051: Building a Brand for your Business with Aaron Scott from Your Brand Week

Welcome to episode 51 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! In this episode, Bjork dives into the intricacies of branding with Aaron Scott from Your Brand Week.

Last week, Bjork talked with Tim Schmoyer from VideoCreators.com about creating video that people actually want to watch. To go back and listen that episode, click here.

Building a Brand for your Business

For some new businesses, branding can be an afterthought, or even something that isn’t thought about much at all. In reality, though, your branding can be the first and last impression that a visitor can have about your business. A logo can convey meaning, type can encourage continued reading, and colors can invoke emotion. When it all comes together, your branding can be a powerful tool for your business.

Aaron Scott and his wife, Amanda, recently launched Your Brand Week, a boutique branding agency geared toward helping small businesses create meaningful brands in an affordable and efficient manner. Today, Aaron chats with Bjork about what a cohesive brand is and how it can impact your business.

In this episode, Aaron reveals:

  • How they found clarity about what direction their business should take
  • How they turned a service into a product
  • What branding is
  • When rebranding is necessary
  • What you should be thinking about when designing a logo
  • How to know if your branding conveys the correct meaning for your business
  • Why typography is so important
  • How to use different fonts on your website
  • Why complimentary colors aren’t the best choice when choosing colors
  • What your brand guidelines should include

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Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 51 of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Hey, this is Bjork Ostrom. I am coming to you from Saint Paul, Minnesota hoping that you are having a great day today and excited because I am bringing you what I believe to be a really important interview. The interview is with Aaron Scott from Your Brand Week and we’re going to be talking about something that I think often gets ignored on businessy podcasts like this. One of the reasons is because it’s so difficult to talk about it but Aaron does a great job with it and that is branding. We’re going to talk about the importance of branding for your blog and for your business overall. Everything from how to pick the correct colors and how to be intentional with your logo, how to make all that stuff come together and the different elements that are involved in crafting a really strong brand. I know that you’re going to get a lot out of it so I’m going to go ahead and jump right in so without further or due, Aaron, welcome to the podcast.

Aaron Scott: Thanks Bjork. I’m happy to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m excited to chat with you today about something that we hear quite a bit which is this idea of branding. I think that people see good branding and they understand it but as you know, because this is the industry you’re in, it’s a lot harder to actually create that. We can see it but it’s not as easy as an individual who doesn’t have any experience at that go in and create it. I’m excited to really dive deep into talking about branding and how people can understand branding better and achieve better branding but before we do that, I want to talk about something completely not brand related that I’m just so curious to know. As I was doing some research for this podcast episode, I saw that you and your wife, Amanda, who has the blog, Pickles and Honey, you went on … Was it a one year road trip? Is that right?

Aaron Scott: Yeah. We went on a one year road trip. We had started … Earlier before the road trip, where I had started another branding in Boston. It’s very high end. I had run that for several years and an opportunity presented itself for me to sell my shares in that business and take a step back and maybe think about what I wanted to do next. When I did that, we decided, we’ve always wanted to be able to do a little bit of traveling but because we tend to be very entrepreneurial, we dived deep into it. We don’t lift our heads out of the project for three years and we’re like, what happened?

Bjork Ostrom: Or 30 years is what happens sometimes, too.

Aaron Scott: We’re thinking, now is a good a time as any to just do something that we’ve always wanted to do, take a little bit of a break. We were originally thinking we wanted to try to travel around Europe a little bit but we wanted to make sure that we can bring our dogs with us because they’re family. What we decided we were going to do was we were going to take about a year off and we were going to visit all of the national parks in cities that we had not been in the United States that we had always wanted to visit.

Bjork Ostrom: For something like that, are you going in your car and then booking hotels and Airbnb or are you doing RV or what does that look like? I know this isn’t related at all. I’m just so curious to know.

Aaron Scott: You would be surprised at how very few belongings you actually need to be able to do that. We did this in our tiny little Toyota. Basically, the dogs got the backseat. I drove and Amanda sat shotgun. We had one of those rocket box container cargo things on top of the car for a little bit of extra space. We would always try to stay in Airbnbs most of the time. Airbnb hasn’t quite got to some places in the middle of the country where there’s 50 people in a horse farm. Sometimes, there would be a little bit of camping involved or sometimes if we couldn’t find a good Airbnb, it had really good reviews which is a whole other thing. It’s worth a whole podcast-

Bjork Ostrom: We could do an Airbnb success podcast. How to find a good Airbnb.

Aaron Scott: If we needed to stay in a hotel, we would stay in a hotel but for the most part, we would stay in Airbnbs and we would go visit the National Parks. I had my big backpacking pack and I would go out and I would camp. One of the things I had always wanted to do was do a little landscape photography and hone that skill so I would go out and I would camp for 24/48 hours and I’d shoot pictures and come back. Amanda would be very happy to see me and then tell me to take a shower.

Bjork Ostrom: Usually in the other order. I’m curious to know and it’s so interesting to me because Lindsay and I talk about this a lot, too. We really like the idea of travel and doing trips. It’s like you said, where you’re entrepreneuring, what do you end up doing is even though you have potentially a flexible job, you end up just working all the time. Even though, for us, we could do these longer extended trips. I think, number one, really cool that you did that. Number two, I’m curious to know, did you continue to work during that time or for both of you, did you say, hey, we’re going to step back, we’re going to really dive into the things we are most interested in creatively? What did that look like?

