Quiz: Should you hire a professional designer for your brand?

 
Quiz: Should I hire a professional designer to brand or create a logo for my blog or business?
 

Are you ready to hire a professional designer for your logo or visual brand?

 

Plus, read the tips below if you're on the fence on one of the most important investments for your blog or business. 

 

Do you have a business name?

Before you can have a graphic designer create a logo for your blog or business, you must have a business name. It's difficult - read: impossible - to create a logo of any type without the letters that make up your brand name. Make sure you've done the research on other companies with the same or similar names, make sure the website and social media handles are all available as well!

Is your blog or business set up legally?

Laws vary by state, but in some states, if you make more than $400 in one year from your business or hobby, you'll need to legally register your business, trademark your business name and get set up to pay quarterly taxes. Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer or tax professional, so be sure to work with a licensed professional for advice on getting your business set up!

Are your services defined?

Let's say you selling engraved wedding invitations on Etsy, but a friend asked you to make her a website, so you decided to do it for the first time. Then you received a random email that asked if you create tutus for children, so you went for it, too. Maybe you decided to start walking dogs as a little extra money on the side. 

It's important to develop a solid foundation for your business before branding it visually. Would you go into a store and let a sales associate dress you without telling them a bit about your personality, comfort level and style? After all, a super feminine personality and style might not fit too well in black leather and skull motifs, am I right?

Unfortunately, you can't brand all of those services and products under one umbrella. You'll need to focus on a defined set of services or products before hiring a designer to create a logo or full brand. That's not to say you won't eventually create an engraving, website design, tutu, dog walking media empire under one umbrella business, but... start small and focused and brand each service or product category separately.

Who is your target audience or client?

This goes hand-in-hand with defined services. While it is possible to market to everyone, everywhere, even massive brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a defined target market. Ever notice how their commercials always seem so... hip? Yes, even with a little controversy. It's not by some mistake! It's branding.

Consider professional programs, like business coaching, before hiring a designer for your brand. Working with a business coach can help you narrow down your ideal client or customer, set the basics of a marketing plan and give you the next steps of making it legal before you formally hire a designer to develop a visual brand or rebrand for your business.

Are you ready to invest?

Ah, this one can be a big one as to whether or not someone hires a professional designer. Always know that you get what you pay for with a designer. A $5 (or even $100!) logo may not be original or research done specifically for your business, audience and services or products. A smart guideline to follow when considering hiring a professional graphic designer for your brand is 10-20% of your annual business income for the year. Keep in mind this isn't every year! A great designer will create a brand that will last several years.

Why is it worth it to invest in a professional? A good brand identity designer will walk you through the process to help narrow down your audience and services. Most designers worth their weight are knowledgeable on basic marketing and branding principles and can help guide you in the right direction for your brand.

A great designer will also often do everything they can to learn about your business before starting the design process, whether that's through a detailed questionnaire, coffee chat or Skype sessions. Each designer works differently, but come prepared with questions on their design process, timeline and portfolio when interviewing designers.

But how much do graphic designers typically cost?

A comprehensive brand identity design or rebrand can start at $1000 if you work with less experienced designers for a full package including a logo, mood board and collateral items like social media graphics, brand style guide, blog graphics, business cards and more.

Larger agencies can charge upwards of $10-20,000 or more; however, this price range reflects established, large-market companies or national brands.

By working with a small design agency with several years of experience, you can expect to pay between $1,500-$5,000 for a complete brand identity design.

What if you're not "ready"?

Hey, there's not a thing wrong with that - we all started somewhere, pal! There are lots of options if you aren't quite ready - legally, financially or business plan-wise.

Here are a few more ways to start branding your business, DIY-style:

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How-to: Font Pairing for Beginners

 

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How to pair fonts in graphic design like a professional - Design tips for bloggers and online businesses by 835 Creative
 

What makes or breaks a design? Is it the size of the graphic? No. How about the colors? Eh, sometimes. But what happens if you have 8 different fonts in different sizes and you have no idea where to look or what some of the things say and now you're totally overwhelmed and you're thinking in run-on sentences because that's what bad font choices can do sometimes? Bingo.

