A couple of months ago, my fabulous friend Sabrina of The Tomato Tart and I gave a presentation at BlogHer Food. The title of it: Branding and Design 101 for Food Bloggers. At the end of the presentation, we promised that we would post the presentation online…and then we didn’t. UNTIL NOW. Part 1 of the post is here! Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. If you have any questions, feel free to email, tweet or leave a comment below and Sabrina and I will be happy to answer it.
As a warning, this is a graphic heavy, long post. But I’ve done the best I could to condense a long graphic heavy presentation.
We have to start with the question of “Why branding?” To answer that questions you have to ask yourself first “Why am I blogging?” If you are blogging for yourself, your friends and loved ones and as a creative outlet, than don’t worry about branding yourself. Branding is for people who want to take their blog to the next level, whether its to gain more readers, turn it into a career, become a chef, food writer, recipe developer, food photographer, land a cookbook deal or (dream big here folks) a TV deal. Branding is vital for bringing in a larger audience and building your platform.
But not everyone wants that or cares for it. If you love to blog just to blog and don’t care about all that other stuff, than branding should be the least of your concerns. Go to the kitchen and fire up the stove/oven and make something fantastic to blog about. Just ignore this post.
So if you DO want to take your blog to the next level, then you have to ask yourself, “What is my brand?” When we meet with a design client, we often times do a design exercise where we ask them to describe their company with adjectives. We’ve gone ahead and done that with a few well known blogs. Keep in mind that these adjectives are words that Sabrina and I came up with, not the blog we are discussing. They might disagree or object to the words we picked but since they weren’t at BlogHer Food, they couldn’t protest
Notice how the brand adjectives we picked match 101 Cookbooks‘ blog. You want adjectives that directly correspond with your own sensibilities. The word “Natural” is a perfect fit for her blog, and in fact, is in the title of her best selling cookbooks Super Natural Every Day.
Keep in mind that the adjectives that you use to describe your brand, is also the adjectives you would use to describe yourself. Your blog is an extension of yourself. Looking at The Pioneer Woman‘s blog, the words “energetic, friendly and vivacious” totally describe it. If you’ve ever had the chance to meet Ree in person, you’ll know that those words also describe her.
So we challenge everyone who is thinking of branding (or rebranding) their site, to make a list of 8 to 10 adjectives that describe themselves. As you develop your brand, you’ll slowly want to whittle the list of adjectives down. The less adjectives you have, the stronger your brand becomes.
Sabrina and I originally came up with nine adjectives to describe Simply Recipes. Then we whittle it down to five. But in the end, you really only need ONE adjective to succinctly describe Simply Recipes. Simple. Her blog is all about simple to make food. It’s in her name!
Sabrina and I decided we wanted to make a new blog, that we would both contribute to. We picked adjectives that described the both of us. You’ll see how we use these adjectives later in the presentation.
You want to pick words that describe you, but as you grow as a blogger, and as person, you’ll discover that your might outgrow those words or you might evolve. Don’t be afraid to evolve your blog as well.
Steamy Kitchen started off with a concept of Modern Asian. She then released The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook that was 101 Asian recipes simple enough for tonight’s dinner. After writing 101 recipes about Asian food, she was tired of just doing Asian, so she evolved her blog to be Fast Fresh and Simple food. She still has Asian influences in her food, but not every blog post is restricted to Asian dishes. And, if you look closely on her book cover, there’s a pink circle in the bottom left corner (I’ve circled it) that says “steamykitchen.com” – the circle seems to hint to her new blog logo.
Don’t be afraid that branding your blog means you’re slick and corporate. There are a number of down to earth bloggers that have branded themselves, and kept it real.
Smitten Kitchen has her blog branded with the stylized cropped “sk” but otherwise, her blog is pretty bare bones and she keeps it real by shooting all her food in her kitchen. Branding doesn’t necessarily have to mean corporate or fancy. Don’t feel like you have to create a super polished logo or blog to brand it.
What’s a logo mark? It’s a symbol used for your logo. Think the swoosh in Nike, or the white apple with the bite taken out of it for Apple. We really recommend that you hire a designer to create a logo mark. Unless you have experience as designer as well as Adobe Illustrator you’ll want a professional to make a logo mark.
However creating a wordmark is different. What’s a wordmark?
