I want to start off by saying that this series has been on my heart for several years now. I played with the idea of turning it into an annual publication, a monthly email blast, or a physical newspaper. But for some reason, the concept of an annual blog series never occured to me until a little over a month ago while I was flying home (who else has their best ideas on airplanes?)
I realize a series like this could certainly be taken the wrong way, so I want to start by sharing my intention for writing it. As a brand designer, my most frequent request is to avoid trends. I understand the sentiment, but have also felt that trends get a bad rap. Just because your favorite indie artist gets a song mixed in with other pop music, doesn’t make the song or the artist bad, or less appealing. It just means a wider range of people appreciate how good it is.
And I feel the same way about design trends. Just because a certain design direction becomes more popular on Pinterest doesn’t mean it becomes less relevant to you. It also doesn’t mean you have to stop liking it. I think what clients are trying to say when we have this conversation is, “Don’t just use a trend on my brand to make it pin-worthy.” And that I can stand behind!
The important thing to remember when acknowledging trends in the design world is to stop and consider if that trend is appropriate for you. It’s important that you’re being original and true to yourself. With every design trend, there are endless ways of applying it to your own story and adding new and interesting context to the design.
Basically, what I’m saying is that you should never just jump into design when it comes to your brand. What’s important is to first start with the story, and then use design as a tool to tell it.
How We Brand
When we first begin working with a client, we identify what they value as a business owner. Our goal is to create a brand that accurately portrays the business it represents, and so we first have to get to know that business and what it stands for. Characteristics such as quality, collaboration, relationship-building, loyalty, service, empathy, compassion, and creative expression might indicate that hands would be appropriate to communicate those values.
The second consideration before the design process begins is to identify their target market. Who do they want to work with and why? What’s important to that customer? How would they respond to those values, and how might their brand be portrayed in a way that will resonate and begin the purchasing process? As consumers, we make purchases based on how we see ourselves - each individual sale adding to the persona of how we, as the consumer, want to be perceived. So taking that into consideration, how does your brand enhance the view that your customer has of themselves?
The final contributing factor before going into design is to articulate the kind of experience that the business owner wants to create for their customer. Think of a brand’s experience like hospitality. If your business was a vacation accommodation, would it be a hotel, airbnb, guest room, motel, or resort - and how would you want your visitor to experience it? In almost all of the projects we’ve worked on whose inspiration included hand illustrations, having a personal relationship with their customer was an important component of their experience. Whether it was educating their customer to understand and appreciate the process of creating a high-end product, or collaborating one-on-one with a client to create something beautiful together, these brands didn’t just want to deliver something high-end - they wanted to connect individually with their customer and learn their unique story.
Here’s What’s Interesting…
We’ve gathered these six design trends of 2018 based on the clients we’ve worked with this year so far, and the patterns we’ve noticed in their inspiration.
Of course, when you ask someone to create a Pinterest board of visual inspiration, you end up with a board of trends that have passed around the internet. But I still find it fascinating to see which designs continue to show up consistently.
It’s also interesting to remember that for the most part, our clients are each other’s target customer. Which means we begin to have a really good sense for what will appeal to each brand’s target customer because we’ve seen from a first-hand experience what inspires them.
All inspiration images sourced from Pinterest.
The first application for using hands, is to show that your product is hand-made. Whether you’re an artisan, expert craftsman, or fine artist, showing that you work primarily with your hands to create something original and distinct may be important to communicate. Your hands are your biggest asset, why not add them to your brand design?
However, you don’t have to add hands to your primary logo to show that you work primarily with them.
Tips for using hands to show your process:
Consider adding hand illustrations in an infographic to show the process of making your project from beginning to end. From sketch, initial creation, and adding the final touches, using hand illustrations to show the personal touch you add to each step can help a customer justify spending a little more for your care and consideration.
Think about adding a hand illustration to a thank you note to show that you had your client or customer in mind when you made your product or delivered your service.
Why not add some hand illustrations to your packaging materials? Maybe with a little sentiment like, “Packaged by hand, and delivered with care.”
The second application for using hands is to show a highly collaborative relationship that your business values with your customers or clients. Whether your brand runs on excellent customer service, or your creative process requires direct input and cooperation from your client, this is a great way to begin setting expectations.
However, you don’t have to add hands to your primary logo to show that collaboration is key.
Tips for using hands to represent your customer relationship:
Try adding a hand illustration in your pricing guide to show that each package is custom to the needs of your client.
Think about creating branded documents if you require input from your client or customer, and adding hands to illustrate which decisions you’ll be making together.
Consider showing your process and including hands to show which part of the process is collaborative, and which parts are independent.
The third application that I’ve seen for using hands is to add personality. Whether you’ve built a personal brand around your influence, or you’re sought after for your unique style and perspective, using hand illustrations to show components of your personality (like my hands-drinking-coffee illustration in the title graphic) is a great way to add clues for who might enjoy following your content.
But, again, you don’t have to add hands to your primary logo to show that you’ve got a distinct personality.
Tips for using hands to add personality to your brand:
Why not create fun hand illustrations to demonstrate your favorite things on your about page?
Think about using fashion illustrations, and hands, to compliment your photography and give your brand an editorial feel.
Consider adding hand illustrations to your media kit to show what you’re best known for, so brands can get a sense of your style and tone when considering a partnership.
As you explore this design direction and consider what this trend might mean for you and your business, I encourage you to really consider the story your brand is telling before you go to Pinterest and start looking for inspiration. It’s so easy to see what everyone else is doing, and think that maybe you should do it too. But when someone feels really passionate about a style and commit to it, it’ll never feel like a passing trend.