Minal meets… Bhavini Lakhani, B81 Designs
Branding. When you hear that word, what do you think about? A logo? Most people start their business without really thinking about branding.
But think about how much we are visual beings. Thinking about branding for your business is hugely important and it extends beyond your logo. That’s why I decided to have a chat with Bhavini Lakhani, who owns B81 Designs. We’ve worked together on a number of projects, including a couple for me.
By the end of this Minal meets, you’ll have a better idea of how to visually represent your business… and a brilliant graphic designer you can call on to do it for you!
Minal: Tell me a bit about your business. What do you specialise in?
Bhavini: I run B81 Designs and I specialise in branding and design for print. This includes small logo only projects rights through to full-scale brand identities; business stationery to brochures and leaflets (all sorts of other marketing collateral too) and advertising. I’ve been working in the design industry for over 15 years now. Although I do design for digital for a few clients; I’m a print girl at heart and that will never change.
I tend to work with B2B clients in a variety of industries. I love that freelancing means I can work with clients of all shapes and sizes across the globe.
Minal: When and why did you start your business?
Bhavini: I never wanted to be self-employed. I wanted the stability and safety of a job… a regular monthly income from a 9-5!!
In 2010, I was working for a digital marketing agency in London when I went on maternity leave. My eldest daughter was born in October that year and I loved spending time at home with her during my maternity leave. As the time to return to work in 2011 got closer, I had a couple of KIT days and found out that my role as a graphic designer had been phased out. The company gave me two options:
- Return to work as a web designer, (working every day 9-2 with an hours commute each way) with all and any training provided
- Take voluntary redundancy
Web design is a completely different ball game. It’s something that I have never been interested in…and I still feel that way. My passion lies with branding and design for print.
I made the decision quite easily, to be honest because I didn’t want to miss out on time with my baby for a job I didn’t love. I took the redundancy with the idea that I would start looking for more flexible employment closer to home.
I thought this project would just be a one-off, a bit of a stop-gap until I found a flexible job…I couldn’t have been more wrong!! Through word of mouth, I kept getting asked if I wanted to take on other freelance design projects and it just worked perfectly for me!
Once I’d made that decision, a friend who I worked with (at the same company I was made redundant from) asked if I would take on some freelance work for the company she was now working for. My initial reaction was ‘sure, that would be really helpful while I’m still looking for a job’.
I already had a MacBook Pro and all the software I needed so taking the freelance work didn’t require any investment. The only thing I had to do was find a nursery for my daughter to go to part-time and that was the hardest part!!
I thought this project would just be a one-off, a bit of a stop-gap until I found a flexible job…I couldn’t have been more wrong!! Through word of mouth, I kept getting asked if I wanted to take on other freelance design projects and it just worked perfectly for me! A job I love and time with my baby, and for me, that was winning!
Almost 10 years on, and taking that leap is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
The importance of branding
Minal: Why we should think about the way we present our businesses?
Bhavini: There are so many reasons why the way you present your business is important, these are my top 3:
- It has an impact on the type of clients you attract (regardless of whether you sell a product or a service). It also impacts how successful your business is. We all want to make sure that we’re speaking to the right people. That our message is making the right impression and presentation of your business plays a huge role in that. Clients often tell me that the new packaging I’ve designed for their products has helped to increase sales. Or that their new logo and brochures have increased their social media following!
- I think the way you present your business can set you apart from your competitors and make you look professional. Now I don’t mean professional as in corporate and stuffy. There’s nothing wrong with injecting a shed load of personality into your business. If you compare a business that’s gone down the ‘investing in your branding’ route and a business that’s gone down the ‘I’m doing this myself because it’s too expensive route’ you’ll be able to tell them apart a mile away and so will your customers. Chances are, they’ll come to the business that looks professional over the other one whose name they can’t remember!
- If done correctly, the way you present your business will help make people fall in love with it. The people who fall in love with your business will be happy to recommend you to their friends and colleagues. In turn that’ll make your business grow!
Minal: What’s the importance of branding for businesses?
Bhavini: Humans are primarily visual creatures. I think over 90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual, so design is going to play a huge part in your business. A few seconds is usually enough for someone to form an opinion. What sort of opinion do you want your audience to form? What sort of impression do you want to create in those crucial 2-5 seconds you have?
