We recently sat down with our long-standing Senior Digital Designer, Johnny Bojaca, to chat about how to approach branding, and reveal some key learnings for businesses great and small.

So, Johnny, how did you get into design and what’s it like being one of the OG Reckon employees?

What got me into design was video games. When I was younger, I always wanted to know how to create them, specifically, the 3D animated ones.

Back then when I was deciding what to study, I found that graphic design offered 3D animation, but only in the final year of the course. So, I went did the whole degree anyway, learning about design and other skills like programming along the way. That ended up being the field I went into and remain in today.

In terms of being an OG employee, longevity with the brand granted me the chance to help it grow over time. This helps keep me driven to innovate, so that Reckon keeps looking fresh and contemporary.

What’s the most important thing you’ve ever learned about design?

The most important thing about design is being functional. Without it, it would just be decoration.

Don’t design something just because it’s pretty or aesthetically pleasing – although that’s important too. Design needs to serve a purpose.

What would you say are some of the key elements that make up a brand’s identity?

The key visual elements of brand identity would be the logo, fonts, colours etc. But that’s not the whole story at all.

A brand is not just the graphic elements. It’s about how your business feels and what your business is. So, you need to think about what you want to communicate and how you want others to feel about your business. That’s the first step.

From there you can build out everything that’s required to communicate that intention, through your graphic elements like logos, colours, and visual style.

Do you have any knowledge to share about creating a cohesive brand?

Creating boundaries helps a lot, especially regarding the elements you create. Always have clear limits to how far you want to go with the brand. If you don’t have limits, you’ll create random stuff over time that will dilute your brand, because it’s not consistent. This is where creating brand guidelines becomes important.

You can’t just dream up a new look and feel with every ad or social post. It might seem boring, but It’s at least consistent, and that’s very important when it comes to branding.

Once you achieve consistency, people will start to remember you. And only then are you are truly creating a ‘brand’. Your branding must be cohesive otherwise it’s nothing… and you don’t really have a brand, and a visual identity, at all.

Another important lesson here is that creating a cohesive brand takes time. It can’t be rushed.

How do you move with the times and stay modern but keep true to a brand?

I am always trying to incorporate new design trends and make small tweaks to the visual identity of Reckon because a brand must constantly evolve. And, with this fast-moving world we are living in, this is even more true now than ever.

But! You should evolve your brand’s look and feel carefully and slowly so you don’t lose brand recognition. When it comes time to refresh or update your brand, you must carefully test and expand these limits you’ve set. (This, of course, ties back to what I was talking about previously in terms of keeping your brand cohesive by creating limits.)

Now you might say, ‘let’s introduce this new element, or this new design’, and that’s how it starts to evolve. I’ve done this over the last seven years at Reckon, incrementally tweaking and modernising while never losing sight of cohesiveness or brand recognition.

Over time design trends change and things can get stale. For example, right now you’ll see major brands changing their fonts to become less harsh with rounder edges and a more friendly style. It could be years before they look at doing that again.

For small businesses, the starting questions could be ‘how can I stand out more’? How can we make a difference in this industry? Do we want to attract a younger demographic? Do we want to be more eco-friendly?

From answering such questions, you can then look at design tweaks and shifts in your brand design and brand voice to address these goals.

How does design help people understand what a brand is all about?

Design helps people understand the brand by guiding them, using the hierarchy of the elements, and certain colours to feel emotions.

The hierarchy of elements refers to what the eye sees and the order of first impressions.

For example, if you see a webpage or an ad, what is it that first catches your attention? Was it a strong text-based message? Was it an image? A colour? These first impressions start to build the character of your brand in the consumer’s mind. This is extremely important.

When it comes to colours, every colour invokes a different emotion or connection. Blue typically invokes a sense of professionalism. Greens denote a connection to nature and produces a sense of calm.

For example, McDonald’s go with the colour red for a reason – red is known to induce hunger.  You’ll see this everywhere in fast food – KFC, Red Rooster, and Pizza Hut all use reds.

So, when you’re looking at creating a colour palette for your brand, think deeply about what feelings you want to produce in your audience. You also want to make sure that your brand stands out from the crowd, but don’t go too far.

Where should a small business owner start when it comes to designing a look and feel that speaks their brand?

Start with the logo, define your brand’s colour palette and decide which graphics elements you want to be core to your brand.

Think about what sort of style you want to create – such as modern or luxurious or fun and quirky -that connects with your brand’s ‘feel’.

You should collate the elements of style you choose into a basic set of brand guidelines. (Doing so will assist you enormously in being consistent when you apply the elements across your collateral.)

The first brand guidelines you define could just be a few pages dictating colours, fonts, and logos, but it will help you remember what your brand is. You can always refer to your brand guidelines when it comes to any design or marketing endeavour.

After developing your guide and defining your limits, you’ll naturally start to develop a ‘brand voice’.

A brand voice is how you sound and how you write.

Think about your brand as a person – what do they look like and how do they speak? Who are they appealing to? This will evolve naturally, so just start small.

Senior Digital Designer, Johnny Bojaca