If you’re reading this, it means you want to have a premium brand that sets you apart, attracts higher-value clients, and positions you as a leader in your industry. Check out this list of the 4 biggest branding mistakes that make you look unprofessional, costing you money and clients, that you need to know about.
You’ve either bootstrapped it yourself or you’ve hired cheap freelancers, but now business is exploding and you know you need to step it up to the next level if you want to be seen as the expert you are.
You’d like to look more professional in a way that shows how much value you provide, and maybe it’s time to partner with a pro to give your clients the best brand experience possible.
Too many times I see brands that could be amazing with just a few tweaks. It’s easy to make mistakes when it’s not your expertise.
So, to help you, I’ve compiled a list of the 4 biggest mistake areas that make your brand look unprofessional (and result in lost clients and money) that you may not even realize are happening.
Your Branding Mistakes with Fonts
Most people don’t realize they can access and use hundreds of great fonts for free.
(And I don’t mean on janky websites like 1001fonts.com)
Google Fonts costs nothing and has an extensive collection of professional fonts you can download and install on any computer. Adobe Typekit is another great option if you have the Creative Cloud.
This is great news because websites are no longer constrained to 5 lame “web-safe” fonts like they were 10 years ago. Online design programs and website platforms are now adding the ability to connect right to these robust font engines and integrate seamlessly.
Which means there’s no excuse for using ugly fonts 🙂
However, if you’re not a designer, you wouldn’t know where to start.
Because too many fonts can be just as detrimental as too few.
Keep reading because I’m sharing how to make sure your fonts go together, work well in different media, and not look outdated.
Font mistake #1: Too many fonts.
If you look at your graphics or your website and you don’t instantly feel at ease, chances are good your typography is off somehow. The most common problem is using too many fonts. When the paragraph fonts are different or heading font choices are mismatched, the whole page feels… off.
When fonts don’t compliment each other or there’s too many in one place, the contrast and variety is overwhelming to the eyes.
Throw in several colors (we’ll get to that in a moment) and it looks like the website from hell.
All the different styles end up competing for attention.
There’s no consistency.
And because of all this, it hurts the reader’s eyes.
As a result, your audience leaves.
They don’t know where to find the right information or how to digest what they see.
This can happen in seconds after they see your design.
It could be a website, a header graphic, or even a business card.
What could have been a client is now a lost one.
The good news is? Easy fix!
Pick ONE font for your headings.
Similarly, pick ONE font for your paragraphs.
Keep them the same on everything you create.
Less is more. Every time.
Font mistake #2: Hard to read fonts.
If your copy is hard to read (ie – using any script, swirly, decorated, or display font) you lose people.
You might think it’s really fun and full of personality, but no one else will stick around to figure out what you’re saying.
There are 3 main kinds of fonts that can be hard to read and you need to use sparingly:
Display fonts. These are created for just that: a display! This could be a header line of copy or a phrase you want to stand out, but NOT a paragraph block.
Script fonts. Best when used with one or two words, not a whole sentence. Think of scripts as an accent or a flourish.
Swirly or decorated fonts. Unless your brand is Lisa Frank or your demographic is youthful, stay away completely.
The rule of professional fonts in design school is to pair a serif with a sans-serif. Find fonts with approximately the same letter shapes (tall & skinny, short & round, etc) and you’ll be much more likely to find ones that work well together. Maybe hit up Google fonts and download a bunch to play with.
Disclaimer – This is not an exact science. Even designers have to play with font pairs until they get a set that works well together. If you’re incorporating one of the harder-to-read options, give it a test drive it with other people to make sure they can read it.
Font Mistake #3: Undetermined Sizes of Fonts
In a branding package, your designer will help you develop a set of standard sizes for each font.
This is another level of continuity that adds to your brand.
You need to know what fonts are for headlines, what fonts are for copy, and what sizes those fonts will live in each application of your brand. You also need to think about spacing between lines and letters for each of those as well.
This is what most people never think about.
You choose your brand fonts and think you’re set to go.
STOP! You’re not done.
The ultimate level of pro’s ask these questions:
– How big will your headline ALWAYS be?
