How to Design Your Brand Blue Print: For Creative Entrepreneurs
In November of 2021, I purchased my first home sight unseen. A few weeks later, we got the keys. I don’t remember when the tears started, but I remember them lasting well into the car ride home. It was a lot of work, and I was overwhelmed, doubting if I could handle it, and trying to figure out if it was too late to convince Kyle to buy a van and run away instead.
This house was his dream. Almost 6 years prior was the first time Kyle had ever taken me to see a run-down, in need of a total overhaul, cheap as dirt house. He was prepared for the process, and I was not. It was supposed to be a happy and exciting time, but I was completely overwhelmed and out of my element navigating this unfamiliar landscape.
A carpenter by trade and raised with a hammer in his hand, Kyle understood everything that needed to get done to get us from point A: crocodile tears rolling down my face and trying to figure out if it was too late to back out. To point B: getting excited and inspired to create our first home together. I needed a vision I could get behind and a plan to wrap my head around. So we spent every night for the next month, curled up on the couch, with my mac book in front of us, drawing up the plans for our house. Starting or scaling a business can be equally overwhelming (and I’m saying that from experience). Much like needing to create a plan for our house, the first step to developing any brand is something I like to call the brand blueprint.
Before I could think about buying throw pillows or where I was going to put the couch – we needed to address the structural concerns in our home. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs skip this step. Instead, they focus on the fluff before ensuring a good foundation in place on which to build their brand. No amount of Canva logos, Etsy downloads, and content courses are going to teach you how to understand your audience and position your product or service as something they obsess over.
Chances are, you didn’t get into business for the business piece. As a creative, you started your business so that you could make a living doing what you love. The problem is that a lot of the fine print of what it takes to start a successful business includes skills you never realized you would need to learn like how to manage your business’s finances, organize your schedule, create content, and market yourself.
Creating a Brand Model addresses that foundation. It serves as a blueprint to build your brand from the fun stuff to the not-so-fun. The design of your brand blueprint is made up of 3 Key components.
The first time I created a vision board was in the 6th grade. Much to my parent’s dismay, I covered the ceiling and walls surrounding my top bunk in the corner of my childhood bedroom with magazine clippings from Vogue magazine. At that point in my life, I was determined to run far far away from my one-horse (more cows than people) town and make it big as a fashion designer in New York City. Boy, how things have changed. While watching episodes of project runway from my black box tv, I would tear out photos by Annie Leibovitz and Manolo Blahnik shoe adverts, creating Swiss cheese on my bedroom walls one push pin at a time. I needed a visual of a world so different from my own to make sense of the dream I had.
I can’t say I’ve quit my habit of covering walls with push pins. And although I think I will always have some long-term vision board creating a fire hazard and ruining the paint job in my personal space – my vision-building process has evolved to help my clients build a vision to make sense of their own branding dreams.
Vision starts with a pen to paper. As my vision evolves, I like to free write about different versions of my vision often (and I encourage you to do the same). Where do you see yourself and your brand in three months? How about in a year? Three-Five Years?
Your brand should be created with enough leg room for your future plans and enough direction to get you to that 1-year point. Don’t just write about the products or services you will create and the money you will make. Write about the clothes you wear, the pens you buy, other people you will collaborate with, and most importantly, how you will spend your time outside of work. To build a brand model in alignment – your vision should come first.
The next step to building the foundation for your brand takes your vision and makes it tangible. Seeking inspiration and creative direction for your brand makes your vision feel reel because you can see it. Much like watching project runway and pinning Carrie Bradshaw’s dream shoe to my bedroom wall made my dream of becoming a fashion designer feel real and tangible, creating a vision and mood board for your brand does the same. Let’s break this down a step further.
Who inspires you?
What content creators are you circling back to again and again, and what are they doing to earn your engagement? I give you full permission to go down the rabbit hole on your favorite brand’s websites and social platforms and take notes of what’s working and how you can apply it to your brand.
