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 The website is poorly designed or outdated and their Instagram feed is uninspiring.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 have it all together. They must be doing great art!" 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 our image will be attractive to their audiences (yes, that happens), then we need to make changes.
Over the years, I have changed audience perception of theatre companies and artists purely through changing their visual branding 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.
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 more flexibility (I am not getting paid for this). 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. I've added a page from my own brand guide here for inspiration. This guide is a library of choices that consistently present your visual brand without 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, even branded overlays for videos.
Your website is important
This is one area that I would recommend you invest in. Agood 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 a hiring 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. Find your mood
Create a mood board
Pop back and have a look at the sample mood board and check out the theme that is built for my brand. Based on my colour palette, I created a library of photographs that represent a mood, vibe, a feel. My brand is relaxed and fun. The language I use is conversational. I try to project my personality. The photos on my brand board consistently represent that. They're visually attractive and consistent. Choose enough that you have variety.
Canva has a huge selection of great free photographs (the Pro version has even more). You can also find beautiful images on unsplash.com. These are free but it is good to credit the photographer when you use them.
Keep things together
In canva, when you find an image to add to your mood board, hover over the photo and click on the three little dots at the top right of the image. Scroll to the bottom of the drop down menu and you will find a folder icon which allows you to add the photo to a folder you've named 'Brand Images'. Now they're nice and easy to find quickly. Folders are an option of the Pro version of Canva.
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. 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