I’m sure you’ve seen them around the web. They’re especially popular on Pinterest. And I get the feeling they’re supposed to inspire and awe all of us small business owners.
I’m talking about those intricately detailed 50-page brand manuals.
Even as a brand designer, I find these meticulous documents overwhelming. And, I’ll be honest… I don’t ever want to have to design one.
Don’t get me wrong. Brand manuals have their place in the world.
If you’re running an international conglomerate and have dozens of designers working in HQ, plus ad agencies churning out stuff all around the world, plus freelancers coming on for one-off projects here and there… yeah, you might need a super detailed brand manual.
But for the average small business owner, solopreneur, coach, writer, creative… all that detail is seriously overkill.
Not only is it ridiculously overwhelming to have to refer to a huge document every time you even think about marketing materials… this old school approach to branding leaves you none of the space and flexibility your business and brand need as they naturally grow.
This is why flexible branding is awesome.
Flexible brand visuals are designed to grow. They’re designed for play and experimentation. They are meant to change and evolve and be messed with.
Flexible branding keeps things pretty simple so that as you figure out what you’re all about, who your work is for, and what impact you want to make on the world, the most fundamental parts of your brand visuals can come along for the ride.
Instead of a clunky overstuffed set of strict rules, a flexible visual identity sets you up with a limber adaptable system created specifically to accommodate change.
What does that look like in action? I’m glad you asked, because I put together some examples I’m pretty stoked about!
Mingo Press is an full-service online printing company that prides itself in its intimate understanding of the creatives they serve. Unlike other online printers who market to small business owners DIYing their stuff, Mingo presents themselves as the online printer for graphic designers with meticulous attention to detail, notoriously high expectations, and plenty of quirk rooted in radical creativity.
Why it works: As a printer, their end product varies with literally every single project. Having a flexible brand means they can seamlessly showcase the endless variation of styles each client brings to the table. They’ve made this work by choosing a simple yet distinctive font for their logo, keeping their layouts simple, and embracing fun.
Mast Brothers is one of the first organic artisanal ethically-sourced chocolate makers I ever heard of. I remember hunting for their elusive bars all over town, trying every independent coffee shop I could think of. And when I finally did find one of these gifts from the gods, I’d relish in the slow ceremony of wrapper opening, nerding out on the gorgeous paper.
Why it works: Ok, so Mast chocolate now isn’t nearly as rare as it felt 10 years ago. But the creative packaging still manages to feel like a collector’s item and gives the company room to feature and highlight special collections. They’ve kept their entire design minimal so that it works with virtually any background.
Susie Moreno is a talented photographer, past client, and dear friend. When I designed her brand visuals a couple of years ago, she’d already outgrown almost a dozen different logos as her style evolved and she moved around the country. She needed something that would grow with her and even allow her to play with ever-changing wedding trends.
Why it works: I made Susie a simple hand-lettered logo that felt both personal and a bit polished, knowing that smooth lines and a hard departure from the bouncy calligraphy which was popular at the time would make it versatile and flexible. We haven’t had to update the look yet, but a little experimentation proves how well the logo works in several different styles.
Are you as excited about flexible branding as I am right now? Are you wondering if you + a flexible brand might be a match made in business heaven?
A flexible brand might be perfect for you if….
- You’re a solopreneur whose business is personally tied to you as a person
- You want to highlight creativity in a high-energy totally fun way
- You’re just starting out and you know you’re gonna learn tons about yourself, your work, and your people in the next few years
- You’re not afraid of iterating in public
- You want marketing and graphics making to feel fun again
- You DIY some or all of your stuff
- You can’t decide what one single thing you like and you want freedom to explore
- Your work is inseparably tied to variety and you need a way to highlight the hugeness of what you do
- You offer a wide array of products or services which all live under a wide umbrella that needs to have room for them all
- You work in a fast-changing industry that’s tied to trends
- Your people crave surprise, want to be delighted, love the unexpected
Ready to make it happen?
The flexible brand design formula
Simple logo + open ended color scheme + simple fonts + playfulness = a flexible brand design
In other words, keep it simple and have some fun!
You don’t need a super fancy logo. You don’t need a super polished color scheme. You don’t need an expensive set of fonts.
All you need is your inherent creative genius and to give yourself permission to play.
You can definitely DIY this. Or we can do it together.*
Either way, I’d love to see your awesome flexible brand! Reach out sometime and show me yours.
*Flexible Branding is a new offering I’m testing out. It’s quick, it’s collaborative, it’s fun… and it’s totally within your budget. When you click that link, you’ll be prompted to send me an email… just ask for more details and we’ll talk about what working together on a flexible brand design could look like.