’t expect results overnight. But a well-thought out and crafted strategy when implemented should reap the rewards in the foreseen future. Trust the process and stick with it. You may just love where you end up.

The importance of Brand Continuity

Launching a brand is exciting and sometimes anti-climatic. Your hard work has paid off over the last few months and everything has come together according to plan. All too often we find ourselves in a rewarding position to be in. The project was successful, everyone is happy launching product all can be proud of and things are on the up and up.

And then, it comes time to see the brand through. Creating a brand is dare we say the “fun part”. Ensuring the brand is phased in across everything is where the real test comes into play. That next step of your brand is maintaining a consistent voice for all touch points be it in advertising, online or in-person.

Life after launch

What happens after a brand is created or redesigned? Enter the brand execution phase. This is where you implement the brand assets and direction across all of your channels. If it’s a new company, it would be introducing your product or service to the world. If it’s an add-on to what you have, you’re making sure your existing customers know about it and you’re reaching new ones. If it’s a rebrand, remind people you’re there and reintroduce yourself.

Businesses hire design firms because they provide specialised services they are unable to produce otherwise in-house. The design company you hire ideally becomes an extension of your business. An agile, bootstrapped team ready to fill in where you might typically fall short.

The hand-off

Perhaps you have a capable in-house team who can take the brand assets and maintain the integrity of the original vision. More often, though, this is not an option – because you hired a third party to consult in the first place to make sure the work was on point.

So the work gets delivered. But between the hand-off and the execution, if there is no follow through there is a major disconnect.

Brand as a Guide

When you think of the phrase Brand Guide the word ‘Guide’ can be a little misleading. If it were worded more strongly, it would seem a little strict or overbearing. What was the point of going through a brand exercise if the content is ignored or abandoned, or the staff implementing the work is incapable of participating at the level of quality needed to see things through? This, of course, all comes down to budget, delegation and resources available. But it’s a shame and happens much too often across all industries: lack of resources to see it through.

I’m all for breaking the rules when you need to. Brand extensions, short-lived promotional tie-ins, collaborations, one-offs. There are all sorts of situations where you might need to push the limit of what your brand looks like to some extent. But this is the exception and not the rule.

Consistency is king

Forget content for a minute. Being consistent is mission critical. If your identity is beautiful, but your website doesn’t match, you have a problem. Rolling out work and phasing things in is one part. But stopping half way or ignoring platforms altogether can cause issues and create confusion at best.

It’s not just what you look like; it’s what you say. The type of content you’re putting out there. Does it fit within the framework or your brand? Or are you just going off script and thinking about each piece as you go in an isolated effort. This is where strategy comes into play to ensure you’re sticking to a script.

It’s not personal; it’s business

When we talk about brand continuity, one can quickly consider parallel’s in other worlds. In movies, usually, there is a team member who makes sure from scene to scene there are cohesive shots that flow from one to the next. Details like wearing a hat in one shot to the next are thought about. This is so that the viewer can enjoy the movie without being put-off or scrutinising over the details that were overlooked or missed. Hopefully, you have a good script, cast and the story is enjoyable too. Oh, and the director is important, paramount even.

Franchises are another excellent example. Business owners buy into a system that works because it has processes, sales material, marketing, promotions in place that can be followed. Franchisees pay a premium to be a part of that system, so you know they will make sure they are following that plan as closely as possible for a return on their investment.

Everywhere and Beyond

Say for example your logo is great, your print material is perfect, your website is not terrible, too. But you kind of half-baked your content and your social media accounts are inconsistent. That’s a confusing thing for your customers. They’ll wonder what is going on or is this even the same company?

Did your marketing department take over but didn’t follow or ‘get’ the new brand? Maybe someone on the team has their own agenda or has gone rogue. Are there additional resources required, training, hires to can add to the team or certain portions to can hire for? With turnover and new promotions, it can go sideways quickly. Getting everybody on board and buying in is necessary to having everything work together towards a goal.

After a project is launched, staying on as a brand advisor for continuity may be the solution. A general maintenance contract or retainer should fit the bill to ensure things stay on track. Breaking things up into phases can help. All in-house departments and any external service providers need to *stay* on the same page.

A little love and attention is always required. Do as I say, not as I do. What you say you are, what you think you are and what you do should be the same thing.

Logo size, an identity crisis

A common request design agencies get from clients is to “make the logo larger”.

Responding to that is not always a simple yes or no. It’s more of a “we could do that, but…”. There’s a little more to it.

To make or not to make your logo bigger. That is the question. It’s a legitimate inquiry and often has merit. But occasionally, there is no justification for such a request; it’s more so: just because “We think it should be that way”. ‘Just because’ is not a good way to make decisions when in comes to brand integrity across platforms.

