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Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Lesson 1 of 9

Introduction To Class

Danielle McWaters

Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Danielle McWaters

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Lesson Info

1. Introduction To Class

Lesson Info

Introduction To Class

If you are not familiar with Danielle McWaters, I'm gonna tell you a little bit about her. Now, Danielle specializes in design, direction, and of course, branding. Now, she has worked in retail packaging, she's worked on global advertising campaigns, and currently she runs her own design, boutique design firm, Designsake Studio, here in San Francisco, and we are thrilled to have her on the CreativeLive stage. So please welcome Danielle McWaters. (applause) Hi everyone, and hi everyone out there! Thank you for joining us today, no matter where you're at. I'm so excited to be here to talk about branding with you all. It's obviously a passion of mine, it's what I spend my days and nights doing. And I'm really excited to be here to take you through this course. And, you know, throughout today we're gonna be talking about strategies and solutions on how to differentiate your brand, and also how to visually bring it to life. So, who should take this class, right? So, if you are somebody wh...

o has a product or a service or an idea for a product and service, and feels really overwhelmed by the branding process, or doesn't even really know where to begin, this is a great class for you. Or maybe you're somebody who currently has a business but you aren't really happy with the current direction that it's taking you, and you're looking to realign or reestablish your business. This class can be the first step in doing so. You know, or maybe say you have a company and you're struggling right now in terms of trying to find appropriate ways to engage your community. This is, again, a great class for you to dive into with us. Also, you know, we want to make sure that however you're presenting your brand, it's being done in a cohesive, consistent manner that's gonna yield a following and loyalty and trust with your audience. So, you know, by the end of today we're really hoping that we can provide you with some guidelines for your business on how to stay on track. So an introduction, I wanted to have an introduction actually before we dive into the meat of this class. So, building a brand is a journey. It's a process, and it's full of unknowns, and it's gonna be full of successes and probably some failures. But, you know, starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It's tough work, and it takes a lot of thought and intention, but if you love it and you wanna spend your days pursuing this full-time, do it, this is the time to do it! And, you know, there's a lot of opportunity for you out there to be successful. And, you know, you really do have the power to make all of these decisions. And you can be all-in every step of the way, and you know, give the blood and the sweat and the tears that this adventure of starting a business really demands of you. I want you guys to all feel empowered by the process, not overwhelmed, and realize that this is an opportunity for you to be bold, and to be different, and to maybe even make a difference. And I understand because I've been there! (laughs) You know, I, before starting my business, I worked for some really incredible brands, particularly Benefit Cosmetics. And during my time there I had an opportunity to see firsthand what really goes into building a successful and sticky brand. You know, my time there, I got to see, you know, it's so much more about, you know, it's not just about the products you offer, it's about how do you name them? How do you put them in gorgeous packaging? How do you speak about them? What's that voice, what's that, you know, fun, playful, girly tone? And how does that come across through creating brand experiences? I mean, I will ask you in front of me here, have you guys heard of Benefit Cosmetics before? Yes, right? And have you ever been to one of their boutiques? Right, so when you're there, you know what you're getting, right? You walk into that boutique, and probably what's the first thing that you recognize? The logo? Okay, logo. Colors. Colors, it's a very big one, right, Benefit is like, pink! Right, it's pink, it's bold, it's girly, but you know what you're getting when you walk into that atmosphere, right? You're in this comfortable, boutique setting. There's like these beautiful, you know, bold colors that are calling to you. There's like, you know, really engaging different packaging sitting on the shelves. And you know what you're gonna get, you know, by getting a service there or purchasing a product there. You know, it's all about the experience from the moment you step into that boutique to the moment you leave, and you decide to go back again and again and again. So brands fascinate me, right? I think that people right now are more aware than ever before about the brands that they allow into their lives. Because brands are really telling you, sharing values that we already have as individuals, right? It's basically just highlighting the things that we already feel true to ourselves. They basically give us a gateway to continue that experience, to share that and solidify that value in our lives, and also like in our homes, right? We let all of these brands come into our lives, whether they're, you know, the clothes you wear to the products that are sitting on your kitchen counter. And I think that, you know, brands have this amazing ability to provide us with a sense of connection. And sometimes it's similar, right? Or sometimes it's unknown. You know, brands have the ability to tug at our heartstrings, and they allow us to recall memories or past experiences in our lives, and sometimes they create entirely new ones, right? It's like the unexpected delight that brands strive to do, you know. When that happens, it's really kind of like a, a-ha moment! Um, you know, yeah, so, again, they really provide emotion for us in our lives and they also can give a sense of cultural navigation, you know? We see trends happening, we see, you know, somehow we form groups of people into these, we associate groups of people with these brands or where they shop and how they shop. And they can give us a sense of belonging, right? You know, maybe brands are partaking in movements that you're like, "I really align with that and I wanna join!" You know, and I think that this whole concept of, you know, the emotion, the connection, of what brands can yield, is really what essentially started me to start my own business and help small businesses, you know, or individuals, or even established companies continue to grow and evolve their brand. So, I wanna start also by saying, you know, this is an over, it can be an overwhelming process, there's a lotta pieces to consider. But I wanna encourage you all to just take the time. Take the time and do it right. And I can tell you firsthand because I've done it, you know, I did it a couple years ago, and it's a continuous process. It's not just kind of like a one and done. You're gonna continue to grow with your company and you're gonna hafta pivot and shift. But it's really, really