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How To Find The Key Elements of Your Visual Identity- Interview With Graphic Designer Jason Clement

Interview with Graphic Design Jason Clement on Camera Ready With Val Brown - Episode 20 - How to Find The Key Elements Of Your Visual Brand Part 2 (edited for readability)

Val: our guest is my friend and graphic designer, Jason Clement. Jason is going to help us pull together all of the work that we did on last week's podcast so that you can start identifying the specific elements of your visual brand.

But before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about Jason. I met Jason a few years ago in Mike Kim's Mastermind, and during that time I've seen Jason's amazing work transform many a brand from ordinary to extraordinary. Jason has been working in design for nearly two decades and brings a distinct style and viewpoint to every project he works on.

Whether he's designing a website or a booth for a trade show you can be sure that he is going to dig deep to get the goods on what makes your brand unique.

Jason is based in the beautiful Thousand Islands region of upstate New York and is married to his lovely wife, Trisha, and has three amazing kids. Autumn, Ethan and Gabe.

Welcome, Jason.

Jason: Thanks. Great to be here.

Val: Well, I'm so glad that you could be here too, because last week we did a lot of background on identifying visual elements and I'm really excited that you're here to help us pull it together. But before we get started, I thought it'd be nice if you could share a little bit of your background and how you got started in graphic design.

Jason: I've loved drawing since I was a little kid in kindergarten. It was pictures of Star Wars, colored all over the wall and I just drew my entire life. It wasn't until I got into high school that a good friend of mine who is now a good friend and a mentor, introduced me to the world of graphic design that I began to see and understand that everything around me, somebody designed, and put some time and thought into everything around us. So that's when I started to fall in love with graphic design.

Val: That’s one of the things that I love about you, Jason, whenever we talk about design, is that you have this really deep knowledge and understanding about what makes good design. So was that part of what your mentor imparted to you? Was that, that really understanding, I guess it's the craft, the rules, the structure that goes into good design.

Jason: Yes. And that's exactly, before computers a lot of things were done by hand. The word craft is a great - hand crafted was how everything was done. We pay attention a little more to all the little things, you know, whether it was hand lettering a boat or creating a brochure, you put a lot more time and thought into something, so the attention to detail is really important.

Val: Right. Because you actually have to you, you don't have a computer that's doing it for you. You're creating it yourself. Right. Well, very good. What I'd like to do now, Jason, is look at the work that we did last week, which was to ask some questions about who your target audience is, what sets you apart from the competition and what attributes and values does your brand represent that a future friend would be drawn to. We created a word bank to work from so that we could start identifying the elements of the visual brand. I'm curious what some of the questions are that you ask your clients when you're helping them identify their visual brand.

Jason: I want to know about their business.I ask them about their competitors, what makes them different, their target audience. I also like to get a feel for a client's personal preferences and I'll ask if they have colors that they like or I'll ask about specific imagery or different elements that appeal to them.

Sometimes they’ll have a font that they really like, so I like to ask if they have things like that they already have in mind. It doesn't mean it's always going to end up being in a final product, but I'd like to get that as part as part of the grand, scheme or up front to start with.

Val: So you basically are creating sort of a design board that's got potential elements so that when you're, looking at it, it’s like, okay, this is the look and the feel that that we're shooting for.

Jason: I have a whole sheet of words that I ask them to go through and check off what words that apply to them. Earthy, a empathetic, energetic, you know, I go through a whole list of words. Then they can just check off which ones are important, and then I asked them to narrow them down to pick like the top three. Then I'll ask them to describe their brand as if it's a physical location. So if your brand was a store, what would it look like? What would a customer say when they walk into your store. And then I also asked them to describe their brand as if it was a person, how would that person behave? How would they dress, how would they live their life? So those are a couple other questions I ask.

Val: I like those questions because that really gets to the emotional aspect of what our visual brand is, that you can actually feel it or have that sense, and the visual piece of, of a brand is only one part of it. Your brand is the promise, the promise that you're going to deliver. So those are great questions. What do you do once you have all your background work done? Once you've collected all of that, what's your next step? What do you do?

Jason: Once I have all those questions answered, all my homework done and I've got some feedback from the client, the more info the better, at that point I began to research myself, look at the target market, competitors, things like that. Talk about what are the goals we have. After that, I do my own research and then I began to sketch which is what I love to do. I love to put pencil to paper, so I'm going to sketch different ideas, draw, research, experiment, and then at that point then I go through a review process with the client and we revise from there.