Aaron Scott: I did a little bit of freelance work. Amanda running Pickles and Honey, we did do a few posts that were not just trip related posts, which, if anybody’s interested in seeing, there’s a years worth of trip photos and landscape photos on the blog. We did a little bit of work, but only if we were staying someplace for an extended period of time and felt like doing a little bit of work for a few days or for maybe part of the week, wasn’t going to dramatically reduce our experience in being there. If we were going to be somewhere for a week, we weren’t going to do any work. There’s some places that we wanted to stay for a month. We stayed in different places in Southern California for a couple of months, mostly to just make sure that we avoided the New England weather in the winter time. We would periodically take on a little job but for the most part, we did very little work while we were gone. The point was instead of waiting to be 65 and retired and go do those things then, let’s do those things now when we’re younger and feel like if we want to go climb a mountain, we’re totally going to go do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, that’s inspiring. One last question about that, just because I’m curious. I think a lot of times when we take a break from work, we learn a lot about ourselves and therefore how we relate to our work and knowing that you are in the process now, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit of stepping back into that world of leaning a little bit further into the work side, as oppose to the experiential, creative side. I think, obviously, those overlap. When you took that year, do you feel like you learned things about yourself in terms of how you want to approach your work now?

Aaron Scott: Yeah. I’m really not exaggerating when I say that taking that trip ended up being very life changing.

Bjork Ostrom: In what way?

Aaron Scott: For me and Amanda, because when you take that amount of time to enjoy yourself for one thing but also, just to reflect on what it is that you’ve been doing, what things in your life in the last 10 or 15 years have been going really well, what hasn’t gone so well, and what would you like to do about those things? Those things naturally start to come up because you have the mental space to think about them. For us, it took us about three months. Three months of just not being in the same environment all of the time and doing new and interesting things to get to the point where we started to naturally reflect on what we had been doing for the last 12 years. For me, I had been a creative director for 12 years. I had founded my own agency, and had moved on from that. Being able to think about those things freely and not feel like I needed to come up with an answer right away, gave us a tremendous amount of clarity about what we wanted to do next. Actually, the idea for our new business, Your Brand Week, happened while we were on the road, while we were traveling down the California coast, actually in Sonoma.

Bjork Ostrom: Just a great place to brainstorm, too. I feel like you enter into a different world of thought when you’re in such a beautiful place.

Aaron Scott: Absolutely. We were driving through Sonoma and we were listening to a Pat Flynn smart, passive income podcast. I can’t remember who he had on but he had someone on who was talking about productization. Productizing services. As soon as that phrase came out of the speakers of our car, we both looked at each other and thought, we’ve been talking about what we wanted to do next and this seems like an interesting idea around how to create a business that’s productized but still offering really high quality services in terms of branding which is what I had been doing, basically my whole career.

Bjork Ostrom: I think this would be a good time to transition and talk into that a little bit. Your Brand Week, it really interesting concept in that it’s taking something you have a lot of experience with and as you said, in some way, shape, or form, creating some type of, would you call it a system or a product or a process around that in order to make it more deliverable? Can you talk a little bit more about Your Brand Week?

Aaron Scott: I think the first thing to do is probably start with what productization is. It’s really about standardizing what would be a service business so that you can basically treat that service like a product, almost like something that you could buy off of Amazon. Just make it so systematized that someone can buy that service with one click. What Your Brand Week is, is it’s basically a modern e-commerce design firm. We’ve honed our services down to one product that someone can book just like they were buying something from Amazon so that it removes all of the machinations that happen when you are in any kind of service business. Where you’ve got clients that are trying to make sure that they’re managing their budget really effectively and not over paying and you’ve got creative service based people who are trying to make sure that they’re not undervaluing their work. You have this long dance that often takes people weeks, to a point where they’re like-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s just so terribly inefficient.

Aaron Scott: It’s terribly inefficient. Then, it all comes down to this idea that basically the creative service professional doesn’t totally trust the client and the client doesn’t totally trust the creative service person. They have this awkward dance and we just thought, let’s just put it all out there. Let’s just make it so easy for someone who would be interested in our services, to know if we’re the right fit for them, that they could come to our website and a minute later, say, yeah, this is what I need, click a button, and in a week later, it’s done.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. A part of that process is creating the process. There’s a lot of work, I would imagine that goes into the front end creating efficiencies around this and really refining what the deliverables are and the process you need to go through in order to deliver that to clients. We’re going to break that down a little bit. Before I do though, I wanted to mention this. It reminds me a lot of a really good book that I read. This was maybe five or six years ago, called, Built To Sell. John Warrillow, I think, is his last name. Anyway, for people that are interested in taking the steps of productizing a service based business, that would be a great one to check out. It reminds me a lot of what you’re saying. I think the example in the book if I’m remembering right that he uses is actually designed for him. There’s some similarities with that.

Aaron Scott: Oh interesting. I should read that book then.

Bjork Ostrom: If for nobody else, it’s a good recommendation for you. Tell me about what it was like as you started to get into the process of creating a system around doing … Would you call it re-branding or just branding or what is the deliverable for Your Brand Week?

Aaron Scott: Well, as far as re-branding versus branding, branding I guess you could say applies mostly to new businesses that don’t have an existing brand yet or have very little brand recognition. Usually, it’s reserved for start ups or relatively new, small businesses. Re-branding is usually what happens when a larger company that’s established. It’s been around for a little while has an audience and that audience recognizes certain cues, whether they’re visual or verbal about their brand. Re-branding happens when that company decides that their, or recognizes that the brand they’ve been putting out in the world isn’t really resonating or isn’t really appropriate for their audience. What they’ll do is, they’ll undertake a re-brand and they’ll completely refresh everything that they’ve done for every element of their business that reaches that audience.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. With Your Brand Week, is your focus primarily on creating a brand from the ground up or re-branding or either or?

Aaron Scott: It leans more towards creating a brand from scratch. One of the things that I learned a lot when I was running my previous agency was that I would always get new and small businesses that were interested in branding services but just simply didn’t have a budget to hire an agency. What I wanted to do with Your Brand Week is create something that gave those people the same really high quality branding that they would get if they hired an agency but find a way to streamline it and make it affordable for them.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. I’m on the board for nonprofit here in the twin cities and they just recently had a … It was a re-branding. It was with an agency here in the twin cities and they did it at a discounted rate which, I forget what it was, 10 percent and they were like, “Usually, it would be 40,000 dollars.” Even for something like Food Blogger Pro or Pinch of Yum which are relatively established businesses. It’s like, no way, it’s just not possible. They were like, “Because you’re nonprofit, because we’re super excited about what you’re doing, we can give you this discount.” Otherwise, for a nonprofit, for small business, for a blogger, those things would never be approachable because of the astronomical cost. Relative to how we view spending as a business. I think it’s a great idea and I think that I’m excited for you and for the people that you’re able to work with. Part of the processes, as I was doing a little bit of research is breaking out the different brand elements. I think that this would be a great way to dive in and have some conversations specifically around what people that are either just starting out or maybe that are a little bit further along, what intentional steps they can take around these different elements of branding. We’re going to dive into some of these.

