All Posts in Branding

August 27, 2021 - No Comments!

Be a designer. (Or… just look like one.)

As creative software becomes more accessible through subscriptions such as Adobe Creative Cloud and online platforms like Canva, clients now have the power to create better looking materials to promote their ideas and services. While most Marcom professionals and savvy small business owners can tackle the technical side of communications capably, there’s a level of finesse that only comes from formal design training and years of practice. (This is where having experienced creative partners in your corner can make a major difference in branding and marketing impact.) But by applying some basic design principles to your presentations, proposals and social media posts, you can elevate your messages and your brand. 

Here are five tips to help when you can’t hire a graphic designer.

1. Choose your color palette. Keep it to three colors, plus one or two lighter hues as backgrounds for sidebars (e.g. orange type in a cream sidebar). Select a dark color for legible type, a brighter color for headlines, and a medium color for subheads, pull quotes, etc. Keep in mind universal color meanings, too: red can be aggressive and signal stop or a warning; green is softer, optimistic and can indicate something is eco-friendly, etc. 

One of my go-to combinations: Navy headlines, lapis blue subheads, black body copy, dark gray sidebar copy on an ice blue background. I’ll have more ideas on great color combos with palette examples to share in a future article.

2. Choose your typefaces. Only two. Select a sans serif family (e.g. Helvetica) and a serif family (e.g. Garamond) and use them together to create a hierarchy of information. A hierarchy is like an outline — it indicates how you read through the information. Headlines, subheads, pull quotes, sidebars, tables, and captions are typically in a type hierarchy. 

Within each typeface, you have many fonts so you really can use 6-8 styles in a document. (Whew!) A typeface is a family, such as Garamond, but a font is a specific style (aka weight or cut), such as Garamond Bold. Think of it this way: typefaces are to an album, as fonts are to songs on an album. 

Example of a type hierarchy: 

  • Headlines are 24 point Helvetica Light
  • Subheads are 12 point Helvetica Bold
  • Body copy is 9 point Garamond Regular
  • Tables use 8 point Helvetica Regular & Bold
  • Pull Quotes are 12 point Garamond Italic

In a future article, I’ll cover why you should limit the use of ALL CAPS, how to select typefaces that communicate your brand personality, and show you some great hierarchy examples that are easy to implement on your own.

4. Keep it simple. If everything “pops,” all you have is a bowl of popcorn. So figure out your hierarchy and make sure that you present the information in a way that your audience will understand it. Use imagery, color and copy to draw the reader through the material or focus on a single message you want them to remember most. 

“Less is more” was Mies van der Rohe's mantra that defined the modernist aesthetic and it can define your presentations too. Avoid being tempted to use all of the effects the creative software offers because it’s fun. Choose one effect that you think adds to the communication and stick with it throughout the document as part of your hierarchy. Consistency is key to a good looking and user-friendly communication piece.
I’ll address common graphic mishaps and how best to use imagery and graphics for a consistent, branded look throughout your documents in a future article.

4. We love alignment. Set your margins and stick to them. Start your copy at the same point on the page from the top and left edges. Maintain the styles of  your headlines, subheads, and body copy (size and leading, aka line spacing) throughout. Don’t change the sizes to fit content, rather edit the content to fit the space. If it doesn’t slim down enough, then add a page.

Avoid flush-right and justified text as it is less natural to read and can often create awkward white spaces (called rivers) flowing through the copy. I’ll discuss flush left and centered type options, plus how to draw the eye through bullet points and positioning of elements, plus header and footer options in a future article.

5. Present one idea at a time. Pick the most important take away that you want your audience to remember and make it the most clear and prominent item on the page or post. If you’re presenting a deck, you really just need a couple of top-level bullets as an overview, not a full sentence that they are reading as you speak it. Place the minimum amount of content you need to get your idea across on the first slide. Then use a page to further explain each item individually. People will listen to you more and understand better if the page is minimal.

Choose imagery to further communicate your ideas, not just fill space. Also, give yourself and your audience a place to rest their eyes between large blocks of information. They will appreciate the visual break and let the information they just absorbed sink in. I’ll provide insights into how to use photography and other imagery to maximize comprehension in a future article.

One last pro tip, never, ever use Comic Sans unless you’re creating a comic book.* Designers everywhere will thank you. 
— Helen C Young, owner & creative director, EnZed Design, LLC

*Curious why? Search “Why do designers hate Comic Sans?”

May 17, 2021 - No Comments!

Branding and the Power of Pattern

The most memorable brands do not live by logos, alone. Instead, they leverage their well-designed mark in every possible manner. The conscious, consistent use of fonts, colors, tone and positioning adds dimension. Some even encompass scent and sound to elevate distinction.

One of the simplest ways to mark territory is through the development of a custom brand pattern. Possible applications range from a subtle background for an engaging website to a star-powered position on a best-selling product. 

We create custom patterns for clients by using elements of their logo in proprietary designs. The objective is to add texture and depth across multiple media for optimal visibility. Branding demands reinforcement, and this is one more way to achieve it.

Here are examples of logos we designed and their custom companion patterns. 

The Power of Process

When I create a custom pattern for a brand, I start by looking at the elements and shapes in the logo. Whether it is a new logo designed by my firm or an established mark, we address it the same way — identify the most significant visuals and build on them. We also consider how to create a seamless repeat with these elements. 

Repeats can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, block or offset (partial drop or brick). Certain shapes and scales lend themselves to different repeat styles. For example, round shapes half-drop well in an offset repeat because the shapes fit into each other snuggly. Asymmetrical core shapes require additional elements around them to create a block repeat. It takes some experimenting to eliminate striping or gaps for a clean, seamless repeat, especially in designs that need to “read” in all directions (not just up and down, as on wallpaper).

