Getting Started: Finding Inspiration + Visualizing

Someone recently asked us how we get the creative juices going on a branding project, and we thought it was a great question. Frankly, the answer is everywhere. However, there is a lot of strategy and thought that goes into getting a project started. In the past, we used to ask our clients to send a Pinterest Board with visuals they thought would fit with their brand (that was yet to be designed) along with a completed Brand Questionnaire. We have found that the visuals pulled were too often based on personal preferences without the brand in mind. As a result, defining a clear cut visual strategy and direction became a bit difficult. To give an example for this, we worked on a rebranding project in which the verbal communication we receive was that they wanted the brand to be upscale, timeless, simple, and refined. Unfortunately, the visuals that they pulled were to the contrary.

More recently, we’ve transitioned out of that into a more simplified and guided process in which we ask for a few examples (no Pinterest boards) of brands they like and dislike and the why’s behind them. We did this because it gives us the opportunity to curate the visuals from the get-go with their specific brand in mind. To break it down, we distill the information from the questionnaire and create a brand strategy that serves as a foundation and point of reference for the duration of the project.

So, we wanted to offer a few practicals for this, as well as some of our favorite sites to look through for inspiration. While you may or may not know some of these resources, here are some of our favorites:

01. Sites for Design Inspiration
Behance, Dribbble, Design Milk, and of course Pinterest and Instagram are our some of our favorites. Behance and Dribbble are great places to look for inspiration where designers, photographers, and artists will post their work and portfolios. Design Milk is more focused on architecture and interior design and is a handy resource for product and texture inspiration. A major part of getting started and the strategy with that are picking out the buzzwords from a brand questionnaire. When we are searching through some of these sites, we always keep the brands buzzwords in mind. For example, if a reoccurring buzzword in a brand questionnaire for a small brand that offers local goods is ’handcrafted’, we would search for images and designs that have a more organic, approachable and homemade feel versus searching for something that looks and feels highly corporate. In short, we always search and curate visuals for a specific brand that work and fit with the brand direction, vision, and clientele.

02. Sites for Type
The Designers Foundry, You Work for Them, and Fontspring - while we truly dive into specific type at a later point in the design process we always start by visualizing and envisioning what type makes sense with a specific brand early on. For example, we consider if it is going to be a modern and sleek sans serif, a classic serif, or a playful script font. Getting a good gauge for the direction of type early on is foundational and a great reference throughout the entire branding process. We think each typeface has its own personality, so it’s always important to find a complimentary font for each specific brand that matches and exemplifies the personality of the brand. The sites above are some of our favorites to reference great type.

03. Sites for Color
We stumbled upon Coolors a while ago, and it is definitely a fun favorite. You can flip through colors, lock favorites, and start getting a great base of colors for a specific brand you are working on. Another is Adobe Color Wheel - it give you the options of setting complimentary colors, shades, monochromatic, and several other options for a base color. We truly believe specific color choices for a brand are pertinent, should be looked at, and thought about early on. Colors evoke emotions and when chosen properly for a brand, are a way to tie together the emotions and personality of that brand. For example, red evokes emotions such as love and power, while green can evoke freshness and growth. So, in the beginning stages of visualizing and designing a brand, it’s important to start thinking of what colors make sense with that specific brand. Take the example from above, if your brand offers local, handcrafted and personal goods, colors that evoke emotions that are contrary to that brand may not make sense to use.

There they are - some of our go-to tools, but don’t limit yourself. Inspiration can come from anywhere. If you like tattoos, awesome. If you like nature, great. If interior design is what speaks to you, cool. It’s an amazing world out there, but remember the project isn’t about your preferences either.

For designers, it should be using their expertise to curate, guide clients into, and design what fits best for a specific brand, and for clients, it’s about finding a designer you trust to guide the brand in the right direction.