If you’ve been with me for the long haul (and by long, I mean since August 2016), then you know that I have gone through some growing pains – as I think any good business does. As time has gone by, I’ve learned a lot – about what my audience wants from me (spoilers: It wasn’t what I thought it was), how people even find me, the types of services I want to offer, the clients I want to serve (and the ones I don’t), and most importantly… what makes me a happy entrepreneur.
The business I started back on that fateful day in August 2016… well, it’s not the business you are looking at today. In fact, I’m not even sure that the business I built as Pink Hexagon is the same business you’re looking at. I want to call this a “re-branding” because I think that’s what’s least confusing for people, but if I’m honest… I’m re-imagining what my business is and what it could be.
Yes, I’ve got a “new” name and a new paint job… but in addition to a change in what my graphics look like, it’s my hope that there’s a more polished and intentional experience to be had on this website where frankly, there was just a lot of trial and error with the last. I want to talk about the re-branding process (it was a little painful I’ll admit) and highlight some choices I made that lead to the website you’re looking at.
I got really lucky. I have one of those names that’s easy to remember, moderately easy to spell (it’s just different enough that it stands out), and it just so happens to still be fairly unique (I know other Kimis and I know other Kinseys… but #therecanonlybeone). Because of that, I found that while networking people could remember my name much more often than they could remember my business name.
Sure, great that they know my name, but they kept inputting my name into a Google Search. They were still finding me, but over time it became clear to me that it was just going to be easier on everyone if I re-branded to my name.
That begs the question of “What’s going to happen to Pink Hexagon?” and the short answer is: I don’t know. I haven’t decided the best way to utilize it going further. You’ll know when I know!
Choosing a brand direction was… really hard
I’m writing this because I want people to know how okay it is to not be sure what your brand direction is and to fumble around if you need to. I love a lot of different color palettes and I find myself often totally swooning over another person’s graphics or their style often. I think everyone gets caught up in someone else’s work from time to time because designer envy is a legit thing. I consider myself to be a professional, and even I experience difficulty with choosing a concrete branding direction for myself.
When I started designing what I thought I wanted this website to be, I was veering off in an entirely different direction…
I was feeling heavily inspired by brands I was finding on Pinterest that called to me and looked good to me. But as I begin building (and literally wasted a couple of months doing so), I kept finding myself either not enjoying the work, or getting the sense that something didn’t feel right or look as polished as I saw in my head.
I was looking to produce a feminine (but not grossly over-the-top “girly”), strong and classy brand that felt upscale, but sort of homey – like you can sit down and have tea with me and we can totally talk about Star Wars and Doctor Who (and My Little Pony – for those of you hiding in the back).
Yeah… that board above is not it.
The best advice I could possibly ever give in regards to branding is this: Take out a sheet of paper (no seriously, just do it okay?) and answer these questions…
- What feeling do I want my audience to have when they visit me? – Maybe it’s something like “I want them to feel empowered” or “I want them to feel like we’re best friends”. Get specific here and decide now what feeling your brand should give people. My brand is supposed to make you feel like you’ve entered a sophisticated space that still feels comfortable, not cold.
- Who is my audience? – Are you attracting a certain gender, age group, other demographic? Your brand should cater to them. My audience is typically female, but I wanted to appeal to a wider range of women – like those who aren’t into super “girly” things, and make the guys feel comfortable while visiting as well.
- What am I selling? – Whether that’s a product, a service, or just content… you need a clear idea of what it is you are offering to people. If you don’t know – they sure as heck won’t.
- What do I need in order to sell this? – If you are a photographer, you would need a portfolio. Someone selling a tangible product would need some kind of web shop or way by which someone could purchase their items. Because I am as much a service-based entrepreneur as I am a seller of digital goods, I have both a portfolio and a shop. I knew early on that these were areas of my website that I would need to take into consideration in my branding and what experience my audience would have.
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Choosing a website was… a huge time suck
I feel super fortunate and very lucky to call Jennifer from Hello You Designs one of my best business besties. She’s been such a good sport during all of my website buildings using her themes – really helping me bring to life off-the-wall web design ideas and offering me the same classy customer service she gives all of her customers. So when my knee-jerk reaction was to go with something more custom, I mocked up a design idea in Photoshop and sent it over to her.
