Branding needs to be a separate job

- Posted in Uncategorized - 2 comments

Some time ago, I used to make a lot of these “brochure” type websites.

What frustrated me back then was that more often than not I was forced into an uncomfortable position. I had to make a good website, but the client’s branding would be subpar.

Their logo wouldn’t be any good, they would have chosen a cheap font somewhere, and basically they didn’t have a good brand to start with.

So I hear you say: that’s your job, isn’t it? To fix that?

I don’t agree. I think branding is a separate project. It needs to be done before the website project. For me, branding is a combination of a logo, a brand message and assets (illustrations, icons, patterns, etc.)

As a web designer, you’re confronted with this situation often, so you just roll with it and do the best you can. Maybe you nudge the client that they really need to improve their logo, and they need work on brand assets, and also they need better copywriting.

Because you are “the designer”, before you know it, this is your work: fixing the client’s brand. You are hiring illustrators, you are working with copywriters, you are organizing photo shoots and you are employing logo designers to figure the right brand for the client

Or, if you are starting out, maybe you just do the best you can with, whatever you can find using a Creative Commons search. There is no font budget so you look for open source fonts, or you are “creative” (I really hate that word) with what you have. You write the copy yourself because nobody else cares and the dummy copy that you wrote becomes the main copy of the final website.

The problem with all of this is you are wearing 2 hats: brand designer, and website designer. Branding is important, but it’s a separate craft. It can’t be sneaked into a website design project.


  • “Jobs” are constructs, archetypical sets of tasks thought up by people. I prefer to think in terms of skills. Nobody is his or her job, we’re all skilled in several fields. You and I are both ”designers”, which are broad containers that we fill with whatever we like and/or are good at. Someone might be best at interface design and copywriting, while another might excell at illustration and front-end development, and a third one at branding and photography.

    As freelancers we have an enormous flexibility, which can be both a blessing and a curse. We have to be the one who decides what tasks are right up our alley, and what’s another person’s job. It’s a good thing to keep your eyes open and learn a bit about very diverse abilities, but I’ve learned over the years that it pays off to learn your boundaries. Get to know them, embrace them, and most importantly, communicate them to (potential) clients.

  • Johan says:

    I don’t consider myself a freelancer anymore ;).

    I agree that different designers excel at different skills. I’ve also learned my boundaries. I can’t bring myself to spending hours on an icon design whereas others can. I just don’t think it’s “important” personally.

    However, in a typical project, the overall visual design is heavily influenced by the client’s branding. What I wanted to get to with this post is that often within website (and/or app design) there are certain visual design expectations, yet sometimes no good brand definition.

    What I understand by a good brand definition is a clear set of colours, patterns, imagery, icons, a logo – something that makes the client “them”.

    My point is that it’s necessary to define the branding as a separate “project” (or part of the project). If it is intertwined with the actual site design, it will not get the necessary attention. Especially if I end up doing it, as I care WAY more about other aspects of the work, which I will naturally drift towards (the interaction design, overall screen organization, web performance, etc.)

    Know thyself, I guess. Luckily we have people in the team that care more about visuals.

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