Danielle Kay Harris: A Brand Case Study
I know this is a bit long, but I want to give you a more in depth look at my entire process. There is so much more that goes into brand design and brand styled photography than simply selecting fonts and colors or taking a few photos for your website and social media. It requires knowledge of principles of design and color theory, market research of your business, competitors, and audience, strategizing and creating an action plan, styling your brand in a way that will engage your audience, and so much more. So I am going to share the process I went through to strategize and style my own personal brand, Danielle Kay Harris.
In the months since becoming a mom, I’ve experienced a renewed passion for my work as a designer and photographer. I’ve found my purpose in helping small business owners craft authentic brand stories through cohesive visuals. The disconnect I had between my process as a designer and my process as a photographer was resolved. And as a result of the perfect marriage between brand design and brand styled photography, my personal brand, Danielle Kay Harris, came together almost effortlessly.
There are multiple elements to my personal brand, and any brand design for that matter. The first part of crafting a unique brand is understanding everything behind the brand. For example… What makes you tick? What is your “why” for doing business? Who do you love to serve? Who is your competition and how can you set yourself apart? The better you understand these things, the easier it is to communicate them through your brand. That’s why I started my rebrand by answering these questions for myself. I created a brand workbook specifically to help work through some of these questions. Grab your copy here!
I then gathered visual inspiration and created a mood board. A mood board is a great way to make sure that everyone who is working in your business is on the same page when it comes to the aesthetic of your brand. Typically for a mood board, I search online for images, patterns, colors, and fonts. But since this is for my personal brand, and I’m a photographer, I wanted to use my own photos. Because what could describe me and my personal brand better than photos I’ve taken of my life and my work!
Once I understood the foundation and aesthetics of my brand, I was able to define the separate components. Beginning with the basic design elements, I selected colors and fonts. I chose a dark navy blue for a number of reasons. It’s the color that has always triggered the strongest sense of emotion for me. It’s also a color that has been part of my personal identity since I was young. It was my color when I rode horses and then again when I designed my first visual brand identity. I also chose this color because of it’s meaning. It’s one of the favorite colors of all people and it portrays trust and authority. I want potential clients to see my brand and know when they engage my services, they’re working with a designer and photographer that truly understands the intricacies of brand styling and strategy. I paired the dark navy blue with shades of gray to keep it neutral and classic. When selecting my fonts, I knew I wanted to use no more than two or three fonts, I wanted to pair a serif and a sans serif, and I wanted the fonts to be clean, professional, and timeless.
After writing down all the things that make me who I am and are a part of my personal brand, then finding the inspiration showing my brand’s visual aesthetic, and choosing my colors and fonts, the next step in my process is rough sketches. Since sketching isn’t my strong suit, my sketches are just a way for me to get any and all ideas down on paper. Sometimes I just write out a description of an idea instead of sketching it because I know I can translate that when I start working on the first digital drafts. But I do want to clarify something. Even though I’m not creating hand lettered designs, it doesn’t mean I can’t create a custom digital design that perfectly captures the story of your brand. In my personal brand I used customized elements on the D, the S, and all three A’s in Danielle Kay Harris to make it totally unique.
After rough sketches, I finally move to my computer. Depending on the project, I can have three, four, five, or more drafts before I’m done. My first drafts start with the ideas I sketched, plus any new ideas that pop into my head between the time I finish sketches and start on the first digital drafts. I’ll work through each idea, carefully narrowing it down to three or so designs that are the best fit for the project. Once I’ve narrowed it down to about three designs, I’ll create multiple variations of each design. And then I’ll repeat the process of narrowing it down again and again until I get to the final design. For my personal brand I went through at least four sets of revisions, refining and perfecting before I finished the final design.
It’s important to remember there are so many designs that will never see the light of day because they just don’t fit the brand, which is a good thing. That’s effective branding, by only keeping what fits the brand story you’re crafting. It’s not about picking the prettiest design. Don’t get me wrong, aesthetics are a huge part if it, but functionality is equally important. You want to create a brand that is unique, recognizable, and will engage your customers. You want to get them talking about you and buying your products and services.
From the beginning I knew that I didn’t want my main logo design to use a script font. Just like trends in fashion and home decor there are trends in design. Right now, script and handwritten fonts are the hot trend among creative, feminine brands. And in my opinion, these fonts are being a tad overused. You want to create a brand that sets you apart from your competition. If your brand uses the same fonts and colors as everyone in your industry, you won’t stand out as the best fit for your potential customers. Instead you will get lost among the masses. But even though I wanted to avoid a handwritten, script font, my own handwritten initials continued to show up in my design sketches and drafts. I realized my handwritten initials would work perfectly as a submark of my brand design as a signature type piece.
Brand Styled Photography
As part of my rebrand, I wanted to update the photos for my website and social media platforms. Consistent imagery and graphics across all platforms is a key ingredient to crafting a familiar brand story. I created photos that are designed specifically for the Danielle Kay Harris brand. I planned, styled, and photographed images including flat lays, lifestyle shots of my workspace including me working, and headshots all using intimate details of my life as a creative business owner and a mom. All images that help tell the story of my brand.
After completing my logo design and submark, as well as my brand styled images, I used these elements to design collateral and marketing pieces. Included in these pieces were business cards, a launch poster, a promotional print, social media graphics, and this website you’re navigating. Through this whole process I created a personal brand that is professional and minimal, yet comfortable, like sitting on a front porch talking to a good friend. And I’m so confident in the brand I’ve styled that I want to share it with the world!