There’s four that I’d really love to touch base on. Then, there’s two bonus ones that we talked about before. You had said that a lot of times, if you work with a tech start up, that these would be really important. Those are the presentation slides. If you’re pitching to somebody to raise money, like a bank maybe to explain what your business is and business cards is the second thing, which I think are also important for bloggers. We’ll do those as bonuses but the four that I’d really love to talk about are these logo, typography, color, and then this idea of creating brand guidelines.

I think if nothing else, I’m going to get a lot out of this because I feel like the person I was describing at the beginning is me, where I can see branding, I can understand it, but in terms of taking those initial steps and crafting that for my business or blog, I don’t have a lot of knowledge around that. Lets go ahead and jump in. Let’s start with this idea of a logo. That’s totally overwhelming for somebody to think of a logo and in the food space, I feel like what it usually ends up being is like a fork and a knife crossed and then the name underneath or something like that. Where do you start with the process of brainstorming a logo and how do you take those first steps into figuring out what you want your logo to be?

Aaron Scott: The logo is probably the most important element in a brand. Most everybody is going to … as no surprise to most people. One of the things that people tend to forget about a logo is that they tend to think that it’s for them. It’s very easy and I run into this with businesses that are large. I run into it with businesses that are small. I run into it with bloggers as well, where they think that their logo is actually for them and is suppose to be an expression of them. That’s partly true. The other half that they often forget is that it’s really not actually for them. It’s for their audience.

Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that? Can you dive into that a little bit more?

Aaron Scott: Yeah. It should be designed … When you’re putting something out into the world, whether it’s content for your blog or whether you actually have a product or you have a service, really what you’re doing with your logo is you’re trying to signal to the people who would be your audience, your readers, or customers that this content, this product, this service, this is for you. It is intended to be for you. The logo helps people identify your business, obviously. The other thing that it does, you mentioned a minute ago about a spoon and a fork crossed over. That’s a very hipstery looking logo, if people can picture it in their heads. That’s going to tell someone something really specific about what that business is likely about, as opposed to, an image that might have a cornucopia of food around it. One starts to conjure up certain kinds of imagery in the mind and the crossed fork and spoon start to conjure up something completely different. People can tend to forget that it isn’t just for you, it’s really for your audience.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a great takeaway. Think about not necessarily, how do I want to express myself, but how do I want people to understand me and understand what I’m doing and what’s the best way to communicate that? Here’s a follow up question on that. There’s a way to do that blatantly, by just showing people and then there’s a way to do it like a soft communication as oppose to a hard communication.

The example that I always think of that I think is such a great logo is FedEx. The FedEx logo being part of the name and I just love that it’s just a very subtle nuance to, hey, we’re moving, we’re going places. When somebody is, lets say, we’re speaking to food bloggers in this case but knowing that other types of blogs are listening to this as well. When somebody is thinking about the process of designing their logo, should they … Is there any issue with leaning towards a really obvious representation of what their brand is? Do you want to be a little bit softer and creative or is there ever a time where you don’t want to have a food related element in a logo, or it depends?

Aaron Scott: It really does depend but it depends again on what your business is about and what you want to communicate to your particular audience. FedEx is a really good example of a business that is 100 percent about logistics and deadlines. That business needs to be on time, all the time. It would make sense that their logo is taking inspiration from that and creating something that is very direct and tangible.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s very easy to understand and read. It’s not scripty.

Aaron Scott: It would be weird, for instance if FedEx was … I think their tagline is, The world on time. It would a little weird if FedEx had fruit in their logo. Theoretically you could design something that looked just as attractive and somehow conveyed delivering of something. It doesn’t really jive with what that business is really about and it doesn’t really jive with what they want to communicate to their customers.

Bjork Ostrom: Let’s say somebody is just starting out. They know they need a logo for their blog and maybe they don’t have a really big budget. One of the things that I see some companies doing and Pinch of Yum isn’t a great example of this but it’s maybe a 201 example of this. Would you suggest starting with just picking a font and a font and a color which we’ll get to in a little bit but is there anything wrong with saying, hey I’m at the very beginning stages, I know I don’t want to do this long term. For my logo I’m going to pick a creative font that I feel like represents who I am and go with that as oppose to introducing an icon or some type of quote and quote, real logo?

Aaron Scott: You can do that. A lot of businesses do that. You see that a lot in fashion specifically where logos tend to be what’s called, Word marks. They’re just some typography set in an attractive way. For someone who’s just starting out, there’s really just a couple of things that they should keep in mind. It’s really about what makes a good logo. There’s really just three things. There’s memorability, whether or not it’s distinctive and whether or not the logo is a good vessel for the meaning that you want it to convey to people over time. I’m going to go into those just a little bit.

Whether or not something is memorable has a lot to do with whether or not it literally makes it easy for people to remember your business. That FedEx is a great example, you’re always going to remember the purple and orange and the arrow. You don’t necessarily have to use a visual in the monic like an arrow, necessarily. It just has to be easy to remember. Sometimes you can achieve that with typography, sometimes, depending on what your business is, you might want to add some kind of icon to it, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s hard to achieve. It just has to be easy to remember.

As far as being distinctive, it just needs to be distinct from other people who might be creating the same kinds of product services or content that you’re making. I see this a lot in very trend driven businesses or sometimes you see it in blogging a lot where one person redesigns their website and redesigns their logo and then over the course of the next six months, the ripple effect happens and everyone starts to look a little bit the same. That’s actually really bad from a branding standpoint because it means that your load business, your blog, your service isn’t that distinct looking. It makes it harder to actually remember.

