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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.