Today I'm going to walk you through the process and finished brand story for one of my awesome clients, Nicole from The Career Oasis!
I've just finished The Career Oasis website and branding package.
Well, we're almost done - there's a few collateral assets I'm making for her. Branding is a collaborative effort. Nicole is working on some client workbook items and we're still discussing a few social media assets that we want to make for her!
For Nicole's branding, I created a custom logo and secondary logo marks, a cohesive color scheme, a mood board and collection on-brand stock photos, as well as a website and font pairings. I've made her some social media assets and we are working on a few more items.
It's kind of bratty, but one of my greatest satisfactions is taking a small business brand from meh to awesome. There are SO many entrepreneurs and small business owners out there who are doing outstanding customer work, really going the extra mile and providing great service, and they have either no branding or it's an incohesive mess.
Nicole is a fabulous career coach with a warm, sweet, non-nonsense approach to coaching. She's so organized and knowledgeable about all things career related - interviews, getting calls from recruiters, LinkedIn, resumes - all that jazz.
But, her brand was definitely not up to the quality of her offerings. Like a lot of small business owners, she didn't know a lot about branding and certainly didn't know how to do it for herself. And, she was too busy with clients to put much thought or effort into it. She knew she needed to get a solid branding strategy underway, but she felt overwhelmed and didn't know where to start.
Luckily, I knew where to start! Nicole and I spent some time video chatting and messaging each other, so I could get a great feel for the brand story for The Career Oasis. She already had an idea of what she wanted, but couldn't visualize it fully. She had already had someone create a logo for her, but she wasn't happy with the design. I made sure to ask her questions about what she did and didn't like about it. When I'm interviewing clients, oftentimes the don't know how to fully articulate why the do or don't like something - so I carefully pick up on clues and read between the lines to determine how to translate their feedback into design.
Here's the breakdown of The Career Oasis branding story!
Nicole stated that her clients are mostly career women from various ethnicities and walks of life. She wanted a strong brand focus on inclusiveness, and warm professionalism. Her clients aren't frilly girly girls - she wanted the brand aesthetic to be feminine, yet refined.
Words that encompass The Career Oasis brand identity are warm, inviting, professional, feminine, strong, capable, confidant, friendly, down-to-earth and rich.
I kept these descriptors in mind throughout the design process to inform my choices.
We also discussed the scope of the project - she knew a lot of what she needed, and I helped her fill in the blanks for things she wasn't sure about - such as how many and what pages her website should have, as well as social media templates she might need.
2. Mood Board and Color Scheme
Before I get started with serious design, I like to create a mood board. This allows the client to look over the colors and vibe that I'm envisioning for the brand story and make sure it's in line with what they want. Luckily, Nicole had already started a Pinterest board for her brand. She had curated a strong aesthetic so I was able to really understand her vibe and style right away. I added some things of my own and pulled images to create a mood board to send to her. I also pulled a colors scheme from the images, using the most repeated colors and adding accents that would pull it together.
The prevailing theme was bright but dark. It includes tropical plants, natural themes, rich, natural shades of greenery, peacock, pumpkin, emerald, and azure. Pattern and texture was very evident. Since the brand colors are very rich, I kept the color palette limited and chose to use the brand colors with white and black liberally to balance them.
Nicole wasn't happy with the previous logo - she thought it was too generic, and didn't adequately describe her brand.
While it's not a bad logo, I understood what she meant. To me, the logo is a little unbalanced - the thin lines in the Philodendron leaves are out of sync with the large dark circle and thicker lines of the monogram.
I played around with several sketches. We wanted to keep the imagery in line with her brand's name - The Career Oasis. She really liked the concept of a briefcase with tropical foliage - however, we wanted to make sure that it wasn't too busy, so that the logo could be used on business cards without losing image quality. Here are a few of the concept sketches I made.
We were going in a good direction, but these were still a little too busy. Often I like to put pen to paper and draw out several more "illustrative" designs before going into Adobe Illustrator and paring the design down. I wanted the design to be symmetrical and encapsulated in a shape.
I tried circles, squares and diamond shapes, before settling on a double tear drop or rounded diamond shape. It's unique and interesting, and it makes a beautiful stylized leaf shape - perfect for the philodendron leaf that's a major part of The Career Oasis branding.
Because Nicole's aesthetic was very textural, I created and vectorized a watercolor texture to use inside the leaf shape. I also added a gold foil texture to the band on the briefcase, to give it a rich and upscale vibe.
The new logomark is unique, simple, textural, and has both of the elements that Nicole liked - a leaf and a briefcase. For the wordmark, I chose the good old standby - Futura PT. One of Nicole's main asks was that any fonts used in the design easy to read - many of her customers are 40 and up. Futura is easy on the eyes, and the combination of rounded and sharp letterforms mimic the shapes in the logomark.
At Nicole's request, I also made her a simple, geometric secondary mark that mimics the shape of the main logo.
One of the things Nicole needed the most was a website. She had already purchased TheCareerOasis.com, and tried to build a website for herself. However, it proved too confusing and she had put it aside. Without a working website, she didn't have anywhere to direct clients - and she was even putting off printing her business cards! That had to change.
Since Nicole isn't a tech guru, it was important to her that the website be simple and easy to navigate. I built her a pared down 4 page Squarespace website. The landing page short, but information heavy. I paired vibrant, textural images with relevant content, on a clean white field. Navigation is neatly tucked into a hamburger menu at the top left, as well as placed logically on the landing page to lead viewers to the relevant information.
Her scheduling and newsletter sign up options are prominently placed in the footer, which shows on all pages.
Messaging for The Career Oasis website is direct, inspirational, aspirational, and down to earth, just like Nicole.
With an eye to easy reading and clean, classic style, I chose Bodoni and Josefin Sans for Nicole's website and brand fonts. For the titles, Bodoni is a classicly styled, elegant serif font. It's got a rich, up market appearance, but is still easy to read. For the body text, Josefin Sans is a sans serif font that's modern, simple, and attractive. Together, they give just the right vibe for The Career Oasis.
The last step to getting The Career Oasis up and running was to integrate Nicole's newsletter, email, and scheduling apps. Now she can answer client questions and collect emails, and clients can schedule her through her Acuity scheduling with ease.
5. Imagery and additional assets
Nicole didn't have a big budget for stock imagery, so we went with royalty free stock photos from Unsplash.com. She already had found some she liked, and I used those as well as sourcing some new ones to create a small image library for her that she can use for social media posts, blog posts, flyers, or other media. These images include stylish, capable multi-ethnic women - the kind of clients that Nicole works with, as well as mood photos of tropical plants.
Having a logo, color palette and images is all well and good - but if your client isn't a designer or marketing guru, the might not know how to utilize them for their brand.
That's why part of my branding package is creating assets and templates for my clients to use.
I recommend Canva to my clients - it's free and easy to set up and use. I can create templates for my clients that they can edit and download or print easily.
Nicole already used Canva, luckily. That makes it easy for me to make templates like these social media posts for her. She can simply make a copy, change the words, colors, and images, and still have posts that look on-brand.
We are still working on some of her additional assets - writing copy for workbooks and client welcome packages takes a little while.
To me, branding for a client is a relationship that will continue. The client may need additional support or assets in the future, and I like to be there for them. I have a personal interest in my clients and the work I do, so I wouldn't want to leave them high and dry.
I'm really pleased with The Career Oasis brand - and Nicole is too! It makes me happy that she can now point clients to a beautiful, clean and inspirational website - and she can finally print those business cards!
What do you think of The Career Oasis brand story?
Like the brand board template I used? You can get the collection here through my affiliate link!
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