Val: So it's an iterative process. You take what you heard your clients say, you pull it together with everything that you've learned from your research and then you present it and then you let them respond and they're, they're either going to say, hey, yeah, you got it, or let's make a few tweaks. Correct?

Jason: Yes.

How To Choose A Font That Matches Your Brand

Val: So what I'm curious about though is when you are in that process, here's the, I guess where the art that comes into it. You've gone through the word list, you have the words, you know who the competitors are, how do you actually start translating that into saying this font supports that word, this font supports that feeling of going into that store. What's the process that goes on with that? Do fonts have different personalities?

Jason: I think so. And you're exactly right. It's the word feeling that's important. There's lots of categories of fonts, but there's basically four or five and they all kind of have their own feeling.

Sans serif fonts, which means they don't have like the little feet on the ends like Futura, or Sans or Helvetica, those are more clean and modern. Serif fonts have the feet on the little edges, like Garamond or Times. Those are more classic and traditional. So if I'm looking for more of a traditional feel I'm going to go to more a serif font.

Script fonts, there's a million of those. Those are more playful, friendly. Sometimes they can have a lot of personality just by themselves. There's also decorative fonts, those are artistic, kind of your unique fonts. They're all different. And then there's a slab serif which is a kind of a variation of serif font where they're just kind of a little bit blocky - I’ll use those for big, bold confidence, things like strength. So that's where I get started in that area, it's a feeling thing. I just kind of play around with some typography and I sort of feel if it works.

Val: Right. That's really interesting. So there’s five different types, and I imagine with each one of them, there are times that you would use it or would not use it. Do you want to give us an example?

Jason: Well, script fonts are not great for for body text, that'd be really difficult to read. There's a general rule that says serif fonts are easier to read in print and sans serif are easier to read on screen. I'm not sure what my opinion is on that 100 percent, but there is definitely some valid research done there.

Val: I think that goes back to what I always like to talk about - know the rules to break the rules and it's good to know that that's out there. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to abide by it and especially if you know what you're trying to achieve. But if you want something to be easy to read, you might want to consider the fact that there is some research that says x, so. So it's a feeling thing.

Ok. You’ve got your Word Bank, you're working from that. You're trying out the different fonts to see which ones feel like it really supports that. What should people keep in mind though that when they're choosing fonts, because I know I've heard that you shouldn't use too many different types of fonts in order to keep it really clean.

Jason: The number one thing is the feeling or the message gets conveyed. I think we've all seen samples, where someone writes a statement in two different fonts and there they have a completely different feeling. So for example, a Valentine's card that says you’ll always be mine in a script font that looks beautiful, but if you write that in like a splashy red looking font, it looks kind of creepy. It’s a whole different feeling that can come across.

Another big issue is a legibility. So you want to make sure it's easy to read. And then, you know, you mentioned that the number of fonts used. So I would say if you're creating a logo, I would try to stick to one, maybe two fonts and on the web you can do two or three. A lot of times you can do a headline font, a body font, and then you can use something more for pullout quotes and things like that.

Val: I think the big thing to remember here is that once you select those fonts, be consistent in how you use them.

Jason: Yes.

Val: Like the header font, that's what you're going to see on all pages show up as the headline font, and then for all your body text the same. And then for the pull out. So you would use the same font. It's a visual identity. It's what people come to expect.

Jason: Yes.

What Should You Consider When Choosing Colors For Your Brand?

Val: So once we have our fonts chosen, how do you go about choosing colors? What do you keep in mind when you're doing that?

Jason: Colors are a funny thing. We've all heard about how colors have meaning. Yellow says optimism or warm. Orange is friendly and cheerful. Red Is exciting and bold.

But then on the flip side of that, yellow also means cowardice or caution and red means danger or blood. So I think there's, this is a perfect example of know the rules, but it's okay to break from time to time.

There's definitely feelings for all the colors. I just try and keep those in mind. The other thing I like to do with color is sometimes I like to not use what everyone else is using. So for example, if I'm creating a logo for a bank and I find that nine out of 10 bank logos I've looked at are all using green, if I use a different color, I may stand out in the market. So I think this is an opportunity to break the rules a little bit, but there does need to be some thought put into them.

Val: I’m curious about that too, because you see the color wheels, the color psychology wheels, and they do talk about the different values associated with colors. I'm also wondering if it's the volume of the color and the quantity and the intensity?