As far as being a good vessel is concerned, really, all that means is that logos, when their first designed don’t mean anything really. People bring meaning to them overtime. I like to give the example of the Nike logo. Everybody know the Nike logo and it’s completely synonymous with athletic performance. When somebody first designed the Nike logo, it was just a fat check mark. It didn’t mean anything-

Bjork Ostrom: Let’s stretch this check mark out a little bit.

Aaron Scott: What it did do was, it did have a sense of speed to it. It had a sense of swiftness to it because of the formal qualities of that shape so it was a good vessel for someone to think that it would eventually mean athletic performance. Those are the things that people who are just starting out who want to create a logo should just try to keep in mind.

Bjork Ostrom: I have a few follow up questions for that. With the vessel part, I’m interested in this. How much is that the logo being that versus the company putting that into the logo? For instance, I think of Facebook. I think if we were to see Facebook, which I think as far as I understand, it’s just the word Facebook in their special font. From all of us, we have this very deep understanding and feeling of what that represents. My guess is because that’s overtime we’ve become very familiar with Facebook. I’m curious, especially with the part about being a good vessel. How much of that is us as brand builders, it’s building a really good brand that then, we associate positively with the logo, versus the logo being a really good match or being in sync with the brand?

Aaron Scott: You could almost think of this as being inversely related to the amount of dollars behind the business. If you’re a Facebook and you just know that really, no matter what you do, a million people in five minutes are going to see your logo. It becomes less important that the logo be particularly memorable because it’s going to be ubiquitous. The other side of that seesaw is that if you don’t have a lot of dollars to put behind your business and advertising your business, it makes it that much more important that the logo be fairly memorable.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so interesting and so true where it’s almost like we know what Facebook is so we don’t have to draw from other things to judge it as much. That’s so much of what branding is, is us saying, do we like this, do we not? If you go somewhere and you have no idea whatsoever so much of your opinion is based on the branding. It’s like you have no previous experience and you’re just starting out and so people aren’t familiar with it so they come and the branding makes such a big impact, which is so difficult. This is maybe part of what the problem you’re solving is, because those brands that are just starting out, usually don’t have any money to spend to do a really good job with branding.

Aaron Scott: That’s exactly what those businesses run into. That’s the problem that we’re trying to solve is that for those businesses who are for people who are just starting out and they know it’s going to be important that they invest a little bit in their brand in the outset because it’s going to make a difference in whether or not people remember their business, it’ll help with customer retention, it’ll make sure that it’s communicating the right thing to their audience. There are a lot of people that know that this stuff is important and that it plays a huge psychological role in how their audience will perceive their business but their not always able to hire the best designers to do that work. Where as, large businesses, they can go hire really huge branding agencies that are going to throw a 100 designers at the project for the next six months. They’re going to be billions and millions of dollars. The people with whom we as regular folk interact with everyday, the people who run a business down the street or the people who are trying to start their new tech company, they know those things are important and they’re frequently frustrated with their ability to let alone get their business off the ground but get their brand off the ground and that’s what we’re trying to help them with.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. Specific to those three things you talked about, how memorable is your logo, how distinctive, how different is it from other ones and is it a good vessel for communicating the brand, how do you test that? Obviously, you would probably know that if you saw it but for me, I might not know if something is memorable or I could maybe look around and see if it’s distinctive. Is there a way that we can … As people are experimenting with this and going into it, test or is it more of a gut thing? How does that work?

Aaron Scott: We test things all the time with a small group of people who’s opinions that we trust. As far as making sure that it’s memorable, there’s a really easy way to tell that. Send it to 10 people that you know and just ask them what do they think and ask them, without even telling them what the business does. I mean, if you’re starting a business, you probably already told them a million people what you’re doing but try to find people who will have be seeing your logo for the very first time. Ask them what they think the business is. It’s a really easy way to tell if it’s going to be memorable and if it’s going to be a good vessel for your meaning because designers do this kind of thing all the time. They’ll design something and they’ll think that it means something and then their spouse will come over and look over their shoulder and be like, “Oh, it looks like a whale”, and you’re like, “That’s not what I’m …” What that tells you is that what’s being communicated is not the thing you think is being communicated. You still have some work to do. You can tell pretty quickly if it’s going to be memorable or if it’s going to be a good vessel just by getting a cold read on it.

As far as whether or not something is distinctive, the easiest thing to do is just pull all of the logos or all of websites of your competition. Pull them all, put them in a PowerPoint document, put them on your desktop, take a look at them and you’ll figure out if yours looks like it belongs or if it looks like it stands out. One of the most important questions that I always ask our clients is, do you want to fit in, in your industry? Is it important that you fit in and look like you belong in your industry or is it really important that you stand out? Depending on the kind of business, they’ll answer one way or the other. The easiest way to tell if you’re on track is to look at what everybody else in your space is doing and decide, does this look like it’s going to get lost in the clutter of all of the other businesses that look the same or is this going to stand out? Is it going to make it easier for someone to remember my company when they’re searching online and they’ve gone to three of my competitor websites, are they going to remember me?

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Are there tools that you use or for people that are just starting out, would you suggest, hey, just send an email out, gather that feedback. Are there design … Which one do you like better, this one or this one type tools?

Aaron Scott: There are tools like that. They’re more specifically, there are communities like that. They tend to be full of designers, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You just have to know who … You’re self selecting for a really specific sub-segment of the population.

Bjork Ostrom: You should probably send it to people, not necessarily your closest friends but your closest friends if they are the people that you would imagine would be interacting and using your site or whatever it is that you’re building.

Aaron Scott: Whatever you do, don’t go ask your mom. Don’t go ask your friends. Honestly, one of the best ways that I’ve learned personally to figure out if I’m onto something and I’m doing what I think I need to be doing, if I’m in a coffee shop, and I’m just sketching out a logo, I’ll just go introduce myself to somebody who’s sitting next to me and say, “Can I just get opinion? What do you think about this? What do you think this business does?”