Branding should be at the heart of any design work because it helps build the foundations of the visual side of your business. Your visual brand – logo/colours/fonts/tone of voice/imagery – will usually be the first things that help you create a connection with your audience. If you’ve only got a few seconds you need to make sure it’s spot on. Otherwise, you may unintentionally attract the wrong audience, and turn away the right audience.@B81Designs says if you don't have solid visuals as your foundation you'll struggle to attract the right audience and build those all-important connections. #MinalMeets #MarketingByMinal Click To Tweet
If you don’t have solid visuals as your foundation, you’ll struggle to attract the right audience and build those all-important connections. Once your visual identity’s been set up, your website and all other marketing collateral will be based on those foundations and will be a lot easier to put together.
Having a bespoke brand from the start of your journey will also help you tell your story. Strong visuals elements will also give credibility to your business and make you look like the professional that you are. If you’re putting together a website or leaflets without having these elements in place you’ll never be able to build a recognisable brand. Colours and fonts might appear differently in one place compared to another and the only thing that does is make you look unprofessional.
Having a brand isn’t just about making something look pretty for the sake it. It’s about communicating clearly with your audience… and not just any audience, the right audience. Without having a clear, well thought out and unique brand identity your business won’t really have anything to stand on.
Minal: What would you say are the essentials in considering your business branding?
Bhavini: First and foremost, I would say have a plan. I don’t specialise in brand strategy but I would say it’s important to know the purpose of your business, your why. This will help you show people what the difference is between you and others in your field.
I think it’s essential you know your audience. I know everyone says that. But you really can’t build the visual identity for your business without knowing who you want to talk to. For example, there’s no point having a very feminine looking logo if your audience is mainly male or both male and female. If you don’t know your audience you won’t know who you need/want to target. A brand is more than just the visuals. However, having the right visuals can help you strike an emotional connection with your audience.
You have to make sure that your logo, your colours, your social media pages, your website, your tone of voice… everything is consistent. Consistency helps you communicate well. Consistency in your branding will help you and your business become recognisable and memorable. Being consistent also helps build trust. It establishes you as the expert and the person who is at the top of everyone’s go-to list for. In my case branding and design.@B81Designs: Consistency in your branding will help you and your business become recognisable and memorable. It also helps build trust, establishes you as the expert and the person who is at the top of everyone’s go-to list. #MinalMeets… Click To Tweet
Minal: What’s your advice on fonts businesses should use for online and in print?
Bhavini: First off, make sure your fonts are legible, please. The last thing you want to do is confuse people when they can’t read your caption because it’s a too-small or really squiggly script font. Or it’s too big or too squished together, or even too spaced out!!
Fonts have unique idiosyncrasies in the same way that humans do. So make sure your font’s personality matches your business personality as well as matching the message you’re putting out in the world.
This is why I do a lot of research into industries and audiences when I’m designing a new visual identity. The majority of good designers will do too. I make sure my clients have a typography palette to use in their marketing. The fonts I choose for them (usually 3-4) cover headlines, body copy and accent fonts. They portray the business’s personality as well as the business owner’s. And they’ll have options that cover more serious and more playful aspects if that’s what they need.
What should we get professionally designed?
Minal: Which three pieces of collateral do you think micro business owners should get professionally designed and why?
- Business cards. When you’re asked ‘have you got a business card I can take’… the worst thing you can do is give them a card that’s been designed poorly (text falling off the edges, low res logos, the wrong colour mode etc) and printed on a stock that’s too thin! A designer can make sure your business card makes the right impression by being design and printed well!
- Case studies. I know not all businesses will use these, but those that do should make sure they’re designed well. People tend to skim read things like case studies (I know I do), looking for relevant information before they decide to go back and read the whole thing. A designer can make sure that the most important information stands out and is easy to find within seconds – a poorly designed case study could instantly put off someone who’s your ideal client.
- Social media images/posts/graphics. Where’s one of the first places your audience will try and find you? Facebook? Instagram? Probably both! If you’ve invested money and time into having your visual identity professionally designed, you need to make sure this is carried through to your social media images. Having these images (even if it’s a set of templates you can edit) will ensure you maintain consistency in your marketing, and it’s a brilliant way to build brand recognition. I’ve been told by people in my audience, that they don’t even need to see my logo on my posts to know it’s me!! I’ve built up recognition by always being consistent with the design of my posts! I think this can actually apply to any kind of digital marketing – email, webinars, podcast graphics.