She did a beautiful job, just as I expected she would. I feel such a sense of loyalty to her – as anyone who uses her themes should. But I couldn’t help thinking that there were things I wanted to add or to try… and I didn’t want to keep bothering her with it when I could just buy a theme from someone else that was similar to what I had in my head, would require less changes, and take up a lot less time.
I spent $65 on a pre-made WordPress theme by another designer.
I really wish that I hadn’t.
Don’t get me wrong… it was a beautiful theme and I’d go as far as to recommend it. But I had a total newb moment and I fell prey to the pretty demo rather than taking into consideration how my content plans would fit into this theme. Shame on me. I know better. Ultimately what I thought I wanted and needed didn’t yield the experience I was looking for.
That’s when Jennifer designed Hello Luv, and I lost my mind over how gorgeous it was and knew it was exactly the theme for me. You might remember I used another Hello You Designs theme, Hello Maker for Pink Hexagon. I find that Hello Luv has a similar feel but it’s more in tune with the look I wanted for my home page.
Update: In July 2017, Jennifer designed Hello Chic with a lot of new and exciting features I’d been craving, and I made the switch immediately after its release.
I found color inspiration in unexpected places…
I was still unsure about my color pallete at this point. The peachy-pink and olive green were nice, but they didn’t give me the feelings. You know the ones I’m talking about. Something about those colors weren’t bringing the level of sophistication I was hoping for.
I always feel called to blush pinks because I love the feminine, clear feel of it and how well it lends itself to so many different color selections. I knew I wanted to continue using pink at this point… I just didn’t know which one. Fun fact – the signature color of Pink Hexagon was a total accident and the result of using a poorly calibrated laptop that thankfully I rid myself of in the middle of last year. It was never intended to be that bright and I’ve hated it ever since.
I was looking for inspiration and I fell in love with some images I found from HauteStock – one of my favorite stock image library memberships. I knew as soon as I saw the (now customized) image below, that I had found my direction as it encompassed everything I was looking for in my new brand (and it helps that that’s totally a hexagon on that desk).
I know, right?
I felt really boxed in when I chose “a pink, a white, and a black” for Pink Hexagon, and I was afraid of ultimately feeling the same way with this website. I knew I needed another color – something dark… something I could use sparingly to strengthen details of the website… something I could feel good about using. The olive green was out – much as I love it, it turns out that my audience thinks it’s icky.
A good branding color palette should have:
- Black (or almost black) & White – for background and text colors
- 1-2 light colors for backgrounds and color blocks
- 1-2 accent colors for links, hovers, backgrounds, or text
I admit that I fumbled around for a bit on colors until one day when I was playing around with the cutest freaking set of icons from Polar Vectors. Probably the strangest place I’ve ever picked up a branding color before… so I’m just going to call it kismet – I snagged my signature dark blue color from one of the icons.
And thus, my color palette came to life:
The logo has deep roots
Did you know that there’s a reason I chose Pink Hexagon as a name for my business? It’s not just because I have a bunch of pink hexagons on my office wall or that I love geometric shapes in general (although to be fair, those are reasons too).
Hexagons are prevalent in nature because of their efficiency and strength. The geometry of this shape uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight. Call me crazy, but I believe in the idea that less is often more – and that’s a big tip of the hat to my design practices.
Still, when considering what the new logo would be for this website, I struggled a bit due to personal preferences.
- I didn’t like the idea of hand-writing my name due to the inconsistencies it could cause in typography across the website – because I wasn’t willing or excited about the idea of having to hand-letter everything else too.
- Kimi Kinsey is easy to remember, but it’s made up of a combination of visually strong letters that aren’t appealing to my eye – too many straight lines. Using just a sans-serif honestly makes it difficult to read.
- In fact, the more ways I tried… the more I started to hate my own name and almost considered not re-branding at all because I was so frustrated.
- I didn’t necessarily want to use the Pink Hexagon logo as a base – it felt predictable.
With all of those thoughts in mind, I mocked up two different logos. I feel like I asked everyone and their Grandma for an opinion on these two logos and oh boy… did I get an earful (eyeful?). There’s a lot of pros and cons to each – some that I see for myself, and some I have difficulty seeing because I’m too close to the design (literally, and metaphorically).
