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Branding and Design. Keep it Simple and Consistent

    Branding and Design. Keep it Simple and Consistent

    Logo, Design, Website, Brochures, Signage … Design and Branding is a big step for many small businesses. It’s a big investment that will need to ride the waves of changing trends. Bridget and I talked with Designer Rhonda Negard, small business owner herself of Fat Dog Creatives, to hear what advice she has for small businesses.

    Bridget: So, I’m a small business. I have a tire shop downtown. I say, I need a website. I know that you build them, but like what, what is UX branding design? What, what does that mean to a nuts and bolts kind of a person? How do you describe that?

    Rhonda, Fat Dog Creatives:
    Well, that’s a lot in one question, Bridget. So the first thing is when someone comes to me and says, I need a website, I need to know why, why do you think you need one?

    Now, typically I would say almost every business needs a website, but there are certainly exceptions and you can succeed without one. I always counter with, if you’re already succeeding and you don’t have one, how much further along could you be if you did have one?

    It’s always going to compliment your efforts. If you’re working hard, it’s going to work hard for you and make you go a little bit further. If we’re talking about a tire shop, well they’re local, right? A lot of their marketing efforts are going to be very targeted because it’s, it’s geographically restrained.

    If you don’t already have a website but are succeeding, ask yourself – how much further ahead will you be if you had a website?

    We need to keep location in mind. We have to keep it localized with the lingo, the words that we use, the design and everything needs to feel like our hometown. For us to go out and design something that looked very, Danish, very modern, just probably wouldn’t work here. For a tire shop certainly would seem odd.

    There are other things to consider too. What is the tire shop going to do with their website? Is this where they’re going to go and have clients like track their mileage on their tires and, when they last got it checked up or is that simply going to be a sticker, just like with the oil and you know, on your oil change on your windshield?

    Ask yourself, what is your website going to need to do? What will people use it for?

    Is your website just to lend credibility? Perhaps it just could be a one-page a website. It doesn’t need a whole lot of information. It’s really for the credibility and brand awareness. People also need to see from your website that your company is a legit business. It’s not somebody just trying to call me for money or something. That doesn’t mean that well-designed sites can’t be scammers or illegitimate, but it does help to show that you’ve made an investment in your business, which means that you’re serious enough to spend that money.


    In one of our first episodes, we talked about what needs to be on a website, your hours of operation, your address and your phone number and they should be correct. How many times that information is not there, you know?


    Right. I mean, especially for something that’s really constrained to its location. I mean, you think about a tire shop two in San Antonio. It’s not even the greater San Antonio area. It’s a smaller area within the city. So you’ve got some struggles there too, because on one hand it’s like really limited amount of business. You can only get so much, however, you can start to pull in people from the neighboring communities with your brand reputation and things like that. I will drive 40 minutes to the other side of town because these people are reliable. They’re honest. And I know I can always get in.

    A local business can draw in customers from neighbouring locations if they have a good enough reputation.


    Or where are you going to wait while they change your tires?  So then you’re going to go to Goodyear. I was thinking about the tire shop because I know was a franchise where they do oil changes and all that stuff. I know I can walk there, but then a lot of people want a service, whatever kind it is near where they work.


    Is it by your work, by your house, by your friend, by your favorite restaurant? Or does the shop itself have a really nice lounge area with wifi and things like that? Right. There was a place in my parents’ hometown, it’s a carwash and you think, Oh, it’s just a carwash. Well, you are not always first in line. Then you got to wait for that car to be washed and then dried off. And they have a pretty nice setup because they’ve got a little shop. So you can buy some things for your car, but also like greeting cards because how many times you were like, Oh, I forgot. Father’s day is coming up. Or mother’s day was, you know, just yesterday. And I totally forgot. So, you can buy little things like that there while you’re waiting.

    Your reputation has as much to do with the product you sell as with the user experience people have when they are buying it.

    Then also they’ve got their own wifi and a nice little seating area with padded chairs. So you can sit on your laptop on your phone, whatever. So, that’s part of your marketing, probably part of your branding as well. Right.