The fonts you use on your graphics for your website, social media and print materials can make or break or small business or organization. It can either make you look 100% professional, you have your stuff together and can provide awesome services or products... Or look like you're running an operation out of the trunk of your car part-time. Choose your fonts wisely!

First, let’s break down some of the font terms:

TYPEFACE

Another word for font! You may hear your designer use typeface and font interchangeably. Don’t panic: it’s totally normal. Now you are prepared and can join the ranks of pro designers who dare never use the word "font." Kidding, we all swap the two terms.

SERIF

A serif font or typeface that has lines attached to the endpoints or stroke of each letter. What does that mean? It means you’ll see little feet, known as a serif, on the bottom of most letters like the H, i, I, m, s, r and f in the graphic below. A terminal appears as a rounded end on some sans-serif characters, like a and f in the graphic below.

Examples of san-serif fonts are Times New Roman (below), Garamond, Bodoni.

 
 

Fun fact: Serif fonts have been proven to be more readable when used at smaller font sizes, such as large blocks of text since the serifs on each letter lead into the next letter more easily.

 

SANS-SERIF

Once you get the hang of serif, sans-serif is pretty self-explanatory. Sans = without. A sans-serif is a font without serifs, or lines attached to the endpoints. Examples: Arial, Helvetica (below), Museo Sans.

 
 

Fun fact: The font, Helvetica, has its very own documentary by Gary Hustwit. It’s not on Netflix Instant, but with a quick online search, you can easily find it online to stream or purchase.


While fonts can easily be broken down into even more categories under serif and san-serif, fonts are typically broken up into three categories: Serif, san-serif and script.

Here are some quick tips on pairing fonts for documents, whether you’re designing a logo, social media graphic, e-book, course or the hundreds of types of collateral for businesses.

USE NO MORE THAN THREE FONTS

This is a golden rule of graphic design, especially for smaller designs. It's usually broken up into three categories: Header, sub-header and body text. Keep in mind that using the bold and italics on the same font does not mean you're adding an extra font! Same font, different weight.

For social media graphics, I recommend only using two fonts. One can be your heading or a large, decorative text, and the other the body text (small-ish type that is often seen in paragraphs). Check out how I design my Instagram graphics:

 
You see two fonts in this graphic: The header and the body text. I repeat the header text at the bottom, in a different, complementary color for my brand to attribute the quote..

You see two fonts in this graphic: The header and the body text. I repeat the header text at the bottom, in a different, complementary color for my brand to attribute the quote..

 

On larger design documents like annual reports, media packets, brand style guides, etc. it's common to see more than three fonts, especially to represent different sections. And of course, this rule can be broken ALL OF THE TIME... as long as you're doing it right. Just starting out? Stick with this rule until you're ready to branch out and can find fonts that complement one another.

PAIR TWO TYPES OF FONTS

Just because you want consistency in your brand identity, it doesn't mean all of your fonts have to look alike! Pair a serif with a sans-serif, or a handwritten with a book font. Find a fun, script font and give it a modern, thin and sleek font to give it pizzazz. It's like yin and yang.

NEVER USE SCRIPT OR NOVELTY FONTS IN LARGE BODIES OF TEXT

A good rule of thumb is if it is more than 5-8 words, it shouldn't be a script font. It's not about being a party-pooper, it's about readability. You want your audience to know what important words you're telling them, quickly and easily. The longer someone has to spend deciphering words, the less likely they'll comprehend it and the less likely they're going to keep reading.

Script fonts are perfect for big, bold headlines and logos. Anything else, you might consider swapping it for another font. Try to think about someone who may have never seen that font before, rather than the fact you can read it.


My favorite spots for fonts: Google Fonts, Creative Market and Font Bundles, all of which offer free, discounted and paid fonts.