After designing a beautiful new identity system, typically a team wants to show off their brand new logo and understandably so. When there is a hand-off, whoever uses the identity hopefully follows the brand guide. However, there is a lot to consider.

What size is too large?

Typically clients tend to lean towards making the logo much bigger than it needs to be. Emphasis is misplaced. The reason being, often – a customer has spent all of this time, effort and budget on this identity. In doing so, it’s best to think of using the logo as much as possible and as big as possible. But trust me, that’s not doing anything for you. For new brands, perhaps it has *some* sense to it for brand recognition initially. But even then, it’s a balance – since your logo is usually working with words, images and other moving pieces.

Other things to worry about

Besides the size of your logo, what else is there? There are more important things to focus on. Staying on track with your identity, though – we need to pay respect to the brand guide which should detail things like logo lockups, situational examples, spacing and any other considerations for use.

Using your indoor voice

I like to compare logo size to a conversation. Are you whispering, chatting, or shouting? And everything in-between. Because psychologically it’s easy to overdo it one way or another. There are unique situations when you need to scream and shout. In most scenarios that’s not going to fly.

Your logo needs to be balanced, dependent on where it’s being used. Make sure not to crowd the logo leaving adequate spacing. A tricky area can be on the web where you have limitations as far as the main navigation and header. This is where alternate logo versions come in handy should you need a horizontal, square or vertical stack.

Finding the right balance

If your logo is the most dominant item on the page, your logo might be too large. Unless that’s the desired effect, you’re overdoing it. What do you want your customers to see? Your logo, or the content? Regarding structure and hierarchy, consider what’s most important. It needs to be consistent (dependent on context). Is there enough contrast? How is the scale, proportionate to other elements? What sort of composition or layout do you have – how much room to work with?

There are multiple scenarios and situations where your logo will be applied. On signage, it should be large for visibility. On your website, perhaps it can be a little smaller. And that’s OK. There are other places you can blow it up to your heart’s content. Where do you need attention drawn to? A logo reinforces the brand; it doesn’t necessarily always have to be the hero.

Designer Bias

To be fair, as graphic designers, there are biases to having things neat, tidy and small. So perhaps we can meet in the middle and have a compromise. A reasonable size. Not too small, not too large. That’s all relative too, of course.

Let’s be reasonable. Your logo is great, let’s not bash your customer over the head with it. If your logo is the wrong size, one might notice something’s off but can’t quite put their finger on it! Think of the whole picture, don’t fall into the trap of fixating on one piece.

Put faith in your trusted brand advisor to make the right recommendations and help with those seemingly small but critical details.

So what is the best size for your logo? The answer is that it all depends.

Identity: Leaving Your Mark

Why does Nike have a swoosh?
Apple’s icon?
Starbucks siren?
CocaCola, no symbol “logo” to speak of?

OK, so we can’t all be Nike. But when it comes to your business identity, there is a lot to think about. Breaking it down into manageable pieces, we can understand the decision-making process behind a logo.

Anatomy of an identity

A logo is composed typically of a couple of components. Let’s start by looking at a logo and what it’s made of. Or better put – an identity. The face of your business.

Logotype

Your logotype is the word of your business visualised. As a typeface or “font”, the way it’s spelt out and arranged can influence the look and feel. Is it a serif or sans-serif? Modern or traditional. Is it UPPERCASE, Sentence Case or lower case? Maybe it’s not a font at all and it’s custom hand-drawn. What does that convey and does it feel like it represents your business? How about the letterspacing. Is the type thin or bold? What sort of arrangement needs to happen if any? In often cases a logotype can work on its own, or be more than enough and nothing else is required.

Icon

An icon is typically one image that works with or without the logotype. Usually a simple piece, it needs to work both small and large. If you’re a craft brewery, instead of showing the expected barley and frothy pint icon, maybe the icon ties into your bigger picture brand story – be it person, place or thing.

Alternative

Sometimes there is no one size fits all and you can use a series of setups that work together. A dynamic or “fluid” identity system.

A bigger question presents itself. Does your business need an icon? The short answer to that is, it all depends. Sometimes it comes naturally or sometimes; you need to get creative. It shouldn’t be forced and it’s not always easy to commit to one thing or another. Through the process, there are ways at arriving at something that speaks volumes as a representational and critical part of your business image. You might not need one, but you very well want one. Distilling what your business represents into one mark is the trick!

Thinking outside of the Literal, Laterally

What’s an identity anyway? A brand? A logo? What’s going on here, what’s up with these company’s logos?

