A consistent, online visual brand identity, has a massive influence on whether audiences or industry decision makers take you seriously. If I googled you today, what would I find? Creating an effective brand for your creative career or theatre company takes time but there are simple steps you can take now to make a great first impression in a short amount of time.
You have more influence than you realise
We all understand that our online presence is important as artists and creatives but are you aware just how much it influences potential audiences and industry decision makers?
We all do it. We make snap decisions based on what we find when we go to a theatre company's website or social media profiles. The website is poorly designed or outdated and their Instagram feed is uninspiring. What goes through your head? Is it, "Wow. These guys are doing great stuff and I want to be involved." If you're truly honest, that is not what you think. It's what you'd like to believe but it's not what goes through our heads, is it.
Whether we like it or not, first impressions are a thing, even for artists. It's our responsibility to speak for our art and, if how we're presenting ourselves online is getting in the way of a program manager from accepting our proposal for that arts festival because they don't think you're professional enough or an asset to their program, then we need to make changes.
Over the years, I have changed audience perception of theatre companies and artists purely through changing their visual brand identity (what they look like online). I've found that once I removed the barrier of poor visual presentation, audiences and industry decision makers started to take more notice. It's not everything but it's a huge and positive start and relatively simple to implement.
Part of branding is removing barriers. You can take a few simple steps to create a professional image that removes the things that were masking your creativity from the world. Isn't that what you want? People to see the art; just the art? Good, simple visual brand design allows you to do that. It's about creating a visual brand that supports your art rather than overpower it for the wrong reasons.
1. Keep it super simple
The right tools
Create a canva.com account. The free one will be enough to begin with although the Pro version gives you much more flexibility (this is not a paid recommendation btw). I've used this platform for years and it has saved me thousands of hours. Canva allows you to house everything you need in one online space. You can even sync the desktop version with a phone app, allowing you to work on the go.
In your Canva account, create a simple brand guide. SIMPLE. At this stage you don't need a 54 page document. You just need to record your choices of how you will consistently present your visual brand (colours, fonts, logo, etc). This will save you spending hours searching for elements every time you create online content.
Canva is a tool I couldn't live without in all my work for creatives. I can create gifs, print-ready documents, remove the backgrounds of photos, create videos for social media, animated posts, all my social media content in the right formats, branded overlays for videos and organised every brand I work with for easy workflow when I'm working late on a Friday night.
Your website is important
This is one area that I would recommend you invest in. A good web developer has the skill required to design a simple website that serves you with good search engine optimisation, user functionality and, of course, good graphic design. If hiring a professional is not an option at the moment, there are ways to make your Instagram and Facebook profiles into mini websites.
2. Build your visual identity
Choose your fonts
Choose two fonts - one for headings and one for paragraphs. I would recommend something simple, clear and easy to read like Open Sans. You can use it in BOLD for headings. You want a font that translates easily on the web, and one that can be read clearly on social media. Remember that 70% of your posts are read on a phone. Tiny screens are not the friend of overly fancy fonts.
Choose a few colours
You will need a colour palette to represent your theatre company or creative brand. Plan on choosing three colours. Your base colour, accent colour and a neutral colour. Brand colour schemes can have between one and four colours but even monochrome schemes will require some variation in hues for different purposes.
A word about your logo
Here's where things can get bogged down. Understand that your logo is NOT your brand. It's the visual identity mark of your brand. It's how people quickly recognise that it's you. I've seen theatre companies go into battle over the lack of understanding about logos. Think of the apple of Apple Computers. You see the apple and you instantly know who it represents but apples have nothing to do with the company. It's how you consistently use the logo that matters.
You will need a light and a dark version of your logo (PNG files with a transparent background). If you're unsure of how to design one, go with the common lettered logo - your theatre company's name - in a simple font. Take my business logo as an example. My logo is my name. I have it in white and in green (my main brand colour). The little spectacles that hang over my name are used separately throughout my branding and become recognisable as me.
3. Stay organised
Keep things together
Folders are an option of the Pro version of Canva. These will save you hours. When you sort your social media templates, Digital Media Pack templates, Audition Packs, and the many, MANY pieces of content you need in the marketing process, you will find that consistency - SUPER IMPORTANT - is simple to maintain. You're not making a new decision about fonts, colours or style every time you create content.
It's all about consistency
Finally, I hope you've picked up on the secret to a professional looking brand identity - consistency. Consistent use of fonts, colour palette and imaging goes a HUGE way to creating a professional looking online brand presence. I have changed the public perception of theatre companies with this principle. Make sure your brand identity includes print materials, your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), proposals, ticketing, absolutely everything your audience comes in contact with. Over time, you can influence the perception of your brand, career or theatre company in the minds of audiences and industry decision makers. I've used this simple process over and over again with all sorts of projects with consistent success.
Want to talk more about how to create a consistent visual brand identity? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website at sherrylleesecomb.com