Adobe Typekit is a great resource for free fonts, some of which linked above, if you are an Adobe Creative Cloud member. If not, click here to get any (or all!) Adobe Creative Cloud programs starting at less than $10 a month.

If you're a current student, you can receive 60% off Creative Cloud, too.

Why You Need a Brand Style Guide ASAP

 
Why You Need A Brand Style Guide for Your Blog, Business or Organization.

As part of my design services, I create one piece of collateral for my clients that's oh-so-important: A brand style guide. Different from a mood board, which often features images pulled from Pinterest, a color scheme and typography (font) ideas, the brand style guide is the be-all, end-all of your brand. The real deal.

While my style guides for clients vary from a one-sheet to a comprehensive ten-page style guide, it's important as a blogger, small business or organization to have a piece of material that sums up your brand at a quick glance both for a variety of reasons.

 

Who does a brand style guide benefit?

You! The business owner, head honcho, founder, creative director.

Whoever you are at the top of your business or organization, this is what sums up the face of your brand identity. If you're not design-savvy, your brand style guide is a quick and easy way to access your colors, your logos and fonts, whether you're creating a Facebook cover photo in InDesign or a blog post graphic in Canva.

Your employees.

If you're working with contractors for your social media or design projects or bringing on full-time employees, it's important to have a style guide to bring your brand style into the forefront of your employees' minds. Plus, it makes it a cinch for your employees to know your exact colors and other elements that help market and promote your blog or business. Because "light blue" just isn't going to cut it as a color description when you're dealing with designers or printing companies. Bonus: Have Pantone colors on your style guide.

The outside world.

I say outside world since it depends on your niche. At some point, you're going to be working with someone outside of your business or blog.

A brand style guide lets advertisers, sponsors, collaborators, fellow bloggers and the media know which logos are appropriate to use in print, on television or online, plus it will give them a quick idea of your style - both visually and your voice. You'll be surprised at how often even larger organizations can stretch your logo, recolor your logo or even call you by the wrong name! Providing a brand style guide nips it in the bud and makes it easier to approach any oops! that may come up when promoting your blog or business.

Style guide for MaggieGentry from 835 Creative

What should I include in a brand style guide?

As I mentioned earlier, a brand style guide can be as simple as a one sheet or be ten, twenty or even fifty pages long and go into specifics of your brand's voice, imagery and more; however, let's be real: the only ones with fifty-page style guides are massive corporations with many entities (Think: FedEx, Mars, Coca-Cola, etc.)

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your brand style guide:

  • Primary logo
  • Alternative logo(s)
  • One-color logo(s)
  • Brandmarks or icons
  • Colors - RGB, HEX, CMYK, Pantone
  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Typefaces (fonts)
  • Tagline
  • Logo restrictions
  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Collateral examples
  • Catchphrases
  • Images & image style
  • Hashtags
  • Website URL & details
  • About/Biography/History
  • Partners or members

Are you just starting out and want to create your own brand style guide? Download the free template in the Resource Library!

Template includes InDesign files for Creative Cloud and .idml for
older versions of InDesign, plus a Quickstart Guide.

 

Cheatsheet: Adobe InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts & Commands

 
Work quickly and efficiently with the InDesign Keyboard Shortcut Cheatsheet with Commands on text, pages and more. Click to download the PDF cheatsheet!

When I taught graphic design to college students for the first time, I had been an avid user of Adobe Creative Cloud - then known as Creative Suite - for at least a solid decade. One thing I learned with my first students was that those commands I could do in my sleep by waving my fingers across a keyboard... Well, they didn't come naturally to anyone. Period.

That was a huge shock (ha!) when I went through my first tutorial in lab and within the first few minutes was greeted with, "Whoa! Slow down! How did you do that?" On the screen, it probably looked magical. The mouse wasn't moving to the toolbar on the left side of the screen, yet tools would appear, actions would happen and boom, tutorial complete.

