If all went accordingly all the time, everyone would follow the steps for building a brand, and perfection would ensue–but life doesn’t proceed in a straight line. So neither does building your business’s brand. This is especially true for artists. We are all familiar with the starving artist trope. When starting your craft, building enough revenue to invest in marketing takes time. But the key is not to take shortcuts. Instead, maneuver your artist business through the style essentials and plan to phase out the process so you can stay on top of the curve instead of letting the curves roll over you and drown your brand in a sea of sameness.
Here are a few hacks we love for artist brands that can save time and scratch for your initial rollout.
To be clear, these tricks do not and should not replace a complete brand strategy and guide with a logo and identity package designed just for your brand. They will help you get off the starting line but to win the race set a goal date in mind to address your branding with a professional so you can scale. But when budget and time don’t allow for those crucial brand pieces to be fully realized before your launch or a big break in your artist career, what can you do?
Choose a few key style essentials to be the base of your initial identity package. Make sure they feel genuine to you, your values, and goals, and then be consistent with them until you are ready to hire a designer to build your strategy, guide, and logo. Let's go through the style decisions you will want to make.
COLOR Choose two to three colors and pull the hex values so you can ensure the exact color you choose is used every time you build a marketing asset. You can find these in Word if you don’t have photoshop. Watch the video below for the step-by-step process.
Use these colors consistently on your website and other marketing materials. Later, a designer can convert these colors to PMS colors for you and potentially expand your palette to help tell the whole story of your brand using color theory.
FONTS Choose commercial fonts that are easily accessible to you. They must be commercial. Anything that says free for personal use only will require payment to have a commercial license. If you love the font and want to purchase it, great! If free is your goal, then make sure it’s a free commercial font. Start with sites like dafont.com or fontsquirell.com.
Don’t neglect your computer’s operating system. Sometimes, a winner is in there.
Choose a headline font and a body font.
Make sure the body font has a bold and italic version.
Test them out to make sure they are readable before committing.
Do they look good together?
LOGO There is no substitution for a qualified designer to create your logo. Fast and cheap is exactly that–fast and cheap. This is one of the most visible pieces of your identity package. It appears on everything, and a designer will know how to translate your vision into a meaningful mark. But wait, you still have no budget?
As a temporary solution, choose a different font from the body and headline font you picked above. Type your business name or personal name in Word in a few different sizes. Then, take a screenshot of the type-only marks and use them in all your marketing. This will not provide you with all of the different formats that you will undoubtedly need at some point for merch and other marketing materials with specific formatting requirements. It should not be your long-term solution. However, nothing screams homemade as much as a logo typed in the same font as the rest of your website. Avoid this and take the time to make these type-only marks for yourself. A few overused fonts to steer clear of:
· Comic Sans
Here’s a quick step-by-step to create the type-only mark described above.
PHOTOS Luckily as an artist, you will have some original content. But there are instances where you’ll need a photo or texture to fill in a marketing piece. Check out stock sites if photoshoots are not in the budget. Friendly advice on photos, try to avoid cheesy office photos. Your brand deserves better. Seek out a handful of background textures and lifestyle photos that feel good to you and are relevant to what you do or sell. Example: An author that writes non-fiction about plant life could find close-up textures of leaves. HEADSHOT Invest in one well-lit personal photo of yourself for your website and press kit. If you don’t have one, have a friend take one in an outdoor space with minimal background noise. An artist is part of their brand. Present professionally.
VOICE It takes a well-organized dive into the target audience to build a true voice profile for your brand but to get started, choose a few words that feel genuine to your artist’s statement. These words will become a checklist to compare against when writing social copy, website copy, or any customer-facing copy. For more tips on the tone of voice, check out our article here written by marketing expert and award-winning copywriter Eileen Lemish.
If you follow the steps above, you will have the beginnings of your style guide. The style rules for your brand.
Now, the most challenging part – enforcing them.
Diligence is a must to reap the benefits of repetition, which helps people remember a brand. You will be tempted to step outside the rules, but if you do, you will lose any equity you have built in your artist's brand. Be patient to preserve your point of view and accept a little imperfection in the short term to achieve consistency and excellence in the long term.
Why this works for artist brands
This strategy typically works for artists because since you are an individual-led brand, people expect you to evolve, which is perfect for this strategy! So, when you upgrade to a fully fleshed-out brand strategy and all the trimmings, it will feel like the next chapter of your artist evolution and will hopefully create opportunities for new audiences and old ones to reconnect. But, it only works if you are consistent with the temporary set of style rules.
Author/Editor: Jennifer Hart, Creative Director and founder of Hart House Creative
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Hart House Creative Team
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