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like for somebody like me, I’d be like … I’m nervous to ask people if I can share their electric outlet. Do you feel like people are usually pretty responsive when you have those conversations?

Aaron Scott: People like to give their opinion. Especially on things like logos. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent any amount of time online but every once in a while, it happens a couple times a year now where a big brand will re-brand themselves and redo their packaging and there’s massive uproar of all of the people who are really upset that their company changed their logo. People like to offer their opinion about these things, almost because there’s very little consequences.

Bjork Ostrom: Exactly and everybody has an opinion which I think is good when you’re trying to get that feedback.

Aaron Scott: Most people don’t care so much to spare your feelings about it one way or the other. Especially, if you’re able to get a cold reading. You don’t need very many. Just a small handful of completely cold reads on the logo will tell you if you’re on track.

Bjork Ostrom: Just as a last thought with the logo, would you recommend for somebody that’s just starting out, maybe they don’t have a big budget, should they start with that plain font one, put something in on their own? Is there a place that people can go to have some guidance? Maybe, check in with a friend that does design work just to get something up and running that they feel half way decent about? What is that first step?

Aaron Scott: I would say that if you’re not sure what you want to do yet, the best thing you can do is go look at a bunch of businesses that you like and that you think represent what you want your business to look like. It’s pretty easy just to take a snapshot of a website or take a snapshot of their logo or just Google image search on these kinds of things. Pull them all together and put them all in one file and take a look at them and just start there. Right away, you’ll be looking at most likely, what other professional designers have done and you’ll be able to figure out pretty shortly if you think that you’re going to be able to achieve something you’re going to be happy with that matches your interest.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a great first step. Let’s jump in and talk about typography a little bit. This is one where Lindsay is really … My wife Lindsay has Pinch of Yum, the food blog and she’s really good at seeing typography and I’m not very good at it. That’s another one of those things where I can see it and I know when I like it. She’ll be like, “Wait, these are a different font.” It won’t be drastically different, it’ll just be like a tiny bit different. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, they are.” For somebody like me who respects typography but isn’t necessarily good at it, how do we go about picking what we want to represent our blog because it is such an important thing. Especially, if you’re primarily communicating not in video, let’s say, but in written content on a post. There’s so many elements. What type of font, the size, the color of that font, how do you get into it? What does that look like?

Aaron Scott: From a branding stand point, typography is almost like a Trojan horse. It’s a little bit of a secret weapon in terms of really creating a look for your business or for your blog. It makes people want to read more, literally, or will make them not want to read anymore, at all. I’m not entirely convinced that you’re not that good at identifying them, because I would bet that I could probably show you a small handful of just pure typography selections, no color, no images, no logos or anything, from a handful of businesses that you’re probably familiar with and you’d be able to tell me what businesses they look like.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like a sixth sense thing. You associate it without even really knowing it.

Aaron Scott: There’s a couple of really practical things that someone who’s just starting out can do. Typography, just like your logo, you want to have a particular voice. You want to make sure that it makes sense for your audience and that you’re using it to communicate with them. A great example of bad typography would be, if you were writing a very serious financial blog and you were using Comic Sans or something.

Bjork Ostrom: Would there be any use of Comic Sans that would make sense? I feel like the poor Comic Sans has been so rejected.

Aaron Scott: Not in my world. There’s a couple of things that people can do. Usually when people are starting blogs, one of the first things that they’ll do is they’ll pick some Google fonts that often come with whatever theme-

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain Google fonts for those that aren’t familiar?

Aaron Scott: The way that typography on the web works now is that people can … Businesses will host fonts on servers far away and on your website, whether you’re using a WordPress theme or you’re using a third party typography plug in service, your website will literally call that server far away and say, “We’re suppose to use Helvetica”, just as an example, on this website so make sure that all of the type on this page is Helvetica. Now, Google fonts are fonts that Google literally hosts on their servers and that basically comes standard, almost like the way that certain fonts come standard if you just bought Microsoft Word. Google fonts comes standard in pretty much any installation of any blog that you might want to use.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m roughly familiar with the font set. Does that require the browser that you’re using to have that font enabled? Is that how that works? Do you know the text size?

Aaron Scott: No, you don’t. That’s the beauty of it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s the server.

Aaron Scott: It literally, it used to be, I want to say, maybe eight years ago. It use to be that most web fonts or websites were restricted to a small handful of what are called, System fonts. Those are the fonts that literally come standard on your computer. What would happen is, your computer would load the website and your computer would say, great, this website is using Arial. I have Arial so I can display this whole website. Now, what’s happening is the website is calling that server far away and saying, it doesn’t matter what you have on your computer, I’m going to use this font that’s being called from far away and we’re going to load this website with this particular font so that everybody can see the way the owner of the site wants them to see it.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s a complicated concept but for those that are just starting to understand this, it’s a really important one in terms of the web design and development world. Idea being that when you, let’s say, publish a post on WordPress, WordPress doesn’t necessarily publish that in a certain font. It’s just the plain text that you’ve created but you use this thing called, CSS which is the style sheets for the blog and then, that tells the web browser which font to use. The process, correct me if I’m wrong here, is the text and then the text is controlled by the CSS and then, the CSS hooks into whatever font you’re using. It might be a default one that’s just available like Arial but it could be a unique font that would be hosted somewhere else like Google fonts, which would be, I think it’s just Google.com/fonts.

Aaron Scott: That’s exactly right. The point I wanted to make, specifically, about Google fonts was that, because they are ubiquitous, because Google’s hosting them, everybody uses them. If you’re just starting out, you are not limited to just the … I think there’s maybe like 30 to 50 fonts on Google fonts that people can choose from. There are other third party services that just something like Google analytics where you just put a little snippet of code on your website and it hauls that typography service. You’re pretty much unlimited to the number and kind of typefaces that you want to use with third party services like type kit, is a really good example.

Bjork Ostrom: Is that owned by Adobe?