important to take the time and figure out your strategies and solutions before you take your product or service into the marketplace. And the reason I say that is because, you know, if you don't, there's somebody else out there who may have a similar idea to you who, you know, is eager to seize that spot as well. So it's a competitive landscape out there, so you really wanna make sure that, you know, when you're going out there you have, you know, a clear and intentional brand that's ready to compete. And it's, yeah, and it's really critical for your success, both in the short-term and the long-term right? You hafta think about, you know, how am I gonna start this company? How are we gonna launch? But then, again, like, but how, you know, if we have these goals for five, ten years down the road, how're we gonna get there, you know? And, you know, when you take the time to put all these pieces together for yourself, you're essentially providing guidelines for when things get hectic, and you're like, "Wait, I'm not sure, this maybe feels "a little bit off track, you know, how will I know?" The stuff that you're gonna do here today should help you solidify any questions that you have and essentially stay on track moving forward. So, I wanna actually start today by asking you guys a few questions, and the first is, what are your favorite brands and why? And they can be anything, right, so it can be a product, it can be a service, it can be in any industry. Anyone here? Yeah! Two of my favorite brands are Gamblin Oil Colors and Golden Artist Colors, and they do acrylic paints. Okay, so tell me more. So what draws you to that, what draws you to that brand? They're both about artists and education about their products, and so they, on their website they have a lot of instructional videos and different things that point towards this clean, and they both have kind of a similar aesthetic. It's very clean, it's about the color that's inside, not a lot of bells and whistles. So you kind of know that they're about color and about the materials and about, kind of like, you imprinting your work on it and not them imprinting something else upon you. Great, so that's a great example, right? So, you know, what I take away from that is that you're engaging with their brand that's really clear. They're very straightforward in terms of like, you know exactly what you're getting. There's nothing that you're filtering through. But also in the way that they speak about their product, right, it seems very approachable and clean and, you know, so it's partly the aesthetic and it's partly how they're communicating their offering to you, right? So who else? Let's have a couple more. So Warby Parker and Anthropologie. Ugh, great brands, love them. (laughing) Tell me more, what do you like about Warby Parker? So, I love the hipness when you walk in the store and the paintings outside. And I remember the first time actually it opened up in my neighborhood, I didn't even know what it was and I was like, "What is this?" And I walked in and I'm like, "Huh!" And then I looked at the glasses and the prices and the whole set up, and then I realized "Oh, I hafta get these!" And then it was later on I realized their business model, right, which is just fantastic, about you buy a pair of glasses and somebody else gets one too. And then their cost too! So it's like, why wouldn't you do that, right? So, yeah I love it. Warby Parker out there, I mean, that's just exactly what you wanna hear from a consumer standpoint. (laughing) Right, and then they send you five for free online so you can try them on at home, so, right, they make it super easy. Yeah, right? So, I mean, I mean really you're touching on almost all of their brand points, right? It's that it's not only their business model and strategy, but it's this sense of ease from a consumer purchasing standpoint. It's also touching on customer service, right, like how easy it is, you send five, you pick whatever ones, badabing badaboom, you'll have the glasses that you want in, whatever, a week or two. You know, but then it's also this really engaging visual identity behind this brand. You know, are you talking about the store on, um, on Hayes, yeah. Hayes Street, yep. So there's a great design agency called The Lab SF and they were the ones who actually did the mural at Warby Parker. And it has this, like, fabulous, like, retro vibe, but these like, beautiful blue colors and hues, and you like, you're in the city but you feel like you're all of a sudden entering this like new city of Warby Parker as you're going into this, you know, boutique. So yeah, so again, it's like, and then to your point, it's like, "Great, they have these fabulous glasses. "They're at this great price point. "They make it so easy for me to purchase, "so why wouldn't I?" That is all we're trying to do here, right? And it seems like, "Yeah, of course, "that's what we're all trying to do." But you really can create that type of experience and strategy and model, when you just take the time and answer, you know, some really critical questions to give yourself all the information you need to get out there. But you know, now what I kinda wanna dive into is, you know, we hear this, these words, brand and branding all the time now, right? It's like, almost you hear, you know, say you're with friends or you're at your office and, you know, you're like, "Wow, you know, "there's this company out there that's, you know, "company so-and-so is creating this gorgeous packaging. "Like have you seen it lately?" Or "Have you seen the latest campaign?" You know, whether it's a social media or ad campaign from so-and-so brand, you know, they're doing such an amazing job of, you know, engaging and cultivating this community. So our inclination is to say, "Well yeah, they're doing a great job branding "their service or product!" So, which leads me to ask, so what does the word brand mean anyway, right? So, it's changed a lot, and there's a lotta definitions out there from, you know, people who are in the industry, who are brand strategists, who work in marketing, you know, there's a lot out there that you can choose from. But for the purpose of our class today, I'm going to use a definition created by a man named Seth Godin, and he is a brilliant marketer. And if you have a chance outside of class to read any of his writings or listen to his podcasts, he is so engaging and brilliant and you will just wanna soak up every one of his words. But, his definition reads, "A brand is the set "of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, "taken together, account for a consumer's decision "to choose one product or service over another. "If the consumer, whether it's a business, a buyer, "a voter, or a donor, doesn't pay a premium, "makes a selection or spreads the word, "then no brand value exists for that consumer." Okay? So really, what Seth is saying is that creating a brand isn't something you can just do, right? And I think that's a misconception about this word branding that we hear so commonly today. So you can't really say, you know, "I'm going to create, I have a product or service "and I'm going to design a logo, or you know, "create a tagline," and say "Okay, I'm ready to go, "I'm gonna put this product or service "in the marketplace and voila, I have this