– How big will your copy ALWAYS be?
– Are you spacing out your lines for more breathability, or condensing it for impact? (You need to know and how much)
– Are your words tracked out a little, a lot, or none at all?
It might never have occurred to you that this process even exists. There’s actual science behind how type sits on a page, and what it means to the reader psychologically. So, it’s important to not skip this part.
People will stay on your page based on how your type is arranged because it creates a specific feeling. If they don’t like that feeling, or it doesn’t resonate, they leave.
Your Branding Mistakes with Colors
Color mistake #1: Crazy Color Palettes
Take 5 minutes and search for “color palettes” on Pinterest. You’ll find there are millions of choices.
You can search for any single color in that palette (“purple color palettes”) array and you’ll get hundreds of ideas about what your favorite eggplant purple will match with. (hint: greens and neutrals)
The mistake I see is the desire to put all your favorite colors into the same palette and have it look GOOD.
And, as much as I want it to be true… it just doesn’t work that way.
Color palettes work best when there’s a balanced range in the set: a light, a dark, a neutral, and a vibrant choice. Beyond this, it gets complicated and … well, ugly.
If you’re randomly choosing different tones of green or blue, thinking “as long as its close, it’s good enough, right?” you’re damaging your brand reputation.
Don’t believe me?
If Coke picked a different RED every time they launched a product, what would it make you think or feel?
– what does this new red mean? (confusion)
– did something happen with the printing? (unprofessionalism)
– what else is changing? (distrust)
– I don’t like this new red as much. (distaste)
And as a result of confusion and distrust, you might go buy Pepsi instead.
–> All of this is decided in SECONDS of passing a package label at the grocery store.
Choose what your colors will be and commit to 4 or fewer colors.
This builds recognition and trust. Above all, you don’t want to confuse people every time they see you.
So, how do you begin?
Start with a color you like. First, head over to Pinterest and search. You don’t need to know color theory, color wheels, or even color psychology to make great choices.
Color mistake #2: Wrong color psychology
If you ARE Interested in reaching your people on a deeper subconscious level, then you probably need to care about color psychology.
There’s a lot to be said about YOU being YOU (neon pinks and all).
But take into account your audience.
Would they respond to that color? Color psychology is not an exact science – we can’t say ALL TEENAGE GIRLS would respond to neon pink (because I sure as hell wouldn’t) but you can say there’s a general trend towards preferring youthful colors vs. mature colors.
- Greens are great for health and wellness
- Blues inspire calmness and trust
- Reds are powerful and bold
- Yellows and oranges are friendly and welcoming
If you happen to be a friendly, welcoming business but you hate orange and yellow, the world is not over. There are solutions out there that can work for you and get the job done (so don’t stress!).
For instance, you’ll notice that fast food restaurants are often shades of yellow, red, and orange. This is done on purpose to get you excited about the food and these colors happen to also represent hunger and speed.
Compare that to the spa or health food stores. No red in sight, and softer yellows if any. These places are more earth-toned, and its no accident. Greens and blues are soothing and associated with the body, wellness, and relaxation.
Neat, right? So which colors communicate the FEELING of your brand? That’s the million-dollar question.
You can do your research on this topic to learn more or just reach out for help.
Your Branding Mistakes with Images
Image mistake #1: Low-Quality Photos
Blurry is tacky. If it looks pixelated now, it’s not fooling anyone later.
Out-of-focus brand images are not helping you. So, stop swiping them from Google and resizing them in spaces where they don’t truly fit.
You don’t have to be a photographer to have nice photos that work together and creates a look that captures your brand. There are so many image bank options online, it’s just silly not to take the time and dig a little.
And it may not cost you anything but a couple of hours…
Free photo libraries:
Subscription photo libraries:
Curated stock libraries are a must for every business. If you don’t have a professional photoshoot lined up, this is your next best option.
Image mistake #2: Mismatched Coloring & Style
Once you’ve chosen a quality image library, how do you even begin to pick the right photos?
Most libraries have ways to create collections of photos within your account. Simply start adding what you like, and notice similarities.
