Before you touch a new name, logo, or messaging, it is imperative to list out the values of your startup. I know what you're thinking, "values? We have those. Honesty, Courage, and Innovation."
Cool, but do you know what they mean? What they really mean? I think I know what they mean, but there are nuances about these virtues that unlock their importance.
Values are nothing without their definitions. Specifically, they are nothing without your definition of them.
Here's what I mean: I define honesty as telling the truth regardless of how it will make others feel or what it does to your image. Is that how you define honesty? Maybe, but you can't instill that into your startup and turn it into an actionable element unless you define it for yourself. Your definition will vary slightly and that's where the magic of your brand comes into play.
Give it a go, whatever your values are, define them in your own words.
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.
I'm currently working on a new website or San Diego Startup Week. Yesterday, the former director of the program looked at the new site and commented on how much it had improved from the previous rendition. Obviously, I was flattered. But at the same time, I felt a void within that work.
What is missing is personality, voice, and character. The cherries that make the entire sundae memorable. The new site works and has a streamlined flow to it. But it has no personality other than being well designed.
It's as if design has a brand in and of itself; sterile, refined, clean, simplistic, lots of white space, you get the picture. The next level is using design to communicate a unique feeling that reflects your company.
That's the difference between design and branding. Design is a set of principles that any creative wields as second nature. Using it to build a brand is the ability to bend those principles toward a personality.