Bright, head-turning design and illustration services based in Bristol. Design that gets you noticed.

Copyright 2018 Emma B.

Why every business should have a brand (even you!)

Before I begin to delve into “Why every business should have a brand”, a little personal case study:

My dad’s a self-employed electrician. He’s done the job for something like 40 years and he has no need for any new clients, because the ones he has are repeat and loyal customers who will see him through to retirement. He doesn’t need a website, he doesn’t need business cards. Word of mouth gets him enough business off the back of his outstanding reputation. My dad, as he has told me time and time again, “doesn’t want or need a brand”.

The thing is, he already has one, he just doesn’t realise it! Brand is more than a logo, a catchy name, a website, or a set of pretty stationery items… My dad’s brand is the set of standards and values he represents: reliability, quality work, fair price, and decades of experience.

So, why should every business have a brand?

Because it’s going to secure your future, build your business and create a strategy for success.

Any business, of ANY size – from one-(wo)man-bands to multinational corporations – can reap the benefits of a brand strategy. If you have nothing else, a brand strategy is going to enable you to find fans and advocates, help you employ the right people, keep you on a true and authentic path, allow your customers to build trust in your business and keep them coming back for more.

Brand strategy is made up of the following things:

Who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

In marketing speak, these things could be termed as;

  • Business values
  • Business goals / targets
  • Planned actions

I’ve broken them down a little so that you can start thinking about how a brand strategy might boost your business;

Business values

These are the things that define who you are. Values should be steadfast and long-term if your customers are going to learn to trust them. It could be that you are mindful of the environment in all you do, perhaps you strive to support people in hard to access areas, maybe it is important that your business is always affordable. Whatever it is it has to be authentic and true. Don’t be tempted into buzzwords or things you think you “should” be. Think of your values as the foundation blocks of everything you do. They are what you will become known for – your “brand essence” – and are the basis of your reputation. All of your actions as a business will uphold them, reinforce them and allow you build trust.

Business goals / targets

These are the things you want to do. In my dad’s case; provide electrical services of a type that gains a loyal customer base, so that he can sail through to retirement without worrying about “the next job”. My dad’s example is quite a straightforward one, but you might have long-term and short-term goals as well as the overall “ideal” outcome of your efforts. Write them all down and you will have the target for your strategy.

Planned actions

Everything you do as a business should uphold your values and drive you closer to your goals. Bringing the two together in everything you do will be your brand strategy in action. Having your goals and values defined will help you to be consistent in your messages and interactions and present you as a united business. Whether you’re one person or 1000+ employees, you will all be inhabiting the same idealogy.  You are now also able to make a plan! What are you going to make sure you do to achieve your goals? And how will you make sure you always have your values at the very heart?


Once you have a brand strategy, you might want to think about things such as a logo, a refocused website, and other bits and pieces that can really bring a great brand strategy to life and push things to the next level. If you feel you would like to discuss any creative branding services with me – why not get in touch?

About the Author:
Emma is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator living in Bristol, UK. Her illustration work explores a thin line between creepy and cute; working with kawaii motifs, galactic colours and quirky themes to create unique and fun designs.
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Colour explained: CMYK, RGB, Pantone, Hex

When it comes to colour, designers have to cater the colours they use to the type of work they are creating. It’s helpful to understand the differences, so that when you are working with designers you can know what is and isn’t possible. For instance, did you know that your black might not really be black? And that is is rarely possible to achieve a bright CMYK orange? In this blog post, I will explain to you each type of colour format, what they are and how they work, so that you can plan for some stunning design work for yourself or your business!


CMYK (print process)

Colour CYMK

What is it?
CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and “Key colour” (black). The colour format is made up of percentages of each colour, such as this formula for “True Black”; C75 M68 Y67 K90 (see further down for more on black!)

What is it for?
Designers will produce anything designed for print using CMYK colour.

How does it work?
CMYK work is designed specifically for printing presses that use “plates”. Professional printers reproduce the work on the chosen material by layering ink from colour plates coated in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The result is a tightly woven matrix of coloured dots that blend to the naked eye to create the colours you see. CMYK can be used in digital printing, too.

CMYK process is known as a “subtractive process”. This means the more ink you add, the closer to black you get.

Considerations for CMYK work
It is very hard to produce a bright orange colour in CMYK due to the colour layering needed.
If you are using a lot of blue in your design, the print job may take slightly longer as blue saturates the paper more, causing a longer drying time.


RGB (digital colour format)

Colour RGB

What is it?
RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. The colour format is made up of three numbers representing each such as this formula for white: RGB(255, 255, 255).

What is it for?
Designers use RGB colours for digital artwork intended for screens.

How does it work?
RGB is known as an “additive process”, which means the more of each colour you add, the closer you get to white. RGB uses a larger gamut than CMYK, meaning there is a larger range of achievable colours. The range allows for brighter colours and subtler steps through the tones and highlights of a colour, giving smoother gradients.

