Branding Basics Therapy

Don't be daunted by design. Follow these basic branding principles and guidelines.

Savvy Mom and Etsy are teaming up to inspire mothers to start their own business and open their own Etsy shops in 2014. For readers interested in opening their own shop, Etsy is offering a special discount allowing you to open your shop with twenty item listings for free!

To help you get started, please check our previous posts at #ProjectNewYear or Etsy Landing page.

authorAuthor: Julia Hoffmann is the Global Creative Director for Etsy. Prior to this, Julia served as the Creative Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In her role as head of the Advertising and Graphic Design Department she oversaw the brand identity and design for exhibition graphics, advertising, signage and collateral projects for all of MoMA’s exhibitions and programs.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Julia earned her BFA from New York’s School of Visual Arts, where she was also a faculty member the last five years. She lives with her newborn daughter and husband in Berlin, Germany.

Today it has become the norm for businesses to embrace branding and design in order to successfully communicate to their customers what they are selling. Branding has become a big topic in the last few decades; thousands of books have been written about branding, treating it almost like a science. To sum up branding tips in one blog post is nearly impossible.

Designer Therapy
As a new small business, you should not be held back by the potentially daunting task of composing a logo and everything that comes with it for your new brand. You can take baby steps, one by one. If you have the opportunity, connect with a design student or a local graphic design studio; a little bit of advice goes a long way. The conversations you have with others about your brand are invaluable and will help you run your business better. The process can be like going to a therapist, who will help you structure your life better.

However, there are a few core principles of good design and branding that, whether big or small, every business can try to follow. I usually consolidate it to this: tell your story consistently, and embrace simplicity.

Think of an ecosystem where all aspects influence each other
It is important to remember that a brand is not a logo alone. As a graphic designer I like to start with creating a visual language for yourself, that consists of a logo, as well as a set of colors, typefaces, patterns, textures, photography style and so on. Think about anything you need to express your brand visually, and how various aspects will work with one another.

I usually believe that for each category less is more, that way the repetition in all touch points is more frequent. For example if you feature the same (or similar) elements on your storefront, business cards and then again within an email, the customer will start to connect the dots and remember your brand visually. It’s important that the elements are assembled differently based on each application, so instead of brand fatigue your customer will be intrigued with each interaction.

In the case of your shop on Etsy, think about the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you selling?
  • How do you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Get started with the name of your shop

  • Start by writing your shop name in simple capital letters in the center of a large white paper.
  • Write anything that you associate with your brand and the name around it.
  • Take out your colour crayons, and select colours that either fit to your products, name or brand personality. You are building a map full of initial ideas, so try to use your gut more than your head.
  • Once you’ve emptied your brain onto the sheet, start connecting dots and combining the meaning of the name with a visual representation.
  • You can create an iconic representation or just a typographic solution or both.

Set rules for yourself
Translate your design rules on into every aspect of your shop, including your packaging, product photography and copywriting. For example, if your background style is a white background with no props, stick to it and stay cohesive. Try to use similar lighting. You can always try other things when you introduce a new collection. Once you set your own design rules and you are comfortable using them, you can slowly start breaking them if you feel like it.

Simplicity is often the best route
Unless you have a very clever idea that works, keep it simple for now. You want your products to speak for themselves, and don’t want your visual identity to compete with it. A good logo will survive many, many years.

Examples of shops with clear visual identities
THE KNIT KID has developed their identity with a simple black circle. Their photography style is consistent across multiple channels, both on their own website and within their Etsy shop. The logo does not interfere with their products and there is enough white space to let the designs breathe.


Another interesting store is Present & Correct, which doesn’t have an iconic logo, but instead take their subject matter (stationery) literally, running with the theme throughout their website and Etsy shop consistently.

Present and Correct

If you are an illustrator or talented with hand lettering and have a specific style, flaunt these talents in your visual identity, like illustrators Tim Easley and Rob Ryan

Tim Easley.

robert ryan

It can even be as simple as picking a nice typeface, like Sarah & Bendrix:

Sarah & Bendrix

Want to test out your new branding skills?
Try making a mood board that resembles your branding most through an Etsy Treasury—here’s how. Through Treasuries you can curate your own themed mood boards by adding Etsy items to your list. Here’s an example of a Treasury with the theme of Ice Worlds:

Ice Worlds

In this assignment you can name your Treasury with your brand name or a theme name that comes close to your branding. Once you have curated your Treasury, share the link in the special team Mother’s Finest and get feedback from others on your branded collection!

Inspired to open your Etsy shop?
Etsy and Savvymom are offering a promotion to give first time sellers a helping hand. Get 20 free listings when you open your first Etsy shop. After that, it costs only $.20 to list an item for four months.
Open Your Etsy Shop Today!


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