Brand Strategist vs. Brand Stylist vs. Brand Designer

When you’re just starting out in business, working for yourself, or even just at the ideas stage, you may not have thought about branding, let alone whether you’d need a brand stylist or a brand strategist or indeed a brand designer or brand coach. And what’s the difference anyway?

The easy option would obviously be to go to an agency, give them a brief, come out the other end with an amazing logo and a brand strategy ready to put into action. However, as an entrepreneur or a small startup, you don’t have that kind of budget. Every penny counts and you can’t be spending £££ on fancy agency fees. That’s why you need to find out what sort of help is out there for someone in your shoes.

The brand strategist

Having a brand strategy is crucial for any business to have success. For a small business in particular it is important to know what to tell your customers or clients about your business. They are going to have lots of questions about your business – not that they are going to ask you directly, but subconsciously they will be looking for answers to some basic questions in order to be able to connect with you. They could be questions such as: “why do you do what you do?”; “why should I buy from you and not your competitor?”; “what makes you different?”; “what are your values?”; “what’s your story then?”. These questions you answer through your mission, your set of values, your brand story etc. Basically, all the elements that make up a brand strategy.

A brand strategist helps you answer those questions in a customer orientated way – and also helps you identify WHO your customers ARE! If you don’t know who your customers are, where to find them or what to say to them, how are you going to sell anything to them? Luck? Chance? When I work with my clients I ask lots and lots (and lots…) of questions in order to get them to really think about their business from a customer’s point of view.

The brand stylist

If you ask me, strategy and style go hand in hand when it comes to branding and I can only really describe how a brand stylists works from my own point of view and how I work with my clients, same as above. A brand stylist helps you put together the look and feel of your brand - she gives you a clear direction for your brand’s visual appearance through mood boarding or brand vision boards. She will make suggestions for a colour palette, fonts, photographic style along with many other elements that make up a brand’s visual identity based on your input and answers to some of the questions from the strategy.

This sounds simple, but having a professional advise you on colour palette, fonts, logo etc. can be really valuable. If you’re a super creative and crafty kind of person, you might be able to decide all these elements for yourself, you might even be able to create your own logo and submarks as well, but there’s so many choices to make, sometimes it just helps to have that professional view to help you decide. And hey, if you’re not crafty or creative or have that in-built sense of style, then you should definitely hire a brand stylist. What you’ll come out with is a detailed description of your brand’s visual identity which you can use as a brief for a designer to then create your visuals for you.

The brand designer

I am not a brand designer, and won’t try to tell you what a brand designer does precisely. Instead I have asked brand designer, Faye Brown to describe how she works with her clients and here is what she had to say:

“At the start of a new logo or visual branding project I will either meet face to face or hop on a call with my client. I will ask them a series of questions about their business and their future plans. This is to ensure any logo I design really works for them alongside the rest of their brand communications. Understandably sometimes clients need to talk this through, especially new businesses.

With everything in mind I will then start my design process, which usually begins with creating some initial mood boards. I’ll then start thinking about some first ideas and sketching them out. Once I have a few possible routes I will move on to Adobe Illustrator to design them. I will present my client with 3-5 initial concepts. From there, hopefully, one design will really stand out for the client and based on their feedback I will do 2-3 variations of that logo before the client decides on their final design. Depending on the project sometimes a few variations of the logo are needed - I will make sure they all look part of the same family to ensure brand continuity across all usages.

I’ve also started supplying clients with a brand board, which is like a mini set of brand guidelines - with recommendations for typography, colour palettes and how to use the logo. My clients love these brand boards!

Once the logo is designed, and depending on the clients need, I will go on to design any other elements like business cards, letterheads etc.

The best part of my role as designer is helping clients overcome one of the first steps to move their business forward, I try to take the fear out of this and work closely with all my clients. I love nothing more than seeing the logos in action.”

Of the three, who do you need then?

Well, if you’re literally just starting out, I would argue you need all three. You need the strategist to get all your key messages right, you need the stylist to nail your style and you need the designer to make it a reality. To my mind a brand strategist comes before a brand stylist, who comes before a brand designer/graphic designer, but sometimes they can be one and the same person. So, Faye Brown and I overlap with some of the things we offer. I’m a hybrid between a brand strategist and a brand stylist, and just a wanna-be on the design front. Faye asks some of the same questions I would in terms of values, ethos and goals etc. which she uses to base her design work on.

What often happens when you work with me - if a client doesn’t already have a designer on board - is that I collaborate with a designer like Faye to be able to deliver a full brand identity incl. the visuals and the marketing elements.

Get in touch with me to find out how I can assist you in getting the most out of your new business by creating a strong brand identity which will stand out for the right reasons. Or indeed, how we can tweak your existing brand to give it a lift and some substance to take it further. Click here for my contact details. If you want to know more about my services, follow this link.