That, my friends, is the magic of keyboard shortcuts and commands.

 
 

If you're relatively new - or haven't used it for a while! - InDesign keyboard shortcuts just aren't second nature. You've probably watched video tutorials online where they move so incredibly fast as they name off the steps, you have to watch it ten times.

These shortcuts will save you time when working on your blog graphics, business marketing materials and more. After all, saved seconds add up to minutes, minutes to hours and that's money saved in the long run, right?

 
 

tips on indesign shortcuts

Don't get overwhelmed. Jump to the bottom of this post and download the PDFs. Print them out or even half your screen as you work on projects in InDesign so you can reference your shortcuts. You'll be surprised how quickly they get burned into your brain!

  • The cheatsheets focus on Mac users, but Windows users, don't fear! Anytime you see the command symbol (),  press Control instead.
  • "Tools" shortcuts only use one letter or symbol on the keyboard. This makes the chosen tool active. You'll click as needed to use it, just as you would if you manually selected it from the toolbar.
  • "Command" shortcuts require you to press all designated keys at the same time. Don't get discouraged if you can't quite get the hang of the more complicated, three-plus key shortcuts.

Do you use shortcuts to expedite work in InDesign?
What is your favorite shortcut to use? Comment below!

 

Download the InDesign Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheet through the Resource Library!

 
 
 

Font Roundup: The Best Free Script Fonts

It's time for a font roundup! And what are the best kinds of fonts for creatives and bloggers on a budget? Free ones! Check out my current favorites below that go beyond the script fonts you see every day. You'll find some grunge fonts, some girly fonts, some proper fonts and even some great fonts for branding your next project - or your own business!

Font Roundup_Free Script Fonts - 835 Creative.jpg
 

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The best FREE photo editing tools for bloggers & creatives

 
Best free photo editing tools for bloggers and creatives on a budget
 

It's time to round up the best free picks when it comes to editing images for your blog, social media or website! Whether you're just starting out and have a limited budget, your computer crashed and you're sans software for a while or you only edit photos once in a blue moon, here are the top tools for zip, zero, nada to help make your images shine their very best.

pixlr

Though I personally work in Photoshop and Lightroom, Pixlr is my favorite free app, especially for bloggers and creatives on a budget. Pop open right in your browser, this website offers two versions: Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express. Express is perfect if your photo is a tad too dark and you need to lighten it up, a photo is a little caddy-wonky and needs to be straighten up a bit or go for a basic, all around, no-thought-required auto-fix.

Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Express

My preference though, and the best bang for your free buck, is Pixlr Editor. It looks like a browser version of Photoshop and works (and looks!) eerily similar to the Adobe workhorse. Spot heal, burn, sharpen, lighten, smudge, clone stamp… you name it, Pixlr Editor has it. You can even work with layers! If you’ve used Photoshop in the past and miss it, crave it, but can’t quite work it into your budget, jump on over to Pixlr. Speaking as a professional, Pixlr is the most cohesive and intuitive free image editing program.

fotor

Fotor is a great, basic in-browser photo editor, similar to Pixlr. Access simple editing features like exposure, contrast, curves, sharpness, among other necessities. Take it to the next level by clicking on the beauty tab on the left and with (majorly!) advanced tweaks like skin smoothing, blemish fixes and tools to make your teeth sparkle. And there’s a first time for everything: Fotor even includes a tool to make your eyebrows on fleek. I’m not hip. I think I used that slang wrong. Or too late. Whoops!

Be aware, though: In order to use the browser version of Fotor, your image must be smaller than 8MB; however, you can download Fotor for desktop and get to editing those larger files, plus features like batch processing, collage and more.

