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How to improve your branding as a fashion designer

July 06, 2017

This is a guest post from the lovely Elise Epp, a graphic designer for fashion startups, boutiques, and makers. Today, she’s sharing her brilliant branding strategies to help make sure you and your brand stand out amongst the competition. Read on for her Visual Branding Crash Course and scroll to the bottom to connect with her. Take it away Elise!


Have you ever argued about fashion with a friend who says that what they wear doesn’t matter? Then you counter that of course it matters – it’s the first impression you get of a person! Your visual branding is the same.

As much as you may wish it, the garments you design don’t speak for themselves – not entirely. Potential customers make quick judgements about new brands, and if they aren’t drawn in by your sign or website, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to buy anything.

Your branding also affects your ability to get press attention. That blog your customers love is less likely to promote you if your website doesn’t appear to align with their audience – even if your product does.

Visual Branding Crash Course

Simply put, visual branding is everything visual about your business: your logo, packaging, website, Instagram, market booth and more.

When you design visual branding, you need to consider colors, fonts, patterns, and iconography. Once those are established, consistency is the key to developing brand recognition.

What Makes Good Visual Branding

It doesn’t matter if you like your logo – it matters if it attracts the right customers. Though different logos will attract different customers, there are some established guidelines.

01. Keep it simple. Stick to easy-to-read fonts that aren’t too elaborate or gimmicky. Your logo should be just as legible in black and white as it is in color, and you should be able to shrink it down to a very small size. You want your logo to have personality, but not at the expense of clarity, versatility, and longevity.

Take a look at the logo below. Here are a few of the issues with it:

  • There’s a lot of stuff going on and the individual elements aren’t in similar styles.
  • The main font violates the “gimmicky” rule, and adding a drop shadow makes it even harder to read.
  • It’s hard to make gradients (fading from one color to another) not look like a title page you made in junior high. Avoid them.
  • Okay, okay, so I used the oft-maligned Comic Sans for the words “clothing boutique.” Anyone who has dipped their toes into typography knows the world has a great hatred for this font. Even if you defend it, you probably don’t want to associate your fashion brand with typographical debates. Also – and this goes for the main font, Curlz, as well – any font that came standard on your first computer probably shouldn’t be in your logo. People will have too many associations with it, even if they can’t verbalize them. There are lots of great font distributors out there (I often use MyFonts), but if you’re on a tight budget Font Squirrel has a curated collection of free fonts.

And that’s before we even talk about if the logo is right for the business!

Remember: just because you have the tools to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. As Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The same goes for your logo.

02. Don’t be too literal. Your logo isn’t supposed to describe your business; it should evoke feelings about your business.

The following logo uses *ta da!* a dress for a store called Frock. There are already an abundance of fashion businesses with clothing/person/hanger icons in their logos, which means your business won’t stand out. If you want your logo to include an icon, dig deeper into your business and don’t be afraid to get abstract.

03. Avoid anything too trendy, even if that’s how you describe your brand or customers. Zara and Forever21 are incredibly trend-driven brands, but they have simple, text-only logos that are staid in comparison to the clothes they sell. You don’t want your logo to only last one season.

The logo below probably doesn’t cause you to shudder, but the font might look familiar. It’s called Lobster and for the past five years or so it has been everywhere. This means that a) brands that use this font look like everybody else, and b) they are going to look really dated soon – and not just to graphic designers.

What should you do instead? Here is the logo I came up with when I created a conceptual branding project for Frock. It has whimsically curled terminals, reflective of it being a small storefront in a century-old neighbourhood, yet it is also modern and sophisticated to appeal to the millennial/young professional clientele.

How to Apply Your Fashion Knowledge to Branding

You know how to mix patterns and create balance. You know how to add depth using layers and texture and how to manipulate fabric to create gorgeous, innovative garments. Fortunately, the skills that make you a good fashion designer can be applied to graphic design!

01. Balance/Symmetry
The final Frock logo (above) plays with balance and symmetry. The first and last letters are tall, flanking the short inner letters. But the diagonal line crossing from the bottom of the ‘r’ to the top of the ‘c’ creates asymmetrical movement. In fashion design you might play with balance and symmetry with hemlines or perhaps a one-shouldered gown.

02. Emphasis
Good design draws the eye to a focal point. If your logo or design has multiple elements, it should be clear which one is the most important. For instance, if your clothing line is called Jane Smith Clothing Company, Jane Smith should be bolder or larger than Clothing Company. Consider how the eye will move through the logo’s information and make sure the path is obvious.

03. Proportion
This is the relative size and scale of elements in a design in relation to each other. In fashion it might refer to a full midi-length skirt on a petite woman. In graphic design, a good place to start is with the golden ratio. A design can go from “not quite” to “just right” by changing the size of one element or moving things around.

04. Unity
The whole design – fashion or graphic – needs to look like it belongs together. If you are using two fonts in your logo (you’re not using more, right?) they need to complement each other. If your logo has an icon it should fit in with the text. Take a step back from your design and consider how your logo looks as a whole.

Good Branding Is Your Best Employee

Your visual branding is representing you while you’re busy designing your next collection or sourcing manufacturing. Done well, it will be your best (and cheapest) employee, working 24 hours a day and never needing a day off. It will connect with potential customers and help get press attention. It will convince people that your new fashion line should be taken seriously.

You are investing a lot of time and money into your fashion business, so don’t cut corners when it comes to your brand’s first impression. If you don’t have the time and the skill to do it right, hire a professional. Having a visual brand that reflects the heart of your business, attracts customers, and gives you the confidence to pursue big opportunities is worth the investment.


Elise Epp is a graphic designer for fashion startups, boutiques, and makers. Her made-to-measure visual branding and websites capture the heart of her clients’ businesses and provide a solid foundation for growth. She has been pursuing an ethical wardrobe since 2015 and loves cats, feminism, and ice cream.

 
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