QB Community member Andrew Cameron (@CoherentCreativ) spent years working on the branding campaigns of corporate giants including Mercedes, KFC, and Kodak. This past February he started Coherent Creative, his own branding and design firm dedicated to helping smaller businesses make their mark. We asked Andrew why visual branding is so important for 'the little guy', and what advice he has for small business and self-employed with the very little budget for logo design.
Please tell us a bit about your professional journey so far – what you do, your experience working for larger companies, and your recent move toward opening up your own shop catering to smaller businesses.
I've been doing this all my working life – a long time now. Starting as a 'junior' in a Design Studio in a very vibrant part of London (Notting Hill) – creating mechanical artwork even before the advent of Macs! Since then, I've worked at printers, newspapers, and advertising, design and marketing agencies… and with brands such as Mercedes, KFC, BP, Kodak, British Gas and Mitsubishi, as well as many smaller companies. I realised that working with those smaller companies was where I could really 'make a difference'.
What first drew you to graphic design/branding as a career?
It goes back to my youth! As a boy, I liked nothing better than lying on the floor drawing. When I found out that you could get paid for doing that, it seemed the obvious thing to do. I still enjoy that 'hands-on' part of the job. After getting a grounding in graphic design and typography I started working with brands – and solving problems for the people who own the brands.
Now the most satisfying part of my job is seeing how a rebrand can transform a business – and take them to the next step.
A striking and memorable visual brand is key to the success of large companies. How important is it for small businesses? What about those who are self-employed?
For small businesses, and the self-employed, it's vital.
A striking and memorable brand is the way you distinguish yourself from your competitors. When you're 'small,' a striking and memorable brand allows you to 'punch above your weight' and compete with larger organisations.
It shows that you are serious about what you do. Investing in a professional brand shows that you are a professional organisation.
Often, companies regard branding as an afterthought – 'now we need a logo / new logo' – it's far more important than that. Your brand is at the heart of what you do – and how you do it differently from your competitors. It allows to you to compete on factors other than price.
What about those websites that will create a £5 logo for any organization or business? Is that a viable option for small businesses/self-employed with little or no budget for branding?
As a start-up business myself, I totally understand the need to keep costs down. But, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for!
Rather than cost, think about value. Your logo is a key visual part of your brand – and it needs to be original, distinct, and memorable to you. Something created for £5 obviously won't have a great deal of care and attention lavished on it – and definitely won't be original and bespoke.
Part of becoming a successful, professional business is thinking like a successful, professional business. Just ask yourself – would a successful, professional business use a £5 logo site? Is that the best start to your new venture?
It's a mindset thing – think of your brand as an asset rather than a cost – and the return you get will be worth your initial investment. You will also find that the investment might not be a much as you feared. A branding professional will work with you, and your budget, and help you get the best 'bang for your buck'.
Incidentally – those £5 logo sites aren't always the bargain that they're cracked up to be – prices tend to start from £5 – and there are additional charges if you require (and you will) a vector file – if you do use them, make sure you know what the final invoice will be, and what it includes. It's worth doing five minutes of research – just Google 'the downside of using…' and put the name of the service/website you're thinking of using.
What’s your best advice for new business ventures seeking to establish a visual brand and use it to best advantage in their marketing efforts?
Believe in yourself. Think like a professional. Take your brand seriously. Think of it as your most important company asset.
Think beyond your logo – think about your mission – your vision – and your goals.
Talk to an expert! (I would say that, wouldn't I?) As I've alluded to above, a brand is about so much more than a logo – it's the 'essence' of your business. Find someone to work with you to discover what makes your offer unique. This shouldn't be an arduous task – the process should be fun, and engaging – and can be done over a coffee or two (either face to face, or over the phone, or Skype).
Think about how and where your brand will appear – not just on a business card – but also on your website – on your LinkedIn profile – on your invoices – on your vehicle livery – on your corporate uniform (even a one-man-band can have a branded polo shirt!). A good branding expert will suggest things you probably haven't considered.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you wish we had?
I think you've pretty much covered it… great questions! I'm happy to talk to anybody about start-up branding, or companies who want to take the next step.
Before you go
How did you go about designing your current company logo? Do you think it does a good job of visually representing your brand or do you wish you'd gone a different route?