    And since we’re talking about marketing, I do want to make that distinction, that marketing is short-term. So we might be marketing for cyber Monday. Starting in September, we need to have slowly started ramping up for that. So that means we need to be planning now. Right. Um, but marketing is short lived. So as soon as cyber Monday hits, we got something else. Right. Maybe where we’re targeting for Valentine’s day by then, you know, like forget new year’s. Cause we were focusing on Christmas and new year’s for cyber Monday. So now we’re going to focus on Valentine’s Day.

    Marketing is short lived. Branding is long term.

    Marketing is the short-term smaller picture and branding is the big picture. And that’s why when people say your brand needs to your brand identity and everything associated with your brand needs to be timeless because the brand has to last over time, your marketing strategy, your marketing concepts, the design and everything, all that can be the trends and everything. It needs to survive all those generations of trends that go on. And right now, trends turn over faster than they used to.


    Okay. So let me get this straight then. If I’m a small business, I’ve got a few things that I have to think about. One I have a brand that is over and above the products and services that maybe I’m selling, I’m thinking perhaps Walmart or Starbucks or something where people go to that brand because of what that brand means to them. And yes, they sell things, but they might buy things because of what the brand is – we’re identifying with the brand and that can go long term. Then we’ve got the user experience associated with the brand. Like I feel good being with this brand, not because of what they sell me, but because I identify with them. Probably the best example would be Starbucks.

    Your branding needs to be solid enough to survive the trends. Look at Coke.

    You know, I find their coffee lousy. Why do people go there? Well, some sort of tribal thing that’s going on and then you’ve got the product. So if we go back to the tires, we’ve got the small business, they got a tire store, everyone loves their brand. People are hanging out there. They’re not even buying tires. They just really feel good about this brand. It turns into some sort of community center, you know, so you’ve got great branding. People are having an amazing experience and Oh, okay. Now they’re selling some tires as well.

    If I’m a small business and I’m thinking, okay, I’ve got these three things on my plate, how would you prioritize that? Because this isn’t something that can just be done in a website.


    Okay. So brand is the product or the service that are delivering. It’s the thing, right? And branding is the management of everything associated with that product, the delivery of that product, everything. So branding is where you should start because it sets up that strategy and can put you on the path for success. Now, if you deviate from, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to fail or that you’re going to succeed, but staying on that path, it means that you’re going to be consistent. And that’s the, that’s the main thing. That’s where all of these companies, big or small, the ones that are really successful is that they have remained consistent, right?

    Start with Branding. Be consistent.

    Coffee is Starbuck’s main attraction, but from the beginning, they wanted to create a sense of community. That’s why they have those nice cushy chairs. And so that’s part of what made people become loyal to the coffee itself, because they were able to work from home. Like a lot of us, we have home offices, but meet with clients without having to bring them to our home. So, we can still go to Starbucks or go to, Seattle’s best or whatever. And that, that works. It works for me. Who’s not a coffee drinker. So they were able to expand their market a little bit big or their audience because, Hey, I know everybody else drinks coffee. I don’t, but I can get them there. They can have their favorite coffee at Starbucks, and we can get the business done.

    Part of the branding process is identifying what it is that you want to create for your company immunity. Now, do you want, if you have a physical location, do you want that kind of activity? Might it be disruptive? Maybe that is too much. Maybe you want a more intimate relationship. And so, you have limited number of people, but deeper relationships. So, then you have to talk through, with your strategist, how do you create those deeper connections without obviously spending all 24 hours of your day talking to 24 different people, right? You need to be able to reach more people because we can’t create time, right? Time is finite.

    Think of the branding process as building your company immunity.

    And so, all of that is part of the branding. I think small businesses need to start there now. It can become an expensive investment for some – it just depends on what your budget is, but there are ways that the businesses can start doing the branding on their own before they reach the point of needing a strategy to expand it.

    So now we’re going to step back from branding. And we’re just going to talk a little bit about design, because that’s one of the, one of the many things that can influence your brand, right? So everybody, whenever they think of branding, they think I need a logo. Well, a logo is an important tool, but it’s not the only thing in your brand.

