The Ins and Outs of Small Business Branding
Noah Franz
November 12, 2018

As a recent college graduate from a decent-but-not-premiere graphic design program like John Brown University's, I wasn't sure what to expect beginning my career at a printing and graphics shop whose "Logos and Branding" offering had barely been established. Shawn and I Googled what we could to figure out exactly how much to charge and what kind of services most other design firms include in a branding and logo package. We got mixed messages everywhere we looked (surprise, surprise). I found a few well-written articles attempting to navigate the benefits and detriments of hourly-vs.-project pricing, why certain logos are more effective than others, what brand identity actually is and what it's for, and why most companies under-charge for their work.

In this research, I kept running across a simple idea: branding isn't just a few colors or shapes representing a business. It's a comprehensive emotion or idea you invoke every time someone looks at your business. It's an entire methodology of user-centric design focusing on psychology and desire.

At its core, emotion is exactly what clients want - and pay good money for - when they walk through a design business's doors. Everything else is just decoration.

That simple thing - emotion - sounded like a tall order. Inuendos is a small printing and graphics shop in Northwest Arkansas; the Ozarks aren't New York or Silicon Valley, and high fashion and bleeding-edge design aren't high priorities when most clients are taco trucks and local casinos and most of the area's large businesses - like Walmart and JB Hunt - already have their own established visual identities. How does a designer create a feeling using combinations of colors and shapes? Moreover, how do you quantify something like that into a billable service rendered?

We had to ask a very hard question: Would small businesses actually be willing to cough up the money these articles claimed we should charge? Or were those amounts simply beyond the financial scope of most small businesses?

It turns out, we were looking at the solution - our solution - all wrong.

Understanding why branding has changed the face of the advertising world, one must see from the paradigm of value. If you, as a designer, charge $10,000 for a logo and branding package including business cards, stationery, vehicle wraps, a professional website, packaging design, etc., a small business owner will most likely balk. That's because you're communicating the what rather than the why of a branding strategy. The whats are simply the tangible goods a branding package includes, but the whys communicate how much a business model will benefit from adopting or adapting a branding identity.

In short, effective branding brings a significant return on investment for a company.

If you can convince a customer that a $10,000 branding package will bring in ten times their original business, the customer will almost certainly see why the price tag is not only logical, but can even seem like a steal!

Convincing the customer means demonstrating why our design solutions are effective. Therefore, Shawn's first branding projects for me were actually in-house. She challenged me to revamp our name, logo, and aesthetic to something simpler and more modern. In the original project proposal, we figured, our own brand identity needs to work before we can convince anyone else that we can develop a brand identity for them - a classic case of "physician, heal thyself."

We brainstormed through name and logo changes and how it might affect our current vs. potential client pool. Shawn tasked me with word association for days, using a few descriptive words and values as guides for a potential name change. I came up with dozens of possibilities, and after some headscratching and a few laughing sessions with Shawn and Danielle, we agreed on a tentative name change and I moved into the rough sketching phase, where designers tend to spend hours thumbnailing concepts for logos and other visual elements. A few days into the thumbnailing and rough sketching phase, we stumbled over the argument against changing a longstanding brand. Our philosophical brand had been developed and established within the local community for 16 years and was not worth uprooting for the sake of keeping up with design fads and trends.

We do good work.

That was another important lesson for me. Sometimes, longstanding quality of work is an effective company brand in and of itself.

In other words, sometimes, a brand is not an arrangement of colors and shapes on a page. A brand can be a slogan, or a radio broadcast, or a value statement, or a commitment, or even just a smile.

We returned to our motto, "We Do Good Work," thinking through what that would mean for our clients and for us. We've always focused on what would be most cost-effective for our clients and their potential customers. This is especially true for something as commercial as logo design and branding work.

So that's what we've done. We've developed a pricing package based on our understanding of our client's budgets, recognizing the value we can bring to them as designers who've spend decades in the industry. And we're pleased to present those prices to you today.

Back to Blog

Questions? Contact Us

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Try again.