If you’re starting up in business – Where to begin with Branding and Design

You have taken a big leap of faith and decided to set yourself up in business. You have the ‘Big Idea’, you’ve prepared your business plan, you’re ready to go! The next step, “I need a name, a logo, a business card and a website”; but stop. Think.

A logo alone is not a brand and if you want to create interest in and around your business, you have to create a compelling story, an identity attached to it, to draw interest away from your competitors towards you.

As a new business, your story needs to be fresh – you’re the new kid on the block and you have an opportunity to show how your business is different, to make that all important best, first impression – to create a splash!

To be able to do that, you need to imagine fully what your business is, by reviewing the products or services that you offer, pinpointing the areas in the market they occupy and research the rational and emotive reasons and needs of your customers. By beginning to paint a detailed profile of your products or services, how you deliver them and by understanding your customers, you can begin to form a brand identity that will help promote your business, by differentiating you in the market place and connecting positively with your customers.

To understand what a brand is, look at it, as if it were a person, a projection of yourself – your beliefs, your passion, your unique story. When you are not around to sell your products or services personally, it’s up to your branding and design to do that for you.

Every element of design and points of communication that you produce need to be as relevant and compelling as you are. Each element has to be able to tell its story alone, each part of the identity of your business feeds into and supports the whole.

So, where to begin.

Choose a designer who can design an identity, build a story around your business, who can create a personality for it.

A brand is made up of many elements that all work together to reinforce its identity. This includes a name, a tagline, a logo, colour, typography, images, surfaces and textures, environments, tone of voice and writing style. These elements all come together and inform a point of view, and begin to define your business personality.

Once the identity of your business has been established, the design will be informed by the profile of that identity – like a person, you’ll begin to know and recognise their tastes, their ethical code, their friends and interests that inspire them, their desires and aspirations. Knowing how they will act, and what they like, will guide you to meaningful authentic communication.

With many small businesses I have talked to, they already know, it’s their brand that drives their business forward and brings customers to them. They may not know why, but they recognise the link between having a strong brand at the core of their business that make their business successful.

What would a typical branding exercise consist of for a small company starting up?

In order to begin to create the all important ‘brand’, in-depth conversations around the business and a profile of its potential customers is vital. The beginning of a picture, a personality, will begin to form and the designer will be able to go away and by means of a concepts exercise, start to bring together elements that reflect the essence of the business. 

A presentation of broad strokes; ‘mood’ boards, logo ideas, a positioning statement, business card designs, web banners will be presented to show initial design possibilities. The first presentation is pivotal in demonstrating how the business personality comes across. Are the designs too bright? Too sombre? Is the tone too playful? Are the designs engaging enough? There should be plenty in the concepts presentation to enable you on the best way to move forward.

The next presentation is a distilling and fine-tuning exercise that develops the preferred ideas and that worked and incorporate aspects of the concepts that were deemed useful to investigate further. The development stage of the process will show how the elements of the new identity and story begin to fit together and support each other as a complete solution.

In a third part of a process, chosen developed designs will be produced as artwork and made ready for production.

I believe that a design exercise should be conducted within a clear and mutually beneficial process, a process that allows the client to be in control – that the client has choice and can clearly see a path through the process. A process allows for fewer misunderstandings – design is often seen as being subjective – and better solutions are arrived at together.

Good design is puzzle solving – if certain ingredients are put into the mix, a particular solution will manifest itself.

Design is a bespoke service, so being able to enjoy good rapport and mutual understanding with a designer is vital. A good designer will draw out the best from a project and breath life into an identity and to help make a brand.


Helix Design, a London based Branding and Design Consultancy, founded by Raymond Patmore, specialises in high profile design for business to business communication.

Helix Design works with companies and organisations to develop and strengthen brand image, gaining greater marketing visibility.

As a 'full service' consultancy, Helix Design is able to pool the talents of designers, writers and other skill-sets, to create a brighter corporate vision.

Above all, Helix Design realises and manages the relationship between words and images, ensuring vivid communication of your marketing message.

Our services include:

Branding, Corporate identity, Brand development, Art direction, Illustration, Typography, Design for print, Brochures, Advertising, Social Media, Website design, Exhibition environments, Design consultancy