Jason: Right. When I'm using a colors together they will have different feels to them. So if I use red with another color, it can have a different feel than red with black. So there's different ways you can approach it to have a different feeling.

What Do You Need To Look For When You Are Choosing Images?

Val: Okay. So we really need to pay attention to the colors that we use. What about our images. What do you look for when you, when you're selecting images for our website?

Jason: images are challenging because stock photography is huge. Not everybody has a budget to go out and hire a photographer to do a photo shoot just for your website. So stock photography is used by a lot of people and it's not a bad thing. There's a lot of very high quality stock photography on the web. There's a few things I do when I'm choosing a photography for a brand. I try and find something that communicates that same emotion and I'm trying to get across. Sometimes I'll find a photo that looks good but it just doesn't go with the brand. Again, it's a feeling thing.

So as far as the photos, I try and choose a well lit photos and a high resolution, high quality and up-to-date. One of the things I've found with stock photography is sometimes you can find some dated stock photography photography on a website and it changes that feeling you get if you're scrolling through and you realize well hey, this, this photo is obviously a stock photo. They're using an old laptop from 1985 and you tell that it's dated so that messes up that feeling you're trying to convey.

Val: That’s something that I want to ask you about. When you're looking for photos and you've established a brand style and feel, so let's say that you know that it's a warm and friendly brand and when you're looking for photos, you want something then that is going to evoke that feeling that this is warm and friendly, so you're not going to use something that's kind of techie and data driven when you want to convey something that's warm and friendly. Is that correct?

Jason: That's correct.

How Does Using Filters Change The Feel of Your Images?

Val: So then the next piece that I've noticed is a lot of people use different types of filters on their photos and that can change at feeling completely.

Jason: Yes. And I like to do that as well. It can tie into your brand colors which create just a, you mentioned already consistency and I'm sure I'll mention it again, but yeah, it just kind of ties everything together. There's little ways you can do that. You can put a filter over the photo, you might have like a blue bar at the bottom of every photo on your website or you might have a small icon in the bottom corner in your brand color on the bottom of every photo. So there's little ways you can tie it in and kind of make it your own.

Val: And once again, it's consistent. And as far as filters go, some people not be really familiar with filters. Do you have some way that you describe what filters are and what they do?

Jason: You can do them in photoshop or Canva. Probably have a lot of people are familiar with Canva so you can lay a color over top of a photo and then adjust the transparency. So it just gives a tint. For example, if I wanted a blue tint I can put a block of blue over the top of my photo and I’ll change the opacity and it will just give it a blue tint to it. It's just a subtle way to tie in the images to your brand.

Val: So that changes the style of the photo when you do that. You could you put a vintage filter on there or take something to black and white and it would completely change the feel. But once again, being consistent, and the same thing goes for, for video. I just want to bring that up really quickly. When you're shooting your videos, you want to have that same look and feel so that when somebody sees your videos they immediately connect to your brand. And so that just means paying attention. Ask yourself, what are some of the other elements that you consistently see in your visual brand? Does this location represent that?

Once again, I'm going to use the warm and friendly open brand as n example. If you are shooting with a really heavy, dark cement wall with graffiti on it behind you, that's not necessarily going to support your brand. I know that's kind of an extreme example, but I just want to illustrate how important it is to keep these things in mind as you are building those visual elements of your brand.

What Do You Need To Know About Developing A Logo?

Val: What about logo development Jason? That's a big one. I know we could do an entire episode or two or three just on logo development. What are some of the things that you advise people about when they're getting started on creating a logo?

Jason: Number one, keep it simple. It doesn't need to be elaborate. It doesn't need to have an image of everything that it possibly encompasses your business. I'll use a church for example. So sometimes the church will want a little Christian fish icon in there and a cross and dove wings and they also need the empty tomb. You just can't put all that stuff in a logo. It has to be simple. You also want your logo to be memorable. You want it to be enduring, which means that you don't want it to look dated in a year and you want it to be versatile.

And this is kind of big now because we use our logos across all these different devices and so, you know, you might have your logo nice and big on a website, but when you look at it on a mobile device it’s much smaller or if you use it and social media, you'll notice it's a really, really tiny icon in a social media app.

So the logo has to be able to resize nicely. I've, I've started actually creating variations of logos when I create a logo for a client so they can use them in different situations. So you might have just a simple icon that works for social media, but it's also connected to your main logo.