brand!" Building a brand is a strategy, and it's a result of a successful position, right? So basically, if it's done well, your audience will take notice of you, will participate in your offering, you know, whether it's a product or a service, see the truth in your promise, right, you're showing up, you're doing the thing that you say you would do, bestow trust in you, and therefore choose you in a cluttered and noisy marketplace, right? So this is the whole thing, right? You want to create something where people see the value in your product, they see the difference in what you're offering is versus your competitors in the marketplace, and bestow their trust in you! They wanna give it to you, they really do! And they want to create this relationship, this loyalty, you know, with you, and therefore choose you time and time again, every time they go to the store, or every time they go to that restaurant, or every time, um, whatever it is! You know, that is the whole goal. So, your audience is the one who tells you if you've built a brand, not you, not me, right? It's the whole, it's when we show up as a consumer or a customer and say, "Nope, I choose you." And there's buzz and people hear about you and they wanna talk about you and they wanna tell their friends about you. That's when you've built a brand. So, when consumers are emotionally invested, right, they like the story they tell themselves when they purchase a product, right? It's not about you, it's not about you as your company, right, it's about what they like to tell themselves, like "This makes me feel good when I buy this product. "I feel like I'm being a part of a movement when I take, "when I purchase this product or service." Because no matter the cost, they want you, they want what you're giving them, right, and that's when you have a brand. So how do we tackle this electric, arduous, and culture changing word called brand? What are the key concepts we have to consider, right, and define, and how will they all work together to create a sense of cohesion and harmony? So, these are the things that we're gonna really dive into today, right. So we're gonna focus on developing the blueprint for your business, and how you can identify your position in the marketplace, and how you can build a meaningful strategy around that position, and design an identity that is full of intention, right, a visual identity that's full of intention and engagement. So let's dive into a little bit of our goals today. This is what I want all of us to kind of be, these are the overarching goals that we're gonna be touching on throughout class, and, you know, we're gonna make sure that we meet by the end of today. So the first one is gonna be defining your position in the marketplace, right, so where is there whitespace for your product or service, and how will you create that space, and also how will you retain that space? So our second goal will be, how do we create meaningful strategy that supports our vision and our mission, right? So how do we combine our position and our competitive advantage and our unique selling proposition and create a meaningful strategy, right? So it's basically, how are we gonna execute all of those things when we get out there in that battlefield, right? Our third goal is going to be, how do we develop a visual identity that supports our company's position, right? So essentially it's like, how are we going to use our company's five brand essences to create a set of guidelines that will basically help you make all of your design decisions, right? So I wanna give you guys tools to say, you know, why are you selecting these typefaces? Why are you selecting these colors? All the visual elements of your identity should serve a purpose, right. You should be able to justify them and defend why you're making those decisions so that way you know that whatever you're presenting out there has intention. And our last goal for today is basically, how are we gonna launch your business with clarity and intention? Right, so at the end of today, that's how we should be ready to go. We should have all the tools and the resources that we need to put all of this information and these concepts together so that we can, you know, speak both to the verbal and to the visual elements of your brand so that you can articulate what you're doing and why you're doing it, to not only either yourself or your team, but also to your intended audience, okay? So, some tangible takeaways for today's class. So what you're gonna see here is, so this is our one page style guide template. And it's basically a template that's gonna help you organize your logo, your typefaces, your colors, your imagery, all of the visual touchpoints of your brand, and basically having it on a one page style guide so you know, like, okay, now you can kind of see how it's all working together. And this will keep you on track in terms of how you're creating any materials. So if it's marketing materials or your website or packaging, you can see all of the elements that you have and basically how you can apply them to all those various mediums, right? So yeah, and again, like, you know, this is almost like something that's really helpful to, you know, print out and like, post on your desk or, you know, share with everybody if you have a small team. Like, this is basically a way to get everybody on the same page about the visual direction of your brand. So the other tangible takeaway is, we have a brand questionnaire for you guys, and some of you here in the audience have this, but. So basically the questionnaire is, you know, all the essential questions that you should be asking yourself in the beginning stages of building a brand that will help you figure out what your mission is, what your vision is, what your unique selling proposition is, the ethos and the core values behind your brand, so that you can actually develop your position and create a meaningful strategy. So, you know, these, they're essential questions, you know, and they're not ones that you can really rush through. So I want you guys to, you know, you can always take a look throughout class today and see how we're gonna actually reference them through a case study that we're gonna use throughout today. But when you have time, I really want you guys to sit down and take the time and work through it, and really think hard about these questions, because the more information you can really spit out there and get out, it's gonna only be more beneficial to you and how you're figuring out really what you're doing, how it's different, and why your consumers should care, so. And also, we're gonna have a resources guide for you. So that includes a lot of the sites and readings and just resources that I use in terms of, you know, in terms of branding, but also in terms of collecting typefaces and colors and, you know, all the things that you essentially need to kind of help you navigate the visual element or visual identity portion of this. And then lastly, you guys will also be getting a script of today's class. So if you can, you know, it will basically be helpful for you guys when you're going back, and maybe you're going through the questionnaire or the visual identity portion of this class, you know, there'll be some notes of what's happening today in class to help support you.