Bonus! You can also take Fotor on the road by downloading the app for iOS or Android. Double bonus! You can also design everything from social media cover photos to posters and greeting cards all in the browser, too. Just hit the Design link at the top of the homepage.

gimp

In terms of free photo editing tools, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a little different, since it requires you to download the program right to your computer; however, the features are worth having. It’s possible that GIMP is the most advanced free image editing tool out there, so long as you aren’t being illegal with a hacked version of Photoshop. Don’t do that! Download GIMP.

GIMP offers nearly all of the tools you'll get from Photoshop - yep, Photoshop, not just Elements - but with a slightly different layout and overall theme, but those differences are purely visual. GIMP also uses the same shortcuts and keyboard commands as Photoshop, so if you're a big nerd like me and shortcuts are second nature, I'd recommend you download GIMP immediately. It's also great if you absolutely don't have access to Illustrator and need a quick fix to create graphics and logos using the pen tool. 

You'd think there would be commercial restrictions to such a full-bodied, free program, right? Nope. Use GIMP to edit to your heart's desire to produce work commercially. 

Bonus! GIMP also offers a small archive of tutorials, which offers guidance on how to get started with image manipulation and advanced photo editing.

In the meantime, what are your favorite tools to edit photos for your blog, social media or website?

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When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign? An Adobe Creative Cloud rulebook.

 
When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign? Tips on when to use Adobe Creative Suites for different tasks for graphic designers, bloggers and small business owners.
 

Every profession has their tools of the trade. Chefs all have a favorite knife, nurses a stethoscope and photographers have a favorite lens for the job at hand.

You wouldn’t use Microsoft Word to create a 10-page spreadsheet, would you? While it is entirely possible, it isn’t exactly effective. The same goes for your favorite Adobe Creative Suite (now known as Creative Cloud) programs.

One of the biggest questions I get as an instructor and designer is, "When should I use Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator?" Here we’re going to talk about the difference between a designer’s crown jewels of the Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and the best uses for each program for designers, non-designers and bloggers alike.

Before we break down into the digital goodness, I’ll be upfront: You’ll hear opinions on the best program for each design job from people all across the world wide web. Everyone has an opinion! Some programs may work better for others due to their knowledge of each, but here’s what works best for me as a graphic designer and how I’ve guided my students in the past.

Let’s start off simply: Photoshop is for images. Illustrator is for creating vector-based logos and illustrations. InDesign is for text-heavy documents and merging the worlds of images, graphics and text.

 
 

photoshop

Ah, Photoshop. My old friend. I’ll be honest: before I got heavy into graphic design, I held on tightly to my good buddy Photoshop. In fact, I started out with Photoshop in 2000. I created everything from photo manipulations (yes) and tacky teenage filters on said photos (sure, why not?) to graphics for zines and logos for friends’ imaginary businesses (noooo!). Those are things you’ll never see in a #ThrowbackThursday. Sorry, world!

But in all seriousness, being a photographer who morphed into a graphic designer over the years, I’ve used Photoshop for just about everything. Then I realized that Photoshop is so, so perfect for editing images and not so ideal for creating graphics and laying out text.

Let’s take a look at generally what happens when you bring our text friend into Photoshop:

 
When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign?
 

 

Not gorgeous, is it? I know. So sad. So pixilated. Let’s go over a few of Photoshop’s best uses:

  • General photo editing
  • Photo manipulation
  • Animated gifs
  • Banner ads
  • Mock ups of products or print work

Photoshop is a pixel-based program,* so for photographers, Photoshop is your jam when it comes to advanced image editing like color balance, curves/levels, brightness/contrast and so on. 

Want to blur out a background, add a dinosaur in the clouds, slim your legs, create a gif of your cat walking on its hind legs? Fire up the ol’ PS to manipulate your photos to the moon and back. You can even bring in some of your designs in Illustrator to create a 3D mockup of your latest book on swamp people. The world is your manipulative oyster.