Val: That tip right there is worth its weight in gold. I'm thinking about when we used to do a lot more in print and one of the first things that we always looked at when we were developing a logo. Well there's two things. One is how is it going to look in print, you know you're going to reduce it or are you going to have it on clothing, or are you going to use it on other premium things that you're going to give away for your clients, but also how is it going to look on video? How is it going to sit in that bottom corner and, a lot of that has to do with it's aspect ratio. Are you going to go horizontal or are you going to go vertical?

I'm curious and with social media and being more digitally oriented these days, is there a preference on logos, whether you go horizontal or vertical?

Jason: I don't think so. Design it as icon that's able to be used on its own, so even you might have a horizontal logo, but you can pull a piece of that out and it’s still recognizable. So have a little icon that goes with it. It can even be stacked so your logo could be horizontal or vertical.

Val: That's a great tip. Thank you. What are some of the other mistakes you see people make when they are pulling together? All the elements, the fonts, the filters, the colors, the logo in any of the other visual aspects of their brand.

Jason: I think that's one of the main things that I see a lot is that they just don't pull it all together. Sometimes they have three or four of the pieces that they need, but they just don't use them consistently across all the mediums.

So if I have a logo and I use it on my website, but if I don't use it on my ad in the local newspaper or if I don't use it on my video or I don't use it on social media, then people aren't going to recognize it and it's not going to become memorable.

So I think consistency in, in just using what you have across all the mediums goes a long way and helps building your brand. If you have a brand color, then start using it. Use It on your social media, use it website, use it in your print materials, use it everywhere you can.

Val: One of the examples I like to use is Amy Porterfield and Jasmine Star. Looking at their Instagram pages is like looking at a contact sheet. You can see all of the photos together and it really helps you start getting a sense of a visual rhythm. You can see all of their photos are framed in a certain way and they have certain elements and they make me feel a certain way. And so that's just kind of developing a new, a new way of thinking, isn't it?

Jason: Yeah. I think sometimes people don't think about it until they see it. When you see it all together, you realize how it makes a difference.

Closing Thoughts...

Val: Is there anything else that you'd like to share that I didn't ask you?

Jason: I think we covered it. I noticed that the theme of consistency came up a lot in this conversation. So it's just really a big thing. You might have not have the money to pay a designer create every little piece of your brand, but if you take a few things and do them consistently it makes a big difference.

Val: So make that investment in a few good pieces, sort of like your wardrobe. You invest in a few good pieces and then you can bring in other pieces around that. I think it's important to give yourself freedom to experiment when you're first getting started. Try new things, show them to friends, get feedback from your clients and pay attention to the things that you've shared with us here today.

Jason, I am so thankful for you being here and helping us get a better understanding about creating our visual brand identity from a graphic designer's view point. If people would like to learn more about what you do or would like your help in finding their visual brand where can they find you?

Jason: I'm in the midst of a rebrand myself but they can find me at I previously worked as Red Letter Design but am rebranding as

Val: And are there any materials or anything that you have that that might help them out with this?

Jason: If you go to my website, there's a free pdf that you can download there about podcast artwork, and in there you can find some of these same simple design tips that can help you get the best outcome with whatever it is you're trying to create.

Val: Perfect. Thank you so much. Jason said one more time. That's and you can go there and download a free pdf to get some more tips on podcast artwork. Thank you so much for being here, Jason. I hope I can have you back again and we can talk more about logos and some other design stuff.

Jason: Anytime. Thank you for having me. Val. It’s been awesome.

You can download your free Visual Brand Planner pdf here.

Val: That's all for today. Thanks for listening in. This is the final episode for season one of Camera Ready with Val Brown. I have had so much fun and learned so much with all of you this first season.

Please stay tuned for Season Two where I'm going to take a deeper dive into a lot of the topics that we've covered, share some amazing interviews with experts and there's going to be a lot of new content to help you learn how to look, feel, and sound your best in front of the camera.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. If you have any questions about being on camera, I'm happy to answer them on a future episode, you can email me at

Until then, remember with a little pre-planning and some homework, you can create a a cohesive visual identity that will engage your customers every time.

Val Brown is an Emmy Award winning television producer, story, visual and personal brand consultant, coach, and speaker. She consults and coaches high performing business professionals and entrepreneurs looking to up their game and increase their confidence and credibility on camera. Val teaches you how to use your story to support your brand in video and photos. 

p.s. I’d love to connect on social media and hear your questions and concerns about being in front of the camera.


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