Aaron Scott: Yes, Type kit is owned by Adobe and one of the great things about it is that it’s like 24 bucks a year. It’s really inexpensive and it’ll allow you to choose fonts for instance, that really mimic for instance, whatever you’ve done with your logo so that everything looks very cohesive.

Bjork Ostrom: We have access to these different places we can get different types of typography. We can go to Google fonts. We can use Type kit, which we’d have to pay for, but it would open up more instances of different fonts and more unique looks, perhaps. Once we have access to these, how do we implement those? Do we need to use a different font for, let’s say, the logo then for the paragraphs in our blog, and then should all the headers … We have header one, header two, header three, should those be different fonts? How do you craft your approach to using different fonts and different styles?

Aaron Scott: This gets into really nerdy designer territory.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is a dangerous place to be but we can go there.

Aaron Scott: Most designers, not all the time but most of the time, they usually specify anywhere between one and maximum of three fonts. Usually, somewhere like two for a particular client. The reason for the two is that the two can get used in different ways. Some fonts have a lot of character to them. They look a really specific and interesting way that might mimic your logo. You might want your H one and H twos are your blog to mimic the look of your logo so you’re going to pick … You might even pick the literal typeface that you’re logo is designed with or you might pick one that’s very similar because it reinforces that look, but because that main, that primary typeface has a lot of character, it also may not be something that people are all that comfortable reading it at lengths. It can get tiresome. They’ll be a secondary typeface that is chosen that matches some of the characteristics of that primary typeface but it much easier to read. This is one of the reasons that you can go on certain businesses, websites and you’ll see that maybe they have a really bold set up typeface that all of the headers are set in but then maybe all of the body copy is set in something that’s like San serif and just looks like a standard Arial or Helvetica or something like that.

Bjork Ostrom: When you look at different sites, you have the curse of being a designer, which means that you can never look at anything without having some type of opinion or feeling about it. What are some of the common mistakes that you see happening with blogs, specifically, when it comes to how they’re communicating via the typography via the font that they pick?

Aaron Scott: I notice that a lot of blogs nowadays will know that they want to make their typography look a little bit unique. What they’ll do is they’ll pick a font that might be a really good font for headers but then they’ll use that same font everywhere and it’ll be a little … It won’t be totally hard to read but it won’t be comfortable to read in that body copy section in the length of your post. You can almost think of it, every time you’re creating something with typography that makes it a little hard for people to read or that slows them down just a little bit, you’re almost literally turning them off.

A good example of this, I see a lot of people using Sans serif typefaces that are a little bit tall and narrow as their body copy. After reading just one paragraph of that, its almost like I feel like I need to fall asleep. It requires so much work. What happens with those tall and narrow fonts, people start to squish everything up, including … I’m going to use one of those designer words now called, Leading. It’s the space between each line of type. Everything gets a little bit scrunched up and you get really tired from reading all of that text. One of the rules of typography on the web is that people tend to like things to be a little bigger and be a little bit more spaced apart than they would otherwise like to see in something like print. I see this all the time. I see people like, oh, I like that typeface and they’ll pick it and they’ll write 6,000 words and you just can’t get past the first 300.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that take away in terms of the spacing as an important one, just to have more room than you would in a traditional print magazine, for instance, in between the lines. It seems like a really common thing. Just a basic question. Do you have any type of recommendation? This is maybe hard to do a blank statement but in terms of what the font size should be and what the line spacing should be in general?

Aaron Scott: A good rule of thumb for web type is that you don’t want to go any smaller than about 12 points. Anywhere between 12 points and 16 points is pretty good font size for people to read. As far as leading, on the web, you want that to be anywhere between 120 and 140 percent of that size, of that point size for the leading.

Bjork Ostrom: It could be 14 points and you’d want that to not be 100 percent. You wouldn’t want it to be 14, you’d want it to be 120 to-

Aaron Scott: Anywhere between 16, 18, even all the way up to 22, depending on how literally how larger the letter forms of that typeface are. One really easy way to see if you’re using type in a way that’s going to make people want to read it is, go to a website that you know for a fact lots of people read a lot. Go to The New York Times or something and take a screenshot of the New York Times. Take that screenshot and dump it into your layout in your blog post and fiddle with your type until you get it to look roughly about the proportions of The New York Times or something similar. That will put you in a really comfortable place for reading.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting even as you were talking, I’m doing that and there’s just so much variation from site to site. You do notice the variation is not necessarily in that it’s massively big or really small print. It’s maybe in a type of font that they’re using but in general. I’m looking at New York Times and then, I pulled up an article here from business insider and it’s like, okay, you can start to see some similarities in how they’re presenting their content. I think that’s a great takeaway. Just the idea of even being aware of it, and like you said, pulling that out and then, dropping it into your content. Maybe by doing a screenshot and just photo shopping and adjusting, I think, helps people to get an idea of what that might look like. It’s interesting.

Cool. I think that informational for people. We talk about it with two different ideas. Somethings that you can take action on right away and other things for people that maybe they can put in their back pocket and approach a little bit later is a good balance of both. I think it’s really beneficial. Lets jump in and talk about colors a little bit. If somebodies trying to pick out colors for their blog, do they go back to the old, what was my favorite color in elementary and really lean into that or do you go to Home Depot and get paint thing where you look at the different colors, how do you take those first steps into thinking about color?

Aaron Scott: Whenever we start to think about color at Your Brand Week, we start with psychology because color primes people in pretty specific and relatively predictable ways. There’s that old Looney tunes cartoon about showing the red … I can’t remember what it was called. The red cape to the bowl, it makes the bowl angry. Its a hokey example but that actually is pretty true. You can see big brands using color in really specific ways to achieve very specific goals for their business. A really good example was Starbucks. Starbucks has that forest green color. They build their whole brand around these muted colors that all look nice with that forest green and when you walk into a Starbucks, it’s all very cozy. They want you to sit down and stay a little while, drink three lattes and read the newspapers that they sell there. I don’t know why anyone reads the newspapers that they sell there but that’s what they’re there for. In the event you were thinking about leaving, they’ve put the Wall Street Journal right next to the cashier so you see it and you’re like what is that new story? You buy it and you go sit down and five hours later, you’ve eaten three croissants.

