Starting on a new brand is exciting. The visual possibilities are endless, and the outcome is unknown. Because of this, it can also be overwhelming. To help you and your team move quickly toward the most appropriate solution, you’ll want a process for finding, capturing, and utilizing inspiration. Inspiration comes in the form of any visual artifact. It helps spark ideas, generate themes, and build consensus in a group.
The Core Brand Concept
Building a brand starts with establishing a core concept or theme. This theme is the metaphorical embodiment of the positioning of your business. It’s seen as an organization’s personality. It establishes a set of verbal attributes upon which a visual brand can be built.
Sources of Visual Brand Inspiration
To help kick off a branding project, have a group exercise where you and your teammates (or “Crewmates” in Roket terminology) start by pulling visual inspiration, or “Swipe,” from the web, magazines, old books, and other visual banks. This exercise can be done in person with a bulletin board and push pins, or virtually with a tool like Mural.ly. Here are some of my favorite online sources of inspiration:
- Abduzeedo – Abduzeedo has become a staple in the design world. It has a comprehensive collection of unique work from every discipline of the design world, and it is updated often.
- AisleOne – Although not as robust as some other sites featured on this list, AisleOne still provides a nice collection of minimalist modern design.
- Designspiration – Designspiration has an extensive collection of high-quality inspiration. Its Pinterest-style layout allows for swift browsing.
- The Dieline – The Dieline is a superb packaging blog. Even if you don’t do a lot of CPG, this is still a great reference for learning how brands manifest in the world beyond a mark.
- I Love Typography – I’ve been following this one for years. It’s a great resource for typography and typographical design.
- Grain Edit – Niche blog, GrainEdit has an inspirational and focused collection of vintage and contemporary work based on pieces from the 1950s through the 1970s.
- Under Consideration – Corporate in nature, this site keeps up with the latest big branding news, offering points of view and plenty of detail around each featured brand.
The Inspiration Review Process
Once all of the swipe is posted, the team can begin combining similar ideas. Group patterns with patterns, typefaces with typefaces, and so on. Once the top level sort is completed, the team can create interesting combinations. These usually start with a standout visual–a color palette, a photograph, or another visual that speaks to the brand concept. Upon this visual, you layer additional elements that help round out an idea. Elements can be grouped any way you choose, for example, by mood (energetic, happy, serious), by market analog (the Apple aesthetic), or by visual dominance (type-centric, heroic photography). Throughout this exercise, it’s important to remove items that do not match the brand vision. This creates less noise and helps focus your efforts.
This exercise should help form visuals into inspirational guiding themes. It’s a great exercise for creating a consensus with an internal or client team, and it often provides insight into the latest visual trends for inclusion or exclusion in your work. This exercise is not used to “copy” work, but rather to open up the possibilities beyond your go-to treatments and give new and unique solutions a chance to shine.
How do you get inspiration? Let us know.