Substance before style

I'm going to say something now that most of you probably won't agree with. Particularly if you're a designer - correct me if you're a designer and think otherwise. Just like the late, great Wally Olins (godfather of branding) I believe that great branding starts with substance.

If you're a start-up business and you want to "get your branding done" by getting a logo, then you're going about it the wrong way. I (and Wally) think you should be starting with your brand's values, meaning and purpose etc. before you have your visual identity created. “The style comes after the substance. Only then can the style help the substance, and vice versa. It's a mutually reinforcing program." (from the book 'Brand Thinking' by Debbie Millman).

Now, lots and lots of businesses start with a logo without knowing their reason for wanting the logo to look a certain way. They want it to reflect what they do, they want it to “say everything”. Well, the logo is just a symbol to remind people of your business. It could be anything in fact. When your branding is done correctly, it doesn’t really matter what your logo looks like, so long as it reminds people of who you are and what your purpose is.

Confession time! I started with a logo, and do you know what? I struggled getting it right, because I just didn’t know my business well enough back then. I didn’t know what my real purpose was or what made me different to the rest of the brand consultants out there. Well, I do now, and I wish I had been a bit more patient and waited with my logo till I knew who I was as a business and what I was offering. As it were, I only ended up changing the colour of it, but still. Could have saved myself a lot of anguish, if I had had my brand strategy in place before I tried to do my brand visuals.

Do you agree that substance comes before style? How did you go about branding your business?

If you’d like help branding your business from the substance to the style click here to contact me, or DM me on Facebook or Instagram.