If you’ve ever needed a professional designer, chances are, you’ve come across the terms “graphic designer” and “brand designer.” Though they sound similar, these two professions aren’t to be confused as they’re actually quite different and serve two separate purposes.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, it’s important to understand what design is. At its core, design is the creation of visual content to communicate a specific message. For example, think of a logo: just by using the right colours, fonts and icons, a business can quickly convey a particular message to a target audience. That’s the beauty of good design.
Although both brand designers and graphic designers are skilled in design, exactly how they use this art form – well, that’s something entirely different.
01. Brand design
From start to finish, brand designers are focused on the big picture. Everything they create is connected to and supportive of an overarching strategy.
If you’ve ever worked with a brand designer, you’ll know that they start every project with a lot of questions. Rest assured that this is far more than an icebreaker; the goal of these in-depth questions is to help them better understand your business, your goals, your target audience and their needs. Designers will use your answers to craft a strategy and visual identity for your brand that meets all these objectives.
You can expect a brand designer to shape everything from how you talk about your business (your mission and vision statements, brand voice and personality) to what your business looks like (its logos, colours, fonts and even photography). At the end of your project, a brand designer will give you an in-depth document known as a visual identity guide, which outlines how every element and asset of your brand is to be used. This will help you maintain a consistent look and feel for your brand.
02. Graphic design
Graphic designers, on the other hand, tend to work on more individualized projects and aren’t as concerned about strategy. Instead, they’re focused on the overall aesthetic of a particular design. Graphic designers will often apply a brand’s existing visual identity guidelines to create new marketing material, like business cards and brochures.
Like brand designers, graphic designers will also ask several questions at the start of a project but the type of questions they ask, and their purpose, are very different. When working with a graphic designer, you’re the creative expert, and so they’ll be looking to you to provide the direction. For business owners who know exactly what they’re after, this might be a preferred working dynamic.
So, which one should you work with?
If you’re investing in professional design services for the first time, it’s probably best to start with a brand designer. This is the best way to make sure your brand is developed with a long-term growth strategy in mind. Most designers’ basic packages will have everything you need to create a consistent look and feel for your business.
Some brand designers will even offer additional services like social media templates design, business cards, product packaging design and welcome brochures. If you’ve developed a good working relationship with your brand designer, you might want to have them produce these additional assets rather than work with a separate graphic designer. This will help to ensure that all your brand elements have the exact same style.
The beauty of working with a brand designer first is that you can easily enlist the services of a graphic designer for any future design needs. As long as they have your visual identity guide and existing assets, they should be able to create new elements that will look and feel like a natural extension of your existing brand.
03. A few final thoughts
Some designers will use the terms “brand design” and “graphic design” interchangeably, so it’s important that you know exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t be shy about asking a designer very specific questions about their work and process – this is a great way to get a better understanding of how they can (and can’t) meet your needs.
If you’re ready to level up your small business’ branding or simply curious to know more about brand strategy and design, I’d love to hear from you!