This is where it helps to have a mood board, or a brand board to guide you in the styling and color scheme of your images.
For example, if your brand colors and fonts lean towards a bold and bright feel, find photos that feel similar. Likewise, if your brand is more soft and neutral, find soft and neutral photos to compliment.
It doesn’t have to be exact.
The tricky part is matching the subject matter once you have a collection of images that compliment your style and colors. Just be smart about the subject matter.
For example, if you…
- work with women, don’t include photos of men.
- have a relaxed, calm vibe, don’t use busy city pics.
- hate the beach, don’t include beach images
As you refine, you’ll start to notice what draws you in, what you love, and what stands out as a mismatch. Remember, you’re creating a cohesive brand for your audience. The photos of your kids and dogs (unless they directly apply) need to be used elsewhere.
Your Branding Mistakes with White Space
“The pause is as important as the note.” —Truman Fisher, American Composer
White space mistake #1: No elbow room
Fast facts: Your graphics can be expanded into as many posts as you need. Similarly, a website has ENDLESS room to write and add photos. You can scroll forever. Your business is no longer confined to an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
Stop cramming all your info into one tiny space.
When people feel like they have space, they relax. They hang out. They grab a drink and stay awhile.
Clutter and crowdedness in your designs are constricting. Think of white space as a pair of lungs in your design, giving you air to breathe.
Give your people that visual air to breathe on your website. After that, give them first-class visual legroom on your social media platforms.
Open up your margins.
Space out your lines of text.
Push sections down the page.
Because what’s the rush? Every interaction with you should feel uncrowded. Unpressured. Comfortable.
It doesn’t have to be airy, wispy and light, or super minimalistic if that’s not your business style.
But it does need room to breathe.
Here’s the truth: the more copy you add to a graphic, the fewer people read it.
People are scrolling and digesting and being distracted second to second with a million apps and notifications.
You don’t have the luxury of a paragraph.
Instead, keep it short and sweet. Spacious, with breathing room.
White space mistake #2: Lack of balance
Content on a page carries visual weight. The best example I can use is to look at someone’s Instagram profile and scroll down their page. Notice how dark, deeply-colored photos feel heavier, while white backgrounds feel lighter.
The same is true for your designs.
What I often see is templates mashed and squished with too many parts in one place. The margins are too tight, the text is too small, the images too big, things are off-center, and the balance is a jumbled mess.
How do you accomplish this balance when you’re not a designer? There are some basic rules you can follow:
First: The Rule of Thirds. Break up your space into three columns instead of aligning everything to the center. Align to one side or the other to create a stronger composition.
Second: Allow ample line space and lots of margin between images, text, and the sides of your website. Give it breathing room. You can make your webpages as long as you need to – don’t be afraid to space out information.
Third: Trade-off photo placement. If you have text and images on a page, try alternating them on the left and right. Or instead, use one large image as the focal point. Use images to break up the text.
Fourth: Stick to your font choices and standards. Keep your headlines and paragraphs all the same.
A great place to look at page balance is high publication magazines like Real Simple, Time, Good Housekeeping, or National Geographic. These will give you a great feel for how to compose quality layouts that balance images, copy, color, and headline text.
That was way more than 4 mistakes!
You’re right, but it felt important to be thorough.
This is a more comprehensive list of branding mistakes that can make your business appear unprofessional to your audience. Taken step by step, you’ll be able to make amazing strides in tightening up your brand look and feel. As a result, you’ll gain trust and boost your reputation in the online space, ensuring higher quality clients in the future.
Finally, if this isn’t your area of expertise or you simply don’t have the time (as most entrepreneurs don’t), I’d love to help you get it done. Stop losing trust and confidence in your brand with every passing day.
I offer all of this as a done-for-you service that’s included with any brand package. I curate custom sets of fonts, colors, and images that highlight your unique business and allows you to focus on what you do best. My specialty is page layout (thanks to years formatting magazines in the corporate world) and I love bringing brands to life.
If you need help, reach out check out any of the brand package contents here: http://erinkmonaghan.com/work-with-me