    Keep it simple.

    Your logo is a part of everything. I’ll start using fonts for the audience. And it’s going to be on your color palette and then just general placement of everything, everything. So what I like to tell people this say, you’re going to say, Oh, it’s so cliche, but cliches are there for them. Right. Keep it simple. So we, there’s a, there’s a phenomenal called the Ikea effect, which you guys probably are familiar with. If you build it, you have more of an emotional connection to it and that’s part of Ikea’s brand. You will then overvalue something that doesn’t have much value.

    If you build something yourself, you will imbue it with more value than it has. The IKEA effect.

    We can pay more or even the same amount to someone else have something totally different. And we would value that differently. But because we are putting it together, we feel connected to it, invested in it. And maybe we enjoyed that experience. And if we did, then we’d go get more. That’s part of the problem with wanting to, we have all these wonderful tools out there now, right? That are even free. Some of them where you can build your own things, you can build your own website, build and design. You can build and design your own marketing materials that you need everything. Right. But that’s where the Ikea effect becomes a problem.

    You can use fonts in multiple ways. There are font families like Roboto, because roboto also has light ultra-light, regular semi bold, medium, extra bold …  Roboto in general is an overarching family name, but then you have two families within that, which is the condensed. And then the traditional variations. You’ve got a lot of depth in roboto. You can really do a lot of things with just those two typefaces and everything’s going to look wonderful and consistent.

    So it’s consistent, consistent, consistent. And that’s only technically three fonts. Well, two of them go together, but it’s, it’s three fonts, but with a lot of depth. And so you have a lot of variation to play to your whims as you want to design, but then also you are remaining consistent. Okay.


    I know this to be true. Don’t use a bunch of different fonts and stuff. And a lot of brands will hop on Canva and design their own thing and like pick whatever’s trending without using their brand fonts. And I feel like with music, we’re in a key and we need to pick something that’s in that same key. So I feel like if you’re listening, you’re kind of confused. Think about it like music. If you, if you are choosing something outside of your brand fonts, then you’re off key. Yeah. That’s great. That’s prevalent. It looks terrible.

    Be whimsical while staying consistent with your design.


    Right? So now we talk about color. Color also works with your fonts. You need to make sure that whatever color you use for headers is always going to be the same, whatever color you use for the body copy is always going to be the same. And that doesn’t mean you’re limited to just two colors.

    We can change up the color combination in a document, a marketing piece, whatever our website and create a different mood. So even within your website, you can have a landing page that uses only the header and, and body copy font. And then the other colors for the, for the graphics backgrounds, whatever …


    So, I mean, so I’m a small businessperson and from what you’ve told me, I need to keep it simple. I need to be consistent. My accountant is now asking, what’s the ballpark figure? You know, what should I be investing to get all this going? I mean, you can spend $25 for website. You can spend $25,000 for a website. You can get a student to help you with social media. You can get an agency to help you with social media. I mean, what does one expect to be spending, you know, in a design ballpark for your average small business.

    If you’re not confident enough with choosing a color palette, the absolute best palette is black and white. Period. You’re not going to have any accessibility issues.


    Yeah. Well, you, you kind of said it right there. It can be anything from $25 to 25,000 or more because small business does it always mean small budget. It’s what’s your expectation. If you’re only going to spend $25, that might be best. If you, as the business owner have time that you invest that in some other way than paying someone on one of the tournament sites or whatever, you might get something good. You might get something bad that frustrates you beyond belief, right? So that’s why, when I was talking about picking a fight and be consistent, picking your colors and assigning those colors roles.

    I think your money is best spent on the basics like colour and fonts unless you have a budget of, let’s say more than $3,000, you‘re best to keep your website simple. And if you’re not confident enough with choosing a color plow, palette, the absolute best color palette is black and white. Period.

    So start with, you know, just type your name in one or two fonts, leave it black and white. It’s so simple because it’s the highest contrast. You’re not going to have any accessibility issues, right. And it’s going to be clean. Now I say, it’s going to be clean. That’s provided you. Don’t overuse other graphics. You just got to keep it simple.