Brand patterns must apply well on myriad surfaces — electronic media; printed small or large on paper, fabric and other substrates; and often rendered flat or dimensionally (e.g. routed into metal). Because these factors can influence the motif’s complexity and color palette, it’s best to know where the pattern will be used before beginning design. Once these specifications are set, it’s exciting to see the variations that emerge. Often, more than one design hits the mark, resulting in a suite of brand patterns that can serve as a library for the client over time.

The POW! of Results

Here are some examples of designs we’ve created that make it easy to see how the patterns relate to their brands. 

  • Denny’s to-go boxes — Their signature French diamond was overlapped and rotated to create a geometric pattern that also looks like a box motif. 
  • Blackbird General Store tissue paper — The illustration of the bird and branch in the logo was reworked as a toile pattern, a custom take on traditional fabric that reinforced the nature of the brand.
  • What’s the Scoop? cups — The spoon from the “O” is repeated in a simple linear pattern that feels like sprinkles on ice cream. 
  • FCCS conference folders — The conference logo shape repeats in a fine-lined geometric micro-pattern, acting as a texture (further enhanced with gloss and dull varnishes).
  • LiveWell Colorado branding — The colorful burst created the perfect any-direction pattern for branding a variety of communications.
  • Children’s Circle of Care event — The heart of the logo combines with icons from the host hospital to create a pattern to brand the event through a custom tie (fabric), invitations (paper), water bottle (plastic) and more.

Enrich your brand with a custom pattern that creates instant recognition wherever it goes. 

And it can go virtually everywhere.
Contact Helen to get started.

February 27, 2020 - No Comments!

Better together: Meet Tracey Ranta

When I took the leap from employee to owner of my own firm 24 years ago, I had no idea what roads and twists EnZed had in store for me. Like Dorothy, I followed a promising path hoping to find a home in the design and marketing industry. Along the way, I’ve met many faithful companions (e.g. Carla, the good witch) and have enjoyed rich experiences and collaborations. One character who has been in and out of EnZed’s world for two decades is Tracey Ranta. Today, I’m happy to say that she’s here to stay.

I met Tracey through volunteering with AIGA—the professional association for design. I was communications director of AIGA Colorado and she was a recent graduate from DU. We sat around the table with her classmate, Jason Wedekind (owner of Genghis Kern and Furniture Creative Coworking, where we are officed), stamping and addressing the member newsletter. She started her design career working in several small agencies. When she went freelance, EnZed was one of her clients for many years. Her design aesthetic, sense of fun and delight, work ethic and dedication matched mine. My favorite memory from that time was during the final stages of a catalog. She was wrapping up production and writing files to CDs, while going into labor. “No, it’s ok, I can finish the job. It’s taking my mind off the contractions!” True to her word, she delivered the files... and a baby! Her beautiful daughter now has her driver’s permit. 

When Tracey returned to full-time work at an agency in the late 2000s, our collaborations turned to personal projects. We designed and crafted a wearable, red-ruffled  paper dress for the Paper Fashion Show in 2008, an event we’ve attended together for more than a decade. Then last year, the road took another turn when Tracey was ready for a leap of her own, leaving the agency for new ambitions. 

Tracey joined EnZed officially in February 2020 as Senior Designer and Art Director, putting her talents to work as creative lead on existing and new projects. A beautiful example: the owners of Elle.b Academy wanted a brand refresh and expansion for their stylist-training programs and to communicate their status as a leading academy for the application of hair extensions. Tracey created original brand elements to distinguish them in the industry and tell their story across course workbooks, Instagram and a new website. Tracey, Carla and I collaborated with Sean at Studio Nomad on the website design assets and content development.

The brand expansion moodboards show color, texture, pattern and photography styles
Brand elements applied to print and digital media—course workbooks and Instagram
Patterns and large photography distinguish the brand on ellebacademy.com

With a portfolio spanning 25 years of successful branding, print, digital and environmental design for real estate development, recreation, retail, restaurants and the arts, Tracey excels at creating special spaces, from a brand moodboard to a new-community greeting house to a website. The following projects illustrate her brand concept design, art direction and digital marketing expertise that are now enhancing EnZed’s print design and content development offerings

Tracey designed this "greeting house" interior environment while at Strada Advertising
Art directing and styling photo shoots is one of Tracey's passions
Credit: Duston Todd for Strada Advertising
Tracey designed the front-end of custom websites, like these lifestyle pages, while at Strada

I’m particularly excited to have Tracey join me on my next design journey—to bring our creative minds together to take us new places and create new spaces. It’s been fun to see how her work has evolved in the 2010s, and I’m so glad to see her sparkly shoes back on my path in 2020.

We look forward to collaborating with you on your next venture. Up, up and away!

June 20, 2017 - No Comments!

Tennis, Anyone?

With Colorado’s tennis league season in full swing and Wimbledon approaching on July 3, there’s no better time to celebrate our favorite sport here at EnZed Design.

We’re hard at work on a brand refresh for the 2017 Colorado State Open, our state’s most prestigious and well-attended tennis tournament. (We had the pleasure of rebranding the tournament entirely in 2016, which you can see here.) Adding animation to our repertoire, we’ve created a video teaser to bring the dynamic motion of tennis to the tournament’s vibrant brand. Watch the video below.

Mark your calendar for September 15–24, 2017 to catch the action and see our work on display. In the meantime, check out another tennis branding project, TennisAdvisor, whose logo represents the converging of coaching, the game, and the junior player.