Bjork Ostrom: Not that that’s ever happened to you but-

Aaron Scott: That’s never happened to me ever. Contrast that with a business like Dunkin Donuts. Arguably they sell roughly the same kinds of products but Dunkin Donuts uses these bright neon colors because it’s all about fast food and the idea’s that you can get in, get your coffee and donut, and get out. Nobody ever says, “I can’t wait to go to Dunkin Donuts for three hours and sit in that uncomfortable chair.” These two businesses are using color in really specific ways and blogs and small businesses can use color in exactly the same ways. It’s one thing if you’re really attracted to a color because you have a favorite color from childhood. That’s fine but what you want to make sure that you do is just do a little bit of research and make sure that that color that you’re using makes sense for your audience and make sense for your business. It would be weird if Raytheon, the defense contractor, which has this very block logo and it’s set in red had a pink logo.

Bjork Ostrom: I think we understand that intuitively as we look at it but even you saying that, it’s like, oh yeah, of course. That makes sense as you process through what you’d want to pick for colors. Let’s say that somebody’s in the beginning stages. They need to … Maybe they’ve just stumbled upon a couple different colors that they use. Let’s say that somebody picks a color and they know that they want their brand to be approachable and comfortable so they go with that similar Starbucks green. From there, how do you build out the complementary colors that go along with it? Not literally complimentary but are there tools you can use? What does that look like?

Aaron Scott: Yeah, there absolutely are. Color theory is something you get taught if you go to design school. There are online tools that will help make color theory make sense to someone who never had that education. There’s a really useful tool. I use it all the time. It’s called Adobe Kuler and it’s spelled with a K. K u l e r. Where, what you can do is you can go to this micro site that adobe has put up and you can pick a color from a color wheel or you can enter in RGB value is what your red, green and blue for screen pixel colors or if you happen to know what this is, you can use Hex numbers, which are numbers that are associated with very specific colors for use on the web. You can put those values into this color wheel on Adobe Kuler and you can set it to generate for you a compound colors, complimentary colors or split compliments. All these different kinds of color arrangements that are naturally going to be attractive to the human eye.

Bjork Ostrom: I just pulled it up here and just clicking through here. There’s all these different color rules for somebody who’s totally unfamiliar with it, would you say, start here and then go to other places?

Aaron Scott: I would definitely say start there. If you’re looking to create some colors for your brand and your doing it on a shoestring budget, you just want to do it yourself, pick a color that you know you probably like. Go to Adobe Kuler, you can even put the color on Adobe Kuler and just fool around with some of those different settings.

Bjork Ostrom: Would there be a specific color rule that people should start with? Complimentary, compound?

Aaron Scott: I would avoid complimentary. Complimentary colors tends to be red and green and so what happens when you choose complimentary colors is that … That’s probably the one setting you shouldn’t use because that will generate colors that when you put them next to each other, it will start to look like they vibrate. They start to look a little bit, literally uncomfortable.

Bjork Ostrom: Don’t start there.

Aaron Scott: Don’t start there. Any of the other ones. I’m a big fan of split compliments. Split compliments are, if you’re looking at a color wheel where you could have a warm red, and a yellow orange, and there’s a color in between those two but then on the opposite side of the color palette from those two colors, will be a bright sky blue. YOu’ll notice that those colors sound like the colors of the sunset. Those color relationships and ratios are true all around the color wheel. They generally look pretty attractive. The other thing, if you’re not sure, if you don’t feel like you’re totally comfortable picking color using color theory that way, the smartest thing you can do is you can pick something that is basically monochromatic on something like Adobe Kuler where you pick this color and you set it to give you monochromatic options. It’ll give you five tints of that color. It almost guaranteed to look nice together.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a really cool tool. It’s fun to play around with here, too, just as we are chatting through it. I think that’s good. We have this idea, if you’re just getting started out to take those first steps with the logo, going to go back to that. Make sure it’s memorable, distinctive, that it’s a good vessel for your brand and most importantly with that, just to get feedback in those early stages and get ideas from people. The other thing I took away from that is, looking at the logos that you like that you feel like communicates what you want your brand to be, do a side by side comparison of those and see what it is that’s common among those. For the typography, to look at potentially third party tools, to not go beyond, to not pick three, four, five fonts that you’re introducing, to keep it simple and to look at those really popular sites and see how they have it structured. Maybe even copy and paste that into your own blog to get a side by side. I think this color tool is a great example. Adobe Kuler, is that how it is? Yeah, and it’s Color.adobe.com, I think is the other way to get it. We’ll link to it in the show notes.

Let’s say that you’ve gone through each one of these and you have a general idea. Now, you get to this place where you have to capture that all together and this is something that we didn’t do for a really long time with Pinch of Yum or Food Blogger Pro or any of the brands that we had. That’s putting together a style sheet or brand guidelines. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and how that works?

Aaron Scott: Brand guidelines basically ties all of this stuff together in usually a short PDF. At Your Brand Week, ours tend to be about 20 pages which might sound like a lot but basically what it does is every page is devoted to one fairly easy to understand and actionable item about keeping your brand looking consistent. That’s really the whole point of the guidelines. It’s very easy overtime to maybe eye dropper a color that’s pretty close to what your brand color is and then six months later, you realize you’ve been using that wrong color in everything. Maybe you’ve got multiple versions of your logo because one versions on the website but one versions on a product and they’re not quite the same. Maybe ones getting knocked out or light or something on a eBook that you wrote. Anyway, the brand guidelines are just there for people to refer back to and specifically to share often with their organization if they’re running a business so that everything looks consistent. Really, that’s ultimately the most important thing about creating a brand is making sure that it’s consistent. Brands that are consistent tend to be the ones that are the most admired. It’s why Apple looks the way that it does. It’s because everybody is always on the same page throughout that organization, all the time.