Class Description


What does it take to create a successful brand? A strong, clear message and visual consistency is what builds trust, and this course will help you define this. Danielle runs her own successful design studio, specializing in branding. 

She’ll guide you through the process of branding your business from start to finish, including how to:

  • Establish a point of view through tone, messaging and voice 
  • Define your vision, core values and how you position yourself in the market 
  • Create a visual style guide that provides a reference for color, typography, and image styling
This class will teach you how to effectively articulate and communicate your brand to your audience visually, creating cohesion through every touch-point. From how you talk about yourself, to what typeface you use, creating cohesion and clarity builds trust. Position your brand to stand out from the crowd!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brand Questionnaire

Branding 101 - Companion

Branding 101 - Resources

Style Guide Templates

Style Guide Example - Slow Candle Co

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


- Emma -

Just finished watching the course. Absolutely loved it! I have no experience in branding at all and this course has given me so much information that will help me a lot. I am so excited to get started and creating my brand style sheet. Thank you so much Danielle you were brilliant! Constructive criticism: If would be better if you knew the information rather than reading off the screen in front of you. Paraphrasing would help, too. But very good job nonetheless!

Vivian Bustamante

Great information with handy resources to use after and apply into our own project. The concepts explained made it more clear and I loved the quotes Danielle used to explain this words we heard a lot when talking about branding, the mission, vision, etc. These weren't clear to me up until this point. Thanks so much!


This was so comprehensive and the resources are wonderful! I couldn't recommend this course enough. I loved the deep dive into the colors, type, and all visual aspects of a brand.