Considerations for RGB work
Don’t send RBG files to professional printers; the end result will not be as expected and the printer may charge you if they have to convert files to CMYK.
Because RGB colours are lit up by the screen they are viewed on, they can appear a little different if you print anything at home as the light is removed – useful to remember when printing digital downloads!


Pantone (aka. Spot colour)

Colour pantone

What is it?
Pantone colour (sometimes referred to as Spot Colour) is a standardised, universal colour system with an official mixing system of 13 base pigments. The colours can be reproduced consistently anywhere following the defined mixing quantities.

What is it for?
Pantone colours can be used for any print job, but are brilliant for brand. It’s a good idea for your business logo to have a Pantone colour reference for its colour, so that you can reproduce it consistently. Some printers may also request files are created with embedded “spot colours”, and you should pass this information on to your designer if you have made enquiries for print before briefing them.

How does it work?
Pantone colour books are an industry mixing guide for pigments. Trained colour mixers will follow the book guide to mix up colour pigments so that Cool Grey is Cool Grey wherever you are printing around the world.

Considerations for Pantone work
Pantone colours are selected from a pre-defined library.
Most Pantone colours are out of the capabilities of the CMYK gamut and converting Pantone to CMYK may have unexpected results.
Pantone colours can change appearance depending on the material they are printed on. Pantone provide “colour books” on coated and un-coated paper stock for designers to make informed colour choices from


Hexidecimal (web colour format)

Colour hex
What is it?
Hexadecimal (hex) colours are defined by a hashtag and a combination of 6 numbers and letters such as #fefefe. They are colours that can be used across the web.

What is it for?
Designers use Hex colours to set colour styling in web pages and in SVG image files.

How does it work?
The hex codes are placed into the CSS Stylesheets and HTML code of a webpage, and are converted as colour outputs when published.

Considerations for Hex work
As with RGB, hex colours are “lit” by the screen they are viewed on, and will appear brighter on screen than when printed. 


100% Black vs True black

Just a little something to be aware of: to get the blackest black possible in CMYK, it is not the logical C0 M0 Y0 K100 (known as 100% Black). You actually need a special mix of inks known as True Black. The formula for True Black is; C75 M68 Y67 K90. The graphic below demonstrates the subtle difference.

True black


I hope that has helped you understand the technicalities of colour format a little more! If you would like to know more about colour, I will shortly be writing a post on Colour Theory so keep your eyes peeled!

 

About the Author:
Emma is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator living in Bristol, UK. Her illustration work explores a thin line between creepy and cute; working with kawaii motifs, galactic colours and quirky themes to create unique and fun designs.
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My top 10 design tools for design and illustration

Having worked in design for over ten years, I have quite the collection of design tools! I am a stationery addict, which certainly helps, but I love trying out new things so that they might spark my creativity and push my style further. Today I’m sharing my top 10 design tools that are always part of my main toolkit, whatever the project.

tegne blok sketch book

1. Flying Tiger Bamboo Sketch Pad (Tegne Blok)

When is comes to cheap and cheerful sketching, laying the first formation of an idea out and just having a creative brain dump at the beginning of a new project, my Tegne Blok is indispensable. It costs the mighty sum of £3 a pad and the bamboo paper is better for the environment and great quality. The pages tear out easily without ripping and both pencil and fineliners sit on the slightly textured paper like a dream (no ink bleed!).

Design Tools Pens

2. Field Notes Number 2 pencils

I’m not very fussy when it comes to pencils, to be honest, but I love the Field Notes range for their ethical properties (recyclable, non-toxic, degradable) and the little eraser on the end is a great bonus because it rubs stuff out without smudging it. Sounds silly, but I have ruined countless pieces of work with bad pencil erasers before! Also, Field Notes = Designer cool points haha!

3. UNI Pin fineliner pens

I tried SO many fineliners and for years I used Faber Castell PITT pens which were great. However, when I found myself needing the thinnest of the thin, UNI Pin was there with its 0.05mm nib and Faber Castell wasn’t! To be honest, I think both brands do a good fineliner, but UNI Pin pips it to the post for range.

4. Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen, white

Opaque, smooth, consistent, doesn’t clog up / leak / run. This pen is the ultimate white detailer! It’s great for my dark space-y doodles and getting perfect stripes.

5. TomBow brush tip pens

I don’t often colour with ink, but when I do, I use TomBow pens. I love the brush tips as they’re really flexible and the colour range is great, especially on the brighter end of the colour spectrum.