If you look at those marks by themselves, they don’t say a lot. They are simple. Iconic. Representational. How can an apple icon represent a product company (well, that’s a long story) but you get where I’m going with that one. It’s about the idea.

What if I told you, say, perhaps if one owned a dental practice – they didn’t need to use a tooth as their logo? Form can transcend function – gleefully dazzling our imaginations in the abstract. Literal thinking is entirely different from lateral.

How else you can you show something that’s ‘all been done’ before.

Look, not every logo needs to be clever. A straightforward approach serves its purpose. It’s to the point. And it shouldn’t feel forced. Literal can work if it’s practical or economical. But often we can do much better if we put a little more effort into it.

Having a good name can help a lot. Your identity could come together quite quickly. But when you need to push and dig a little deeper, it’s an involved exercise.

Identity as a System

An identity is a system, developing a visual language that speaks true to who you are and what you’re all about. It includes images, icons, colours, tone, and dare we say – a gut feeling. The best brands speak to us somehow. And don’t forget – as cliche as it is – a brand is not what you say it is. It’s what your customer believes you are. And the savvy consumer knows when you’re trying too hard, or you’re a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Want to sell high-end products? Better invest in some design. Simplicity can be harder than it looks. You have to edit, commit and run with it.

Don’t be fooled into spending all your time and effort into the logo. It doesn’t stop at your identity. There is no literal representation of what the brand or business is or does. Not the logo by itself. A logo is one aspect of how a company defines itself.

Identity is one piece

Not many brands are represented by any one single piece or part, but by all of its pieces, working together.

A brand is not always necessarily tangible. In the sense that you often get a ‘feeling’ from a product or service – your brand personified. It has personality. In one sense or another.

We could relate brand to a fundamental need we all require – shelter. When constructing a house, you’ll have a developer, partners, contractors and various parties involved to make it happen. There are specialists in architecture, engineering, framing, concrete, drywall, electricians, etc.

A team works together towards a goal to accomplish something bigger than themselves. Much like an identity is a critical piece of the brand puzzle. I’m not conflating what we do with anything overtly grandiose. But it’s an important part of your business. And if it’s done right, it lasts for many years to come.

Start Now

When you are ready to shift your focus inwards and be introspective, do not fixate on the details. Start with the bigger picture, even if you can only see what’s in front of you, today.

Now is the time to start thinking about your identity and brand as a whole. From scratch or a redesign. Sometimes all you need is a little refresh.

Jackson Wynne rebrands York University’s Underground restaurant

Jackson Wynne recently launched a complete restaurant rebranding project with York University’s Underground Campus Kitchen. Just in time for back to school!

The comprehensive branding project covered everything including positioning, renaming consideration, a new identity system, signage, environmental design, print collateral, digital presence and more.

See more – view the brand case study here

Jackson Wynne picks up a Packaging Design Award

Stop the juice presses. We’re pleased to announce that Jackson Wynne recently won an Applied Arts design award for packaging!

Out on newsstands near you: Pick up the July/August issue of Applied Arts magazine, featuring work done by the team at Jackson Wynne.

Jackson Wynne received an award for packaging design work completed with client ELXR Juice Lab. Congratulations to the team: Paul Phillips, Jack Shepherd, Renata Pereira, and client Daniel Gelshteyn for their outstanding work.

An honour to be recognized, we want to thank everyone who made this project possible.

Full size images from the magazine spread:

For nearly 30 years, Applied Arts has been recognized as one of Canada’s top magazines for visual communications, a benchmark in the design industry.

ELXR Juice Lab is a Toronto-based cold-pressed juice company producing unique, organic, healthy and delicious drink products.

Jackson Wynne is a design studio in Toronto working with brands online and offline.

Check it out:
AA Winner Gallery Online
– Learn more about the project: view the full case study online
– Visit www.elxrjuicelab.com

The value of custom artwork versus stock photography

Stock photography can become a huge point of contention in the design industry. Sometimes being seen as dated, overused or generic in the corporate world, stock photography can quickly become a homogenous visual landscape with competition producing bizarro versions of each other. It’s my hope with this article that we open the door a bit and establish when and where to use stock – if you must do so.

Despite what the uninformed believe: One cannot simply grab any image from the internet for their purposes. Click To Tweet

Finding the right image for your project comes with the territory when branding your business. It could be one item, or a series of imagery used throughout your material – be it in print or online.

There is a wealth of choice of pre-made artwork available from many different collections available for use, all within reach with the click of a button. With a world of providers offering similar services, how do you pick and choose? You could potentially manage the project in house, but sometimes special attention needs to be made or you need some help, and that’s where you might call in a company like us at Jackson Wynne to help.