A wordmark is a logo made of type. Picking a font and using it in a creative way (whether it’s hand drawing it out like Matt Bites does, putting it vertically like Orangette, or just adding a green dot over the i’s in David Lebovitz) is an easy way to create a unique logo.
Now finding a font you like can take time but the first thing you should do is look on your computer. Most computers have hundreds of fonts already installed. And before you dismiss these fonts, keep in mind that all you need to do is tweak them a little bit to make them unique by changing their color or stacking them. But if you don’t like the preinstalled fonts, but have seen one you like, try using one of these sites.
Identifont asked you a series of questions where you have to answer based on the shape of the letter forms. You can even limit the characters to a certain set (say you’ve seen the word “Delicious” in a cool font, you can limit the character questions to d-e-l-i-c-o-u-s because those are the characters that you know. Identifont isn’t the best solution but it might get you close. When they give you the results, they’ll even give you a list of other similar fonts, which might help.
What the Font is another nifty website that allows you upload a picture of a font and then it’ll try to find the font that is used. Say you visit a website and you want to find out the font they used for their logo. You can do a screen capture and then upload the screen capture and it will try to figure it out. If the computer can’t figure it out, you can post on the What the Font forum and other font geeks can try to figure out the font for you (I’ve been desperate before and have resorted to this, and it’s amazing the level of knowledge the font geeks have).
What the Font even has a nifty iPhone app that allows you to snap a photo of the font you like with your iPhone camera and upload it directly. Say you’re out on the town and you see a cool poster and want to know the font they use. Snap the photo, upload it and see what comes back. Cool huh? That said, I’ve never used the iPhone app, so I can’t tell you how good it is.
Once you’ve found your font, you’ll want to get it right? You can buy it from a number of sources. Like myfonts.com, typography.com, fontshop.com, veer.com and smaller font foundries like chank.com. What’s nice about some of those fonts shops is that you can test our your type and see what it looks like before you buy it.
Here’s an example of the words “Yummy and Delicious” that we punched into MyFonts.com. You can see the different fonts and the way it looks.
Now we’re all on a budget right? So some of us want it cheap. And when I say cheap I mean free. Free fonts are easy to find, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Sometimes the free fonts will be truncated fonts (meaning they have the ABC letters, but don’t have punctation or numbers or such). Sometimes the free fonts only come in one weight (meaning it comes in regular, but not italic or bold) and sometimes the fonts just aren’t designed well. That means it might look good small, or on the screen, but once you blow it up into poster size it will look ugly and distorted. Things look different at different scales. If you don’t believe me, look at a flower on the ground and then look at a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Both flowers, different scale.
You may not think you will ever need your logo blown up into poster size, but what happens when you land that book deal, and they need to print up promotional posters? Bad fonts are everywhere and they separate the professional from the amateur.
That said, if you want to go the free route (I certainly have used my fair share of free fonts) check out myfonts.com (just click on the free tag), theleagueofmoveabletype.com, dafont.com, fontspring.com, chank.com (look for the $0.00 price) and fellow blogger Kevin and Amanda’s homemade handwritten fonts. Fellow designer Anile also gave me the heads up on fontsquirrel.com another wonderful free font resource.
Now Sabrina and I decided we wanted to name our new blog “ChitChat & Chew” and we came up with a few logos designs. The one we settled on was one font, with different weights. Meaning, the CHIT and CHEW were in bold weight and the CHAT and & were in regular weight.
Side note: While giving the presentation at BlogHer Food, I really tried hard to enunciate the word CHIT. I’m a family friendly blogger.
The logo we picked is pretty decent as is, or “out of the can” as my designer pal Sandrine used to say. But as a designer, certain things bugged me. So I went back and customized it a bit.
They are subtle changes to be sure, but if you look closely, I rounded the C a bit to make it more geometric, customized the ampersand so the curlique end lined up with the top of the letters, thickened the crossbar on the E and made the W legs symmetrical. Most of the changes aren’t hugely noticeable, especially smaller, but once you blow them up big, they’ll become much more obvious. Remember, think big here. When we land that television deal and ChitChat & Chew has it’s own billboard, Sabrina and I will be ready with a decent logo.
I’ll be back on Monday with part 2 of this presentation, where you’ll learn about mood boards, color palettes.