Branding basics: Building your brand

graphic By Mirella Marie

Building a brand is one of the most important parts of business, yet also one of the most overlooked. For a brand to be sustainable, it must evolve with a business’s life cycle and meet the changing needs of its audience.

Here are five things to consider to when building your brand:

  1. Vision

A strong brand starts with a vision. If you’re unsure what yours is, ask yourself the following:

  • Who do you want to serve?
  • What are your brand’s values?
  • What is your “why”? (Meaning, why do you do what you do?)

Once you identify these points and present them in a clear way people can understand, you’ll start attracting an audience that shares those values and relates to your “why.”

  1. Credibility

It’s natural that people will wonder if you can really deliver what you say you can, so having a quality designed brand identity and website is the first step to instilling trust in your audience. Testimonials, case studies (where applicable), and high-quality photos of your work will also help alleviate doubt, convey professionalism, and establish your expertise. Credibility by association is another way to positively shape people’s perceptions of your brand, so make an effort to align your business with leaders in your industry (and others) and people who are smarter than you.

  1. Authenticity

There is no shortage of pretenders on the Internet, which is why being authentic is so important. While many businesses might have a tightly curated Instagram feed, people want to see what goes on behind the scenes because it’s more relatable. For example, showing sketches of your latest design will give people a look into your creative process instead of just the final product. Being true to yourself, knowing your brand, and injecting your personality into it will help you stand out in your competitive industry and attract people who resonate with you.

  1. Visibility

Your brand needs to be visible in order for people to recognise it. Positioning your brand in front of the right people in the right places at the right times will keep your brand front of mind and help it become memorable. For example, if there’s an event your audience will be attending, find a way to promote your brand to them through that event. The more it is seen, the more likely people are to remember you when they need the products or services you offer. Never give people time to forget about you.

  1. Consistency

As with anything, consistency is key to achieving results, and your brand is no different. Being consistent shows that you’re reliable; in turn, people will know what to expect when dealing with you. For example, having the same imagery across all your communications will encourage trust and brand recognition. If you’re consistent with when and how you communicate, your brand will grow sustainably.

Remember, your brand is one of your business’s most valuable assets and building it is an ongoing process that takes time, work, commitment, and passion to be successful.

Mirella Marie is the owner and creative director of Vertigo, a Melbourne-based graphic design studio specialising in brand identity and design. She is also a contributor for Women of Graphic Design, a project examining the work of female designers around the world. Join her on Instagram at @studiovertigo.

Regional creative: Amanda Cole, designer


By Mirella Marie

Amanda Cole is a graphic designer from Newcastle, Australia. Alongside her husband Scott, she runs Shorthand, a creative studio that specialises in branding. I wanted to get Amanda’s insights into running a business in a regional area after moving from a capital city, and her thoughts on starting up a design studio.

After living and working in Melbourne for many years, how have you found the transition to Newcastle, both personally and professionally? 

The transition to Newcastle was actually a move home. I completed my degree in Newcastle, living here before heading to Melbourne. Personally it wasn’t too stressful as I was returning to old networks and my husband and business partner Scott has been there every step of the way (including that dreaded 10