For the guidelines, we just detail for people, what colors are being used in the logo, how to use those colors in a way that will look consistent from screen to print to product to, on T shirts. How to use their typography, specifically. When we recommend type, we don’t just say, “Hey you should go use this font because it looks like it belongs with your brand.” We actually teach people how to use that typeface in a way that’s going to look consistent over time. We do the same thing for color and we do the same thing for the business cards and for the slides. Every deliverable has a corresponding section of the brand guidelines that just make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Bjork Ostrom: Our version is not as cool as the 20 page overview. It’s just a one page PDF, which was a big step for us because we didn’t have anything before. It just highlights those colors and like you said, that means that we’re not doing a little eyedropper tool off of our logo on the website and then it gets inconsistent throughout. Jasmine, who is a Food Blogger Pro team member and has experience with branding put those together for us and it’s been a huge step forward for us to be able to use those. Cool. That’s brand guidelines and maybe what we’ll do is for those that are interested, we’ll just put ours in the show notes so people can see what that super basic guideline is. It’s really helpful if you’re ever sharing with another brand or like you said, internally to have those.

We’re getting to the end here. Just real quickly, do you want to talk about those last two elements that you include when you do the Your Brand Week process, the presentation slides and business cards?

Aaron Scott: Nowadays, creating business cards is so much more efficient than it use to be. With services like Moo that kind of stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a recommendation in terms of business cards? Is that Moo a decent one to go to?

Aaron Scott: They happen to be a Boston based company.

Bjork Ostrom: Shout out.

Aaron Scott: There’s a little shout out there. I know a lot of brands that are just getting started use them because they make them much more affordable. I think, when I first started my agency, we spent a lot of money on business so we had them all letter pressed and they were beautiful and edged and they were five dollars a piece. That doesn’t make a lot of sense for people who are just starting out. What we’d do is, is we’d create designs that are consistent with the brand guidelines and have the new brand applied to them so that all somebody has to do is take the printable PDF that we send them and upload it to their favorite service and buy them and couple of days later..

Bjork Ostrom: We actually have a section in Food Blogger Pro members that deals in discount page and Moo is one of the companies that we work with so if you’re a Food Blogger Pro member, check that out. I think it changes from time to time but it’s usually like 10 to 20 percent off. That’s great. Then, the presentation slides we already talked about that. This idea that maybe not necessarily for bloggers but for people that are starting companies that are pitching to Vcs and things like that. That’s a really important element, obviously.

Aaron Scott: That’s really, almost the most critical and time sensitive element of most of our clientelle. They often come to us and they say, “Yup, we’re ready to do this brand thing. We need to get our act together. We’ve got to look like our product is done and we just need our brand to match our product. Oh, and by the way, a week from now, I’m going to be pitching a room of multi millionaires where I’m hoping will give me a check so that I can get my inventory up or something.” They’re usually really thrilled to have the brand guidelines and the typography and the logo but really what they want is, they want to make sure they can stand up in front of a bunch of people and look really put together. That’s what the presentation slides are for, really. Is just to apply that new brand to usually what is the most time sensitive piece of brand material that they’re going to need.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re coming to the end here but speaking of Your Brand Week and all of these different elements, one of the things that we had talked about before is, and you had mentioned it a couple times here is bloggers aren’t necessarily the exact target market for you. I feel like it’s so valuable and it’s so rare to be able to have something that’s packaged up like this that’s approachable. Another thing that you had said is that because, for instance, presentation slides might not be the perfect fit for bloggers, you said, hey, let’s see if we can put something together that would offer a discount for people that listen to the podcast that would make it a little bit more approachable for them. Even beyond what it already is. Can you share a little bit about where that is and where they can find out information about that?

Aaron Scott: Amanda and I are running Pickles and Honey. We have a very soft spot for bloggers because we’ve been doing it for quite a long time and we know how hard it is to actually run a blog and run it in a disciplined way and turn it into a business. What we thought we would do is we would offer 1,000 dollars off to Food Blogger Pro listeners, all they’d have to do is just go to Yourbrandweek.com/foodbloggerpro and I’m sure we can put this in the show notes and for the next 30 days, they’ll get 1,000 dollars off whenever they book-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome and super generous so thanks for offering that to members. I know that it’ll be something that people will be able to take advantage with. What a big impact that can make. Like we said, especially in the early stages, even when it’s hard to take that initial step forward, to really solidify that brand is such a big thing. For those that can’t, I think the takeaways from this podcast will really be helpful and taking that little baby step forward. Thanks so much for coming on. Are there other places that people can follow along with what you guys are doing, whether it’s the blog, or social media or any other places?

Aaron Scott: Yeah, we’re pretty much on all the different social media platforms but specifically, we’re on LinkedIn and we’re on Twitter most of the time. You can find us on Yourbrandweek.com and if you just want to look at trip photos, you can find those on Picklesandhoney.com

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome, thanks so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Aaron Scott: Thanks for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: One more big thank you to Aaron for coming on the podcast. Aaron from Your Brand Week. Be sure to check that out and if you are in need of a brand update, I think that’s really cool that they made that offer to have a deep discount for Food Blogger Pro podcast listeners. One more thank you to Aaron for coming on the podcast today. Congratulations on launching that new business. I think that’s really cool. I think it’ll help a lot of people out. That’s a wrap for this weeks episode.

A big thank you to you guys each and every week for tuning in. We’ve just gotten more and more emails from people that are tuning into the podcast, listening to it on their commute to work or while they’re doing dishes or maybe you listen to it on your run in the morning, late at night. Whenever it is, wherever it is, we just really appreciate you tuning in each and every week. It’s been really fun for us to hear from each and every one of you that listen to the podcast and to hear that positive feedback. Obviously, so much of that comes from the guests that we have on so a big thank you to them, including this week, Aaron. Aaron, thanks for coming on. Previous guest, thank you for the insights you share and we’re going to continue doing this. We’re on episode 51, we’ve entered into the new stage of podcast episodes where we’ve gotten past that 50 mark and we’re excited to do the next 50. Make it a great week. Thanks for tuning in and we will see you again same time, same place, next week.

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