*Yes, you can bring vectors in! It’s not ideal nor as easy to work with as it is in Illustrator or InDesign. We’ll talk about that later. But hey, what are pixels and why does it matter? We’ll be doing a post about pixels and your most common design phrases in the next few weeks!

illustrator

For anyone who is jumping into Illustrator for the first time (or third or tenth and you’re still confused): you’re not alone. The pen tool can be intimidating. What in the world is a blob brush, anyway? However, once you’ve mastered the basics, Illustrator can be a wonderful tool to let your creativity seep out of your brain, through your hands and onto your screen.

Feel like creating a graphic for a 12 foot tall banner sliding down the side of building? Branding for a new product? A logo to pop onto your business cards and network with the world? Illustrator is here, ready for action.

Illustrator is vector-based, which means you can create artwork which will remain crisp and clear no matter how large or small you scale it - the complete opposite of pixel- or raster-based artwork. Illustrator has countless tools to help you manipulate text and shapes, making it perfect for posters and strong visual illustrations.

When it comes to images, step away from the AI. When placing images in Illustrator, it’s difficult to crop - compared to InDesign and Photoshop - within your Artboard. I like to think of Illustrator as the abstract, artsy-fartsy sibling of InDesign. InDesign can easily create creative works of art, but Illustrator feels its essence. Too weird? I thought so. Let’s move on.

indesign

As a designer, I consider InDesign my absolute go-to. My always-there-for-you-in-times-of-need pal. In my previous life employed as a full-time designer, InDesign was never not open on my computer. Drop photos in, crop, create simple illustrations and shapes and upload to social media or your website. In my opinion, InDesign can do it all as long as you’re not looking for the advanced options from the other two programs.

InDesign is the best of both worlds in terms of vector and pixel-based images, text and shapes. For bloggers or small business owners, InDesign is your best best for creating media kits, e-books, brochures and other print and digital files that require several pages. You won’t find page options in Illustrator or Photoshop.

It works seamlessly with Illustrator and Photoshop. Place an illustration for Illustrator and you can make minor edits to the color or shape. Need to edit an image you’ve placed in the document to be a little bit brighter? Right click > "Edit… WIth". Once the edit is complete, InDesign will update the image to its newest version without a second thought.

Here is a quick list of InDesign’s strengths:

  • Type-heavy documents
  • Brochures
  • Social media graphics
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Multiple-page documents (page automation)
  • Print files
  • Text wrapping

And, of course, with strengths, come weaknesses: Vector drawing capabilities aren’t as strong as Illustrator’s. While you can create simple line drawings and shapes, you’re better off hopping over to InDesign’s sibling, Illustrator to knock out that logo from scratch. Another weakness of InDesign is with its image manipulation: you can easily crop and resize images and there are a few image editing filters, but not too many. Jump on over to Photoshop!

what's next?

From here, the jury is split. Personally, I’ll create any vectors, logos, icons or brandmarks in Illustrator and drop them into my InDesign file to lay out surrounding text and export from InDesign for things like social media graphics, business cards and media kits. Some lay text over images in Photoshop, but I would rather have the ability to make the graphic larger at a later date without worrying about pixilation. Some create their web graphics solely in Illustrator. From here, it’s your choice!

A question I’m asked a lot is which single program in the Creative Cloud should someone invest in. As someone who uses all three in tandem to create graphics, branding, illustrations and marketing materials, it’s difficult to say. It depends on the person. If you never plan on using illustrations, you could get by with only Photoshop. Never plan to make major changes to images, but lay out lots of texts for e-books, brochures and more? InDesign may be your best investment. If your main business is creating family illustrations for holiday greeting cards, Illustrator could be the program you’ll benefit most from.

Comment below and let me know which programs you use the most for your daily tasks! Have questions about how to use the programs? Shout it out below! I’ll include your questions in future blog posts about some of each programs’ FAQs for small business owners and bloggers.

Get access to Adobe Creative Cloud by clicking here.

Interested in just one of the programs? Follow the links below:
Photoshop (Lightroom included!) | InDesignIllustrator

 

Download the free, four-page guide to Adobe Creative Suite through the Resource Library!