- I’m going to add a cheeky fourth. Contracts and quotes are in the top 4. Who says that something like a quote/proposal has to be plain/dull/boring? At every given opportunity you should be showing your personality and your visual branding. I’ve had so many positive comments when it ones to the quotes and contracts I send out. Again it helps build recognition of my brand.
Minal: Where should businesses use their branding? Can you give us some examples?
Bhavini: Everywhere! I use my branding at every given opportunity I can and when I work on a new brand I make sure clients have their logos in all formats so that they can use them in the same way I do. I advise clients to use a watermark or small version of their logo on social media posts (I use mine in the corner of each image I post). Include them on all of your invoices, your social media profiles, and even your business vehicle if you have one.
Why work with a graphic designer?
Minal: Many micro business owners won’t have used a graphic designer before. Why should they?
Bhavini: As I’ve said before, graphic design and branding aren’t just about marketing things look pretty. It’s about communication between your business and your audience.
It saves you time – and helps make sure you make a great first impression. You won’t need to faff around trying to do something you’re unsure about, or don’t have the skills to do. First impressions count (yes I know it’s a cliche but they really do!) and you’ll only ever have one chance to get it right. The first time someone interacts with your business, your logo/identity is very likely to be the first thing they see. And this will set the tone for how they see you and your business.@B81Designs: The first time someone interacts with your business, your logo/identity is very likely to be the first thing they see. And this will set the tone for how they see you and your business. #MinalMeets #MarketingByMinal Click To Tweet
A designer can help you make sure your communication with your audience is effective from that first point of contact. And have professional, consistent graphics means you’re building trust and credibility with your audience. What sort of impression will you leave if your logo is templated and your clients have seen the exact same logo in a different colour somewhere else?
Above all other reasons…design is the best way to tell your story; it’s the best way to communicate more than words to your audience. Design elements like fonts, icons and colours will help you paint a beautiful picture, an emotion or feeling that supports your message.
Let the designer focus on their passion while you focus on yours. Think about the value that you’re adding to your business, rather than seeing branding and design as an expense it should be seen as an investment.
What about the DIY route?
Minal: Micro business owners don’t have a lot of money and use tools like Canva. What advice would you give them when going down the DIY route?
Bhavini: Does DIY design really represent you and the ethos of the business that you love so much? DIY can be so exhausting when you’re tackling something that you’re unsure about! With so many great tools available now, it’s far too easy to think you have to do it all. Why pay someone else to do what you can learn yourself right?
Trouble is this new tool somehow manages to suck hours of time out of your day and the result is just OK. Not the wow you were hoping for.
And let’s pretend we didn’t notice that it took you away from the work you should have and wanted to be doing…
So while it’s great to have DIY tools at your disposal, do you really want to rely on them to represent your brand image?
I tried to DIY my first website, and after 6 weeks of fumbling my way through it, I gave up and outsourced the work!
I know, because I’ve been there – I tried to DIY my first website, and after 6 weeks of fumbling my way through it, I gave up and outsourced the work! It was such a huge relief and weight off my shoulders. The developer did his thing, and I focussed on my own client work!
My advice would be to invest time and money into having your logo and visual identity elements designed professionally rather than taking the DIY approach with that foundation.
Along with the investment in your branding, you should also invest in having some bespoke social media templates designed – think Instagram feed and Stories, social media covers, Twitter images etc. Once those templates have been designed, you can upload them to Canva so that you can use them for your digital marketing.@B81Designs says along with the investment in your branding, you should also invest in having some bespoke social media templates designed to upload to Canva. #MinalMeets #MarketingByMinal Click To Tweet
You can edit images and text that you use, whilst still remaining consistent with fonts and colours (you can upload your logos, icons, fonts and colours to Canva Pro). I think this gives a more polished look to your marketing, rather than creating them yourself on Canva especially if it’s something you haven’t used before.
You should also keep in mind that Canva (the regular or the pro version, and other similar DIY design websites) will have its limitations – you may not be able to achieve the same outcomes that a designer can when using their skills and knowledge combined with industry-standard design software.
That famous saying “a picture paints a thousand words”… it’s so true, especially when it comes to branding and the visual identity of your business. So you need to decide whether to paint your own words and not get your entire story across, or whether you work with a designer to paint your words for you and tell your story
Thanks so much to Bhavini for taking the time to share her wealth of information. If you want to know how to start working with a graphic designer, read this post I wrote.