Start by determining your target audience. I’m not saying you need to have focus groups necessarily, but understanding your end goal is helpful in determining what sorts of imagery you end up with. You have options.

Some types of standard artwork:

– Photography
– Illustration
– Video
– Animation

These are just a handful of types of artwork, but are most common. Depending on the situation, it might make sense to use a custom illustration to communicate your message, instead of a generic stock photo where possible.

Full disclosure: I am personally biased to using original artwork, but it’s not always possible. What can you do?

Determining Budget

A very important first step is to figure out how much you have to spend. This is crucial because it can dictate what options are available. On the lower end, you can purchase royalty free stock photos, illustrations, and video. If you have more spend available, consider custom artwork at the top of your list.

Enterprise companies have larger marketing budgets whereas a startup or small business may have limitations and need to get creative.

Stock Photography

When I say “stock photography” in the general sense it applies to photos, illustrations, video etc. available for purchase from stock providers.

This is a good option and can be quite economical.

Pros

– Affordable Pricing
– Lots of options
– Ready to use

Cons

– Available to anyone
– Sometimes generic in nature
– Quality Control

Consider the control you have here. With various licensing options available, you have to consider the application and usage.

Stock photography provides a mountain of options, for better or worse. If you know what you’re looking for and can distinguish the good from the bad, you can run with stock to your hearts content. If you’re on a limited budget, there are certain design treatments and ways to use stock to end up with a good looking product.

I get it, we don’t all have budgets for photo shoots. Sometimes you just need an image for a quick promo or are waiting for the right direction or timing to do it right.

Perhaps the biggest pitfall of using stock is that you might perhaps end up with a generic image, or worst case – end up using the same imagery as your competition. Stock photography in general can get quite interesting.

That being said, I have seen and used some stock photography where the quality has been quite good and professional – so it is definitely not anything to turn your nose up at. If you have the eye for it and enjoy a good hunt, it can be a good option. Even just as a temporary measure until you can swap out with more original work.

Young woman using digital tablet at home against city lights.

There is some good stock photography out there. If you develop an eye for it you can find some decent options available.

One of the largest hurdles to get over is sifting through the endless amount of options. Where do you start? Where are the good photos? Is this a good photo? Does it align with the goals you are trying to reach?

Not *ALL* of your artwork needs to be custom necessarily.

Let’s compare with custom artwork.

Custom Artwork

Custom artwork is imagery made especially for your project, mostly unique in one way or another considered “one of a kind”. This could mean putting together your own photo shoot, or hiring an illustrator to provide you with hand drawn, custom imagery that helps position your business.

Pros

– Original artwork
– Control of the final product
– Investment into long-term brand building

Cons

– Can cost more
– Timeline may be longer
– Expectations of results

The path of custom artwork is not good for those who desire instant gratification. It takes a bit of time and work to produce great things.

If you have a clear direction and can put together a team that understands your brand, custom can be very rewarding. Think beyond your logo. An extension of your brand, custom imagery can help reinforce your message and build a level of continuity and enjoyment that your customers will appreciate.

Although custom artwork can cost more, in the long run I would consider it an investment. Who else in your industry will have similar images? [tweetable]Ideally you stand out from the crowd, and save yourself from embarrassment[/tweetable]. The internet makes the world a small, small place.

Ideally you stand out from the crowd, and save yourself from embarrassment.

Whereas stock can have a shorter shelf life, with custom artwork – you should be getting a lot more mileage out of it.

Style vs Substance

Style can be very subjective. One person’s taste is not another’s, and in the end – you really can’t please everyone. Think of your audience first, if it makes sense for what you’re doing. If it fits with your brand. If you can set aside your personal taste, and look at things from an agnostic standpoint – this is even better.

Sometimes you just need to trust and take a leap of faith.

That being said, beware of running with something that is “cool” just because. It also needs to connect in some way with what you’re trying to promote. The balance of form vs. function.

Final Considerations

Other than the artwork by itself, does it match your brand message? Do you have strong copywriting to accompany it? How is your brand working together as a whole?

Never use custom artwork as a bandaid for a poor brand. You could have the greatest artwork in the world, but if the content doesn’t match or no one ever sees it, it might all be for naught.

Next time you need artwork for your project, think twice about your options. What do you use?

Sidenote

How much did we spend on artwork for this blog post? The picture frame was from a free resource. The line drawing inside the frame was a custom draw vector illustration to fit. The texture was from Subtle Patterns. Two photos were purchased from Stocksy. A grand total of $27.48 CAD (plus my time, of course!). Not bad.

Resources

Since we’re talking about stock photography, I’ve collected a few useful stock websites that provide a breath of fresh air. Ranging from free to paid, there are plenty of options:

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