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A Short Treatise On Web Designers’ Role In Branding Their Clients

Ok, so I’m just goofing with the title — this isn’t anything super-formal or anything. I was just thinking over the weekend about branding, and how much of what I do as a web designer is branding. I put together a short list, and I was surprised:

  • Logos
  • Color schemes
  • Website structure
  • Images
  • Font selection
  • Connection between website and printed media
  • All of it a second time if they have a blog or another page on a different URL

But what really struck me wasn’t how many items that I did that were a form of branding, but rather how many decisions go into a good branding effort. There’s a lot of “web design” that’s actually “branding design” if you let it be. Branding happens on a lot of levels.

Branding for Relevance
A webpage needs to target it’s potential clients — meaning that when one of those clients sees the page, they need to instinctively understand the value that the page offers them. that means you need to work to understand your clients’ customer bases, and figure out how to use your design to send them a message. Not in words, but in context — a message that says “this is a company that gets you; a company you’d appreciate giving your business to. Establishing a relevant message is the basis of all of the other areas of branding below.

Appearance
The appearance of a website, complete with all of the items I mentioned in the bullets above, is the primary method of communicating relevance. If you’re a beer drinker, for example, and you’ve ever looked at a can of Coors, the relevance is obvious: it’s a big ol’ mountain, implying fortitude, majesty, and most of all, coldness. What do beer drinkers want? To be tough, regal, and generally to chill out after a hard day’s work. Ta-da!

Content
Now, content is something web designers often consider an SEP — Someone Else’s Problem. But as the designers, particularly of blogs, there are ways that we can make sure that the content takes center stage in our web designs. It’s generally pretty simple things, like making sure that any sidebar material comes on the right, so that the Google spider reads the content block first and the sidebar block second, but they’re still important.

Consistency
A brand isn’t worth anything if it isn’t recognizable. The one thing that is universally true of the top brands worldwide is that you know what they are. Part of your job as web designer is making sure that the client’s brand comes through clearly no matter what part of the website — or any other piece of Internet real estate you’ve designed — that a customer is looking at.

Presence
Branding is useless unless it gets ‘out there’ — and you have the opportunity as a web designer to convince your clients to let you touch every part of their online presence. Get your permission to brand their social media spaces, their advertisements, and so on — and make sure that the relevancy comes across through a consistent appearance and message.

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