Banana pencil case

6. Banana pencil case

I love a novelty pencil case – it’s always a great conversation starter and of course, bright and cheerful! Also, you need somewhere safe to store all those lovely pens I’ve just recommended. A banana is slimline and easy to see in your bag, if you need a “real” reason 😉

7. Tracing paper / baking paper

SO MANY USES! Recently I’ve started making patterns and tracing paper is great for lining up overlapping design parts, testing tessellation and general repeating elements. However, have you ever tried using ink markers on tracing paper? Give it a go – you can get some great effects as the inks sit on top of the paper and start merging. You can also use it as a blender, or even a palette and then “paint” the inks onto other work with a brush. You can even stamp with it, if you want!

Know Your Onions Design book

8. Know Your Onions / Graphic Design by Drew de Soto

This book is great if you design for print, work in branding or are just starting out in your graphic design career. Drew de Soto covers the foundations of good graphic design in a quick and informative way. It’s a book I refer back to time and time again because while it’s fun to experiment, getting the basics right is so important.

9. iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

OK, so this is a bit of a luxury one, but since I bought the iPad Pro my artwork has found so many new ways to exist! I used a small Wacom for a while, but being able to actually draw onto an image on the screen makes such a difference. The Apple Pencil is amazing – the sensitivity and responsiveness is great – and it’s making me think about offering hand-typography prints in the future. I just love the versatility and options the iPad Pro offers. It has also sped up the “vectorisation” process for some of my more detailed ideas.

Hello Kitty Pen

10. Hello Kitty pen

Sometimes, you just need things that make you happy – if they have seven colour options and make note-taking a colour-coded dream, even better!

 

What are your favourite tools?

For more behind-the-scenes snaps, stationery and sneak peeks, follow me on Instagram!

 

About the Author:
Emma is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator living in Bristol, UK. Her illustration work explores a thin line between creepy and cute; working with kawaii motifs, galactic colours and quirky themes to create unique and fun designs.
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Re-branding a global software company – from the inside!

Girl in the Forest

Earlier this year, I was right in the middle of one of the largest (and most daunting) re-brand projects I have yet undertaken. For any designer, the following statement will strike a small amount of trepidation, even in the most hardy:

I was rebranding my employer, from the inside.

Am I crazy?

I was kind of doing the unthinkable; An in-house job, on our own brand, with all of the possible hurdles of that position being large and scary. They were hurdles I knew I would have to face in a disciplined manner for the best results:

  • I knew the company extremely well, and therefore had a natural and unavoidable bias
  • People knew me and they could approach me with any number of concerns from design to office politics at any time (and why not?! I’m a – I hope – friendly colleague and love a chat!)
  • I was very close to the project; as a designer I had had strong opinions on previous branding iterations, and I felt the pressure I put on myself to better them keenly!
  • Mostly importantly – it had to be my best work to date, because I had to live with it!

That last point was something that kept me up at night – a designer’s work is never done! I can always improve things; trends, skill levels, tools and influences change all the time, and I always feel I can make something better. How was I going to be able to finalize my work (not a problem, I do that all the time) but also look at it every day for the next however many years and not want to change it?!

I had a BIG JOB on my hands.

How did I do it?

So how did I do it all and stay sane, without bias, and with no office drama? Let me tell you – COLLABORATION.

I might have been the sole designer on the project, but I was not the only person creating this brand. I employed a process of focus groups, staff surveys, customer surveys, stakeholder groups, feedback sessions and shared moodboards to make sure I was making decisions based on the direction of the company, the sentiment of the current brand and the values the company wanted to uphold. I made sure I had influences and research that were not solely sourced by myself as my first step beyond bias.

Having a very public process which allowed people to get involved and have their say early on meant that I was not constantly approached in the office with suggestions/opinions/feedback from others at ad hoc intervals, leaving me free to get work done and have something to show – which was fed back into the collaborative workflow via company newsletter updates.

Using an open approach to in-house design worked extremely well. I gained stakeholder support for key areas of the brand from high-up levels very early on, which made the later process of refining style and approach so much easier. I work as a member of the marketing team, and my colleagues were excellent sounding boards for getting the “feeling” of the brand right. We assigned a brand archetype to the project to give a very clear persona to work towards. We spoke “our language” to get the brand right, and we created a brand we knew we could become with authenticity and belief.

So lastly – most importantly – how did I create something I still look at every day and go “yes, I’m OK with this” even when I know I maybe have a better font in my arsenal now, or refined photo editing skills to smooth the edges even sleeker in that one banner stand? Simplicity. I created something with room to evolve, and something I – or anyone else – could grow with. I created a brand that was so different from the competitors in the market that it always looks impressive. I embraced stereotypes, and simplified the recognition process. I used a four-colour palette and removed the need for complicated relationships between brand assets. I didn’t change the logo form, but I updated the colour. I championed the use of considerable white-space. The brand is clean, bold, striking and simple. And I can live with that because it’s what I aim for in all of my work. I made something simple, and simplicity is timeless.

 

About the Author:
Emma is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator living in Bristol, UK. Her illustration work explores a thin line between creepy and cute; working with kawaii motifs, galactic colours and quirky themes to create unique and fun designs.
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