As a branding designer, it’s been a bit of a backwards journey as I’ve developed aesthetic and elements that make up the Paper + Oats brand. I never imagined it would grow into a multi-faceted business that provides products, services, resources, and even a blog. This week I’m celebrating my official two year business birthday, so I thought it would be a great time to give a behind-the-scenes look at how the Paper + Oats brand has developed into what it is today, and you can develop the different facets of your own brand to work cohesively.
The name and the logo
Let’s throwback for a minute – my very first Etsy shop was opened in 2007 and called Crafty Crap. Yeah, maybe not the best name for eluding quality, but you live and you learn! I made handmade greetings cards, collages, mixed media art pieces, and a few other craft projects. It was purely a hobby, and obviously didn’t gain much traction. In 2011, I graduated college and wanted to put some more effort into building the Etsy shop into a more legitimate revenue stream. So I closed my Crafty Crap shop, and started a new one where I planned to sell more clean and simple greeting cards and art prints – at higher quality than the aforementioned “crap” :) I was also going through a granola phase at the time, and briefly considered making and selling homemade granola along side my paper products. I know, weird :) When thinking of a name, I didn’t want anything related to my personal name, just out of preference. And thank goodness – hello, divorce! Instead, I loved the common technique of just combining two nouns or objects that were relevant to my business. Thus, Paper + Oats. I was also a little into Hall & Oates at the time, so the “oats” was a fun personal touch to me.
From that opening day on Etsy in 2011, until hitting on printable planners and organizational stationery in June 2013, I dabbled in many different types of products and services. Though my interests and products were changing, I knew I wanted to keep my brand name and aesthetic minimal and simple to easily translate as my business evolved. My logo design hasn’t changed since 2011, besides thickening up the lines a bit. In my opinion, that’s a big factor of a well-designed logo – it should be timeless and evolve appropriately as your business changes and grows. Constantly redesigning your logo can create confusion for customers and even distrust.
The general aesthetic and inspiration behind Paper + Oats has always been and always will be simple, minimal, and fresh. Looking at my own home and wardrobe, I use a lot of black, white and gray, with just a few pops of color, mostly blue-greens and yellow-oranges. This has been a great source of inspiration for my own branding, so I try to incorporate those colors and design elements into my business.
To be honest, I didn’t narrow down my brand colors until I launched The Oat Bar last month. I loooove all colors, and I know that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. Sticking to a handful of swatches has been really tough for me! But knowing that’s an important part of maintaining a consistent brand, I managed to narrow it down to a few key colors I try to use for most promotional images. In general, my P+O colors tend to be somewhat muted and colors that are found in nature.
For patterns, I want to keep them unique, but simple. I mainly use pattern in The Oat Bar blog graphics, and in occasional social media posts and promotions. I usually stick to either black / white or soft, simple colored patterns. Geometric patterns are more in line with my brand than the popular florals or other prints. I purchased this set of black / white brush patterns on Creative Market.
For typography, I use a select few typefaces for different uses. For my main branding including The Oat Bar blog, promotions, and all of my products, I use Proxima Nova, Hoefler Italic, and Playfair Display. These three typefaces are different enough to provide contrast in designs, and are timeless, simple, and easy-to-read options that will translate well on both print and web. If I need a script font for a promotional image, I'll stick with either Melany Lane or Isabella Script. For Batch Day, I strayed a bit further from my branding, but still created a look that was complimentary to Paper + Oats – for that typography, I used typefaces from the Museo family.
Most of my business branding is illustrative and doesn’t include photography, but I just recently started utilizing photos into my blog graphics for The Oat Bar. I don’t plan to use photos for every post graphic, I’ll also mix in some of those patterns you saw earlier. But for the photography I do use, I try to choose images that have similar colors to the rest of my branding and are generally less saturated. I use a mix of still lives / objects, cropped people, and landscapes. I source most of my stock images from Unsplash and Death to Stock. I also include some personal photos that work well with my brand from my amazing photographer friend Adie at Salt + Sky Studios (I’m hard at work on her new website, and can’t wait to share it!). I even use some photography from a series my brother did for fun – taking photos of his espressos every morning on his way to work in New York City. Shout out to you, Taylor!
Applying your brand to sub-projects within your business
Like I mentioned in each section above, my main business branding has branched out into each of my business sub-projects, to create their own slightly different looks that all still coordinate together.
The Oat Bar
For my blog branding, since it’s an extension of my brand in a more personal, journalistic style, I wanted to differentiate it by adding some organic elements. I did this by including brush-stroke patterns (as seen above) and photography. This helps fuel a more personal, tangible side of my brand – showing that it’s not always clean cut and organized. For the logo, I did my own calligraphy (it’s a little rough, I’m a newbie!) to continue that theme of personality and organic elements. For the graphics, I stick with the typography and colors used in my existing branding so I can be sure it still coordinates.
P+O Gives Back
For my give back initiative, I tend to use personal photos from myself or recipients that represent the monthly charity. For the animal shelter recipient, I used photos of my dog since I had a personal connection to the recipient. For the most recent adoption family recipient, I used photography they provided. In both cases, the photo colors obviously didn’t match my existing branding very well, so I overlay solid brand colors on each photo to match my brand. I keep the same typography for the imagery, and used a hand drawn typeface for the “gives back” portion of the logo – again, this injects some personality into a facet of my business that is really personal for me.
Like I mentioned before, I strayed a bit further from my business for the branding of Batch Day. I was created a bit on a whim, so not a ton of time was put into it, but ultimately I wanted to keep it simple and clean. Batch Day is all about productivity and community, and is only hosted by Paper + Oats, it’s not a paid service or anything. So I felt a little more freedom in that regard. I use similar colors, but different typography and almost no imagery. I wanted to keep it simple and focused – just like Batch Day :)
So to wrap this all up, this month I’ll celebrate my 2 year business birthday – yay! It’s been such a fun and challenging ride, and I’m so excited to see where the next few years take me. As a designer, my business branding is super important to me and a big part of my business. I’m learning to let it grow as my business strategies change and develop, but all in moderation.
To celebrate this 2-year milestone, a special sale will kick off tomorrow, so be sure to follow along on Instagram for all the details and coupon code! And thank you SO much to every customer, client, friend, and peer for supporting my little shop and cheering me on – it seriously means the world to me. You're awesome :)
How did you approach the branding for your business? Do you allow certain facets of your business to stray from your typical brand elements? If so, how?