- “More visually unique and appealing”
- Reminds people of Game Cube
- Like this one for furthering brand recognition
- They had difficulty seeing the “K”
- “The 3d effect is really popping and unique”
- “Too Blocky” or “Too Heavy”
- Also reminds people of Pac-Man
- Some thought it was too “gamer” or “tech”
- Great if I want to break away from old brand
- Some said it “looks like a lopsided envelope”
- “Reminds me of a paper airplane”
- They had difficulty seeing the “K” or didn’t even notice it was a thing
- “Reminds me of the envelope icon that is being done constantly lately”
- A lot of people were really stuck on the idea that it was an envelope (it’s not)
And this is just from my own Facebook group! The general concern was the fact that my name isn’t present in my logo (more on that later). Overall, both logos were as well received as they could be. In the end, I felt strongly that Option 1 was the way to go.
- The weight of it makes it scale down super well for every device, which is a huge plus.
- It helps tie both of my previous brands – the dark hexagon from The Blog Dept (yikes, who remembers that mess?) and incorporates a pink hexagon.
- It has a unique, and polished feel to it – it just feels like the logo is complete whereas the other felt like it was missing something.
- It’s got a strong presence – the weight of it is yet again a plus as far as I’m concerned.
- It isn’t too “girly”. While I work primarily with women, I like the idea of men not feeling like they need to shy away from my brand.
- It lends itself well to marketing materials in a variety of ways that the other option can’t (like the optical illusion seen in my business cards above).
Okay, it’s time to address the elephant in the room.
No, my name isn’t in my logo.
I get it. It seems like such a weird choice. I’ll admit that if someone told me “Hey I’m going to make a logo for my self-named website and not actually put my name in it” I’d have probably thought them daft. But hear me out, okay? There’s some sound logic (or the ramblings of an ill-caffeinated designer… you decide).
Even early on in my branding process, I started to get sort of weirded out by the fact that my name was on everything so many times. It felt a little bit too self-serving. It became less “Hey this is my business” and more “Look at meeeeee!” and that just wasn’t what I’m all about. I have been very careful instead to make sure that every time my logo is shown, my name is somewhere – whether that’s in the form of the URL or even in some more fun and unexpected ways you may not have caught at first glance, like this customized stock image…
Long story short… If you’re here, you know what my name is. I don’t need to repeat myself. And if you find my marketing collateral outside of this website, you probably still know my name, because otherwise you wouldn’t likely be seeing my marketing collateral. And even if you didn’t see it from me, my URL is on it – bam, you know my name.
See? Totally sound logic.
Building the right experience took planning… a lot of planning
Somewhere in my mess of an office #dontjudgeme is a notebook filled with like, a gazillion pages where I mapped out what I wanted this website to have – from designing single pages like my about page, to the experience I wanted shoppers to have. It includes what portfolio items I wanted to share, blog posts I wanted to migrate over from the old website, lists of products I wanted to create, and the way by which subscribers would collect their freebies.
I wanted the experience here to be thoughtful and intentional. I wanted to build something that made my audience go “Oh… that’s kind of clever” or “I like how this works” – something that as of today (the date of the official soft launch) I have already heard a few times in reference to the special way by which shoppers can either purchase an item (thus showcasing its value) or quite literally opt in to get the item for free by clicking a button which prompts a pop-up form (and being careful that that’s the only time it pops up). You can check that out for yourself on any item in my shop that is categorized as free, like this set of Arrow Doodles.
The experience goes beyond the technical aspect, of course – as you would expect when you are viewing the website of a graphic designer. I wanted to maintain a classy look, while still making things sort of fun. I wanted there to be little surprises… hints of my personality across the website that could take you by surprise. I’m not going to list them all in this blog post – I don’t want to ruin the fun. Let’s just say… I hope you get lost on my website somewhere.
When a brand becomes a brand…
It just feels… right, ya know? It’s not just some pretty colors I chose for reasons. It’s not just the typography choice or even what my logo looks like. Branding is an entire experience for your audience and I’ve made the choices that feel right for me and feel right for my audience based on a lot of trial and error. This is my natural aesthetic and I hope you feel connected to it.
Leave me a comment below…
I’d love to hear about some of your branding choices – maybe why you did ABC instead of XYZ or about your decision to use one logo concept over another. Comment below and let’s talk branding!