When J.K. Rowling submitted the first Harry Potter book, it didn't have the same title as we've known. It was first called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and later adapted to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why? These two things are synonymous.
Attitude. When you hear the term "philosopher," it sounds geeky and pompous. A sorcerer on the other hand, bolsters the idea of mystery, power, and elusiveness.
What's the point? Branding is full of nuance, while these two terms on paper mean the same thing, their emotional qualities are different. In branding, it's not just what you say, how you look, and what you do, but the attitude you bring to the table.
Yesterday, I wrote about how good logos do not make more money. The essential premise was that a good logo is not meant to earn people more money, but counters the cost of having a bad logo. Such as having to reprint collateral when a good logo finally emerges, losing equity in an image that changed, negative impressions, or having to repurpose/reconstruct the logo for various applications (social icons, favicons, app icons, small scale, etc.).
It got me thinking though, isn't all design about mitigating risk or cutting cost? Some would argue that design can earn more money, like going through a rebrand to appeal to a more affluent market, designing an ad meant to drive revenue, or building a streamlined website to increase conversion. But, I'm not convinced this means design's core function is to earn more money.
When you're rebranding to appear to a more affluent market, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of appearing cheap or scammy.
When designing an ad to increase revenue, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of being off brand or having a Peleton faux pas.
When you're building a streamlined website, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of user confusion and discomfort.
Focusing on how you can make more money is great, but that doesn't seem to be design's core capacity. Design is meant to mitigate risk.
The risk of appearing unprofessional.
The risk of having a rigid, difficult identity system.
The risk of looking dysfunctional.
The risk of making a user's experience negative.
Whatever it may be, good design is about mitigating risk.
Design is a gargantuan undertaking, namely because there is so much stuff to consider. From logos, icons, illustrations, layouts, man, the list is endless. But, there are two things that set the trajectory for good design and good branding within a startup: color and typography.
Things go haywire with color really fast. Why? Because most startups want to impress people and peacock their way to good branding. The more flash, the better right? Wrong. Honestly, when you are starting out, it is imperative to rely on one core color (unless you design out a full color palette). Why one color? Because it helps you focus and reign in all of your energy on keeping your branding consistent. One color, with neutrals (black, greys, and white). That will make your startup appear far more mature than a one boasting yellows, blues, and pinks like a clown at a sideshow.
Type is hard, even for designers who have been trained in choosing tyoefaces and using them properly. In the prospect of boosting your startup through design, please heed this suggestion: pick one, good, timeless typeface. Why? Because typography connotes so much emotion and is often chosen based on what looks "cool." "Cool," usually translates to distressed, obnoxious, or flippant. None of which you want to be associated with your startup.
I get it, you want to be extravagant and show that your company is creative (and it is, don't you forget it). But is selecting an overtly illustrative or stylized typeface going to be the best way you communicate that? It could be, after you get a grip on what you're doing from a design perspective. But that takes time and expertise. So, for the time being until you can fully invest in picking typefaces that have personality and are selected with on-brand intentions, pick something neutral and timeless. I'd recommend pulling one from this font bundle on Design Cuts.
Implementing these suggestions into your startup is not going to solve everything, but it will at least help you appear more trustworthy until you can really build out and refine your branding.