*tip – Don’t be afraid to look outside your industry and find inspiration from other businesses and brands. For example, lately, I’ve been obsessed with the stories and brands behind Floret, DeVol Kitchens, and Jonna Jinton Sweden. None of these brands have anything to do with design or branding, but they taught me…
Floret – The importance of Brand Story, Mission, Company Culture, and evolving a vision in alignment with those core foundations.
DeVol Kitchens – The beauty in creating a luxury product, something built to last, and how creative direction can propel a business forward.
Jonna Jinton Sweden – The power of documentation and the possibility that can come from telling your story and creating without limitations.
What inspires you?
Is it your favorite place, a flower, the way the light casts colors through your stained glass window and onto your living room floor? Create and curate a vision board (or mood board) for your brand and life. I like to have a physical vision board that I place directly behind my computer screen – so it is in my peripheral view most of the day. I also have a CJ mood board on Pinterest that I add to whenever I need some inspiration. In addition, I always create a project/brand-specific mood board with my clients where we gather additional inspiration for logos, fonts, brand photos, websites, and color schemes to guide the design direction.
Want to know a secret?
I pull the most impactful images from client mood boards to determine the brand’s overall aesthetic and creative direction. The brand mood board inspires the creative direction of everything from the color scheme, logo direction, and font choices.
The last piece of the puzzle is creating the Brand Model. Here at Cedar June, we’re looking out for entrepreneurs, creatives, and small businesses that wear more hats than anyone realizes. Rather than following a traditional Brand Model I’ve created a model designed for creatives (by a creative) the Brand Blueprint.
Remember that story from earlier? About how I was in unfamiliar territory (renovating a house) and I needed someone who had more experience than me (Kyle) to help me get from point A: (crocodile tears and escape plans). To point B: (being excited and inspired to create our first home from scratch).
Creating the Brand Blueprint is the point in the brand-building process where you undergo the same transformation. From point A: (being overwhelmed by the branding process) to point B: (feeling empowered with a plan that combines your service/sales model and brand model). This is where you connect the dots between your Brand Model and your Business Model.
Your brand model is the why. Why you do what you do, why you do it for the people you do it for, and why you are creating this product or service in the first place.
This is the how. How are you going to actually facilitate the thing that is going to make you money? For example, if you offer a done-for-you 1:1 service, how will you facilitate that service in person or online? How many clients can you take on at any given time? How will you bill them, and most importantly, what will you charge?
Making Pricing Make Sense
Once you have a breakdown of the value of each of your products or services, who they would best serve, and how much of your time/money/energy they will take, pricing is simplified.
*Tip start by answering this question. How much do I need this business to make? Is this your full-time gig? If not, what do you need to make so it can be? This determines the amount of money you actually need to be able to pay yourself from this business.
Let’s go back to the 1:1 service. Say you are a Florist; therefore, you run a service-based business and have a brand. You’ve done the blueprint for your different services: wedding florals and Bridal/baby shower florals. You know you can book 24 events in a year. From there, it is simple math.
(The amount you need to make) / (the number of projects you take on/ clients you book/ products you sell) = How much you need to make from each project.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that is the price of that product/service. To get a rough estimate, double it. This accounts for the cost of goods/materials, taxes, and your profit. This number is good enough to sit on while you work on refining your brand – but I highly recommend you take a deeper dive and read this book which will teach you will ever need to know about setting up your business finances and pricing.
I’m happy to say that since creating the literal blueprints for our house and building a serious Pinterest board to keep the vision alive, I’ve yet to run away in a van, and we are about to move past the foundational stuff (like gutting, leveling, etc). Imagine if we had started to renovate before addressing the foundational issues, the overall bones, and the structure. The floors we laid wouldn’t be level, it would need constant repairs and costly maintenance, our home wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful, and under the surface, there would always be an expensive problem waiting to surface at the least convenient time.
The same goes for your brand.
Ignoring the foundational steps can lead to not charging enough, constant re-branding and re-building, low conversion, and nothing but a credit card bill of courses, certifications, and overpriced office supplies to show for it.
Wanna get to work? Download this free template (pdf & notion) to Build your Brand’s Blueprint & Subscribe to the CJ weekly newsletter, The Weekly Drop In, for Tangible tips directly to your inbox designed for creatives (by a creative).