Branding was once the sole domain of Donald Draper types. Sitting with whisky in one hand and cigar in the other, offering advice only to big companies that could afford the advice. But things have changed. The growth of social media platforms and free online marketing tools now means we can all use the power of branding to promote our businesses.

Think of the world's most recognizable brands--what do they all have in common? Take Google, Coca-Cola, or Disney. Each company has a strong visual brand. Consistency is critical for building a memorable visual brand.

Tools like Canva make it easy to create your own graphic designs. Here are four key areas of branding to keep in mind:

1. Colors. Choose a consistent set of colors to represent your brand. Google uses blue, yellow, red, and green in its logo and all its marketing materials. Pick colors that reflect your brand. Google's playful vibe lends itself to splashes of bright colors. For color palette inspiration, pay a visit to Designspiration. Color selector Kuhler is also handy for generating color combo ideas.

2. Fonts. Your font choice also says a lot about your brand. IKEA uses a bold font in capital letters in its logo. The North Face uses Helvetica. So does American Apparel. And many others, too. But there as many fonts as there are personalities. Check out Google Web Fonts for inspiration. Its font pairing suggestions are handy for your brand's marketing materials.

3. Imagery. The imagery you use conveys a lot about your brand. Do you have access to your own image library or are you looking for stock photography? Choose imagery that fits your brand, whether it's authentic imagery or more-traditional stock photography. Use the same photo filter on any photos you post.

4. Layout. Do you have a template for your social media posts? Is your logo positioned the same way each time it's used? Coming up with a style guide will help make sure all the elements of your brand work in harmony. Mailchimp's branding guidelines are a helpful example.

With the power of visual branding at your fingertips, you'll be creating incredible graphics in no time. What design techniques have you tried with your brand? How has it helped your brand?

Published on: Oct 1, 2014