    Always remind yourself, after you put everything up there, step back, get someone else to come over. Is it simple? Are they confused? You might have way too much information on your website and you need to strip it down. Like the tire shop may have put like, you know, the family history. That might be interesting, but if it’s the homepage, especially, that’s more than they need to know. They need to know that they can get service right away, that they can schedule if that’s part of your business model and how much it’s going to be. And when, like, when are they able to get there? Because if you close at five o’clock and I work nine to five, I of got to go during a lunch hour or not at all. So, um, keep your website simple until you can afford to invest.

    Where do I get a minimum of $3000 for my design?


    Yeah. At least $3,000. So maybe so maybe like, uh, set up a savings account and be like, every time you feel like, Ooh, I want to touch my website that instead of a swear jar, go for $25 and your website fund. No, seriously, because you do this. And I know I’ve done it myself enough times before, uh, Rhonda is now in charge and she says, you’re not allowed to do this. I even tried to do something to other day. And it says, you don’t have permission. I was like, Oh, okay. That was really smart of you, Rhonda.


    I mean, some people say, for a small business, kind of try to do it, like when you’re in church or when you go to church, you should like put 5% or whatever you, or whatever you sell. For every dollar that you sell, you take five or maybe 10 cents and you put it in your, your marketing jar at the end of the month, you use that 10% or 5%, then some market to get you up higher and the next month. And then it’s a gradual process.

    I do the same thing. When I have new clients and they say, I need all this work, and it’s so expensive. Well, spread it over six months, spread it over a year. What do you NEED to do now?

    As Rhonda said, you need a website, you need to be found, okay. So that’s your money now. And then do it as you have the resources, because if you spend too much, now you spent all your electricity money.

    Rhonda, what’s your experience with small businesses in meeting their expectations? Do you find they’re surprised? Do you find they’re frustrated?

    Changing design can be scary – but it’s part of the commitment process. It’s a major investment.


    Yeah, well, and it’s over time and it’s not going to be overnight. So that might frustrate some people. And it does obviously but over time, people grow into their business. That’s why in the branding process, we talk about what, what your expectations are for your business, five, 10 years down the road, so that we can create an aspirational brand that you can grow into. So, for some clients, it is frustrating because it’s a stretch for them. They’re in this mindset of, you know, hey, what I’ve been doing has been working. If I change to this, it’s it could shock my people. However, the more people start realizing I can get to this aspiration that we’ve established, and it truly is my goal and I’m truly going to embrace it.

    I think that’s the experience. A lot of my clients might be hesitant at first because it makes them nervous because it means I’m acknowledging that I have a goal, but I’m scared to get there. You know, I’m scared I’m going to fail. We all deal with it. But they’ve already made this investment into this thing. You’ve already also major investment into not just paying me and paying you guys, but their business, their, their time. So why, why hold yourself back? But they did say that that their own mindset is really their biggest hurdle. I do see that over time. I’m the designer and strategist for some, but usually design is what they come back with me with.

    Branding and design are imprinted in everything we hear and see whether we are conscious of it or not. And that’s why consistency is important.

    Clients will repeatedly say, I am so happy with the work that we did. I get so much great feedback. And now of course, again, they’re sharing that with me because they know that that part is important to me. But I do hear that over time. The hard task is to remain loyal to what we create, what we’ve established and remain loyal to our own guidelines so that we can be consistent. And so that then customers over time with that brand awareness, twitter, billboards, signs, your company car, everything ties together.

    So when they see that tweet and then they look out their window and, Oh, there’s that car, we were just talking about them. And then I’m driving down the street and I see the sign above the shop or whatever, you know, it all ties together. And the more it looks alike, even if we aren’t consciously thinking about it, it’s imprinted everything that we hear and see that it gets imprinted in our brains, whether we are consciously acknowledging it or not. And so that’s why the consistency is important.

    Marketing is great and effective, but it’s more effective when people already know who you are when they see the brand.

    Stay in Contact!

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