Perfect Beginner Tips for Branding your Startup

By / Nov 22, 2011 / Tips

During the process of launching a new company your logo and branding ideas are possibly the most important concepts. You have to consider not only the solid brand, but a whole slew of factors additional including website design and user interface, internal graphics, print work, marketing & conversion goals, maybe even branding yourself on mobile devices too. It can be a lot to consider all at once – but I’ve included a few tips below which may help you during the process.

Twitter offices with logo

I always recommend new startup companies to spend at least a few days brainstorming for ideas. These may include ideas for your company domain name or logo fonts/styles. Consider asking yourself “how do I want to portray the company?”. This question has no single correct answer, and you can take a determined startup team in plenty of different directions.

Get Inspired!

You can’t get much done without that spark of creative inspiration. This is most likely the reason you decided to launch a startup in the first place! With that said you probably have a few companies in mind from which you’d like to draw inspiration towards your own branding.

Many designers consider this plagiarism, but there is a huge difference between blatantly copying and stealing something vs building smaller ideas into your own concept. I recommend picking out traits and characteristics which you enjoy from the many brands you admire. For example you may really like how Google’s internal pages are structured in a clean, organized fashion. This model may become a template for your own website, or maybe just the idea itself can affect your overall layout.

Google for Business apps - clean webpage

Branding ideas can hold much more value than simple website interfaces. Consider the Dropbox home page which presents an easy-to-follow video presentation about the company and how you can benefit from their app. Some people will love this style and attempt to port it over into their own branding, which I say is perfect. Try spending 2-3 hours writing down a list of ideas from different companies and which specific bits you want to replicate in your own way.

Hit the Design Galleries

Nothing says inspiration like a whole collection of design screenshots layed out in easy-to-skim format. Web designers have become accustomed to the many galleries of logos, business cards, websites, and plenty of other stuff.

Patterntap Design Gallery

My personal favorite Pattern Tap doesn’t select just a single category to focus on. Instead their gallery boasts user interface elements which are separated into many categories. These include website footers, signup pages, sub-navigation, form buttons, tabs, thumbnails, and slideshows, among many others. You can signup for a free account and start building your own set of favorites right from within the website.

However if you are looking for logos and identity branding I have to recommend Logopond. Their gallery is constantly updated with some of the finest branding examples I’ve ever come across. According to their BuySellAds profile the site can push upwards of 3-4 million pageviews each month, which should give you an idea of their popularity. LogoMoose is another logo/branding gallery which has grown exponentially in the past year. They’ve even renovated to include a personal site blog and forums for member discussions.

What are your Goals?

The purpose of your startup is not a simple 1-sentence description. Often your goal(s) encompass more than just “make money” to include building a helpful end-result for your users. You want to create something which benefits the community and helps to propel your startup into popularity.

A good way to identify your own goals may be to look at similar startups in the past. For example, to launch a social news sharing community you may look to the steps of Reddit and Digg in the previous years. You may also be looking to build a solid community of members through marketing tactics. But how could this be accomplished?

Twitters official offices - designers and programmers

I always find that branding and goal setting will pave the way to your company’s ultimate success. And you don’t need to be pulling in $2 million a year to be labeled as a successful startup, either. As long as you are profitable and happy doing the work then things are going very well. I consider success to be very subjective, anyway.

First Impressions

When visitors initially see your company brand on a business card or website there are always pre-judgements based on your logo and presentation. This first impression is super important for building communication and support as your startup grows.

confectionary sugar sprinkled over french toast and maple syrup

Potential users or members are generally not coming to your website under any expectations. Thus it is your job to dazzle them with a fantastic logo and marketing display. The first few seconds your visitors will be trying to figure out what your startup is for and why they should examine it further. This is why your byline is extremely important in first impressions.

Kevin Rose official 2011 mobile iOS app - Oink by Milk

The whole logo text and byline actually plays a huge role in branding. For example check out the new MySpace re-design which uses the calling “Myspace – Social Entertainment”. Also the new Oink iOS app launched recently with a great slogan “Oink – Rate the Adventure”. Keep in mind you don’t need to include a byline on your logo, but it will become part of your overall branding in web and print design.

The Logo Formula

I hate advising on logo design because there are so many different options and techniques to use. Checking out related startups will give you a more solid realm of possibility for what you can do. Icon designs, illustrations, vector animals, or other graphics will certainly liven up the logo text.

People often question why should I even bother with a graphic component? Many companies and startups do rise in popularity with just a basic logo font and business card. And while this is true, marketing A/B tests and studies have often shown that a bit more flair in your logo will burn a unique image into the brain of your visitors. You can also pass around the graphic to different areas in your website other than the logo. The 16px favicon is an important aspect of web design, along with icons or illustrations for page aesthetics such as footer and sidebar artwork.

Twitter offices - lounge couch and throw pillow

There are so many examples, I try not to single out specific companies. But as a case study let’s look into the market of selling website templates. There are 2 brands which use polarized yet interesting techniques. I’m sure you all know about Template Monster and their adorable monster head. This one small piece of artwork has given precedence to the Template Monster brand, shooting the company into mainstream.

A template-selling competitor WooThemes actually incorporates a small graphic into their text logo. The techniques between these two differ only slightly, yet the results are so dramatic between both brands. The logos are also memorable enough that you can quickly recognize them from a print ad or business card. This is similar to the Dream Template design which uses different colors within the text layer to jump into the foreground.


There is no perfection when it comes to logo design. Creating a brand for your company requires a lot of time and creativity. If possible brainstorm ideas with a few different people to mix up creative energy within the group. Along with my tips above I highly recommend our article on personal branding for even more support. If you have questions or similar ideas please share with us in the discussion area below.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a creative writer and UI designer. You can follow him on twitter @jakerocheleau or visit his personal website at

  • Jenn Staz

    Wow, so many great tips in one article! I’ve never heard of but am really excited that you shared that resource. I also really need to up my personal blog’s by-line and logo!

  • Gareth McCumskey

    The other side of branding your company, apart from getting the actual “brand content” as you specify in this article, is to find ways to help push that image consistently. Nothing screams amateur more than a company that is inconsistently branding themselves across different media. By ensuring that your business cards, website, blog and even the emails you send (a great article about email branding is this one: are branded similarly, you create a far more professional impression about your business.

    Getting that brand content is the best first step, but just ensure that you are applying your brand well too.

  • Design Turnpike

    Good tips, but totally not getting the chosen photos… French toast and exposed duct work?

    • Jake Rocheleau

      Yes foreshadowing to the headline ‘first appearances’

      they are mostly metaphorical but I appreciate your comment.

  • Dzinepress

    interested tips in this whole article.

  • Web Design Hull

    Articles like this make me question if my website is really working and giving off the right impression. Maybe a fully thought out revamp would benefit my freelance web design more than seo.

  • James

    Some smart tips here! I think they will be useful to me in the future, thanks.

  • John

    Thanks for your post.

    This something that I have not got round to spending much time developing, too busy trying to get quality content out there.

    I can really see the importance of branding now, thanks again :)

  • Ed

    Seriously Jake? stick to social media because this article shows your expertise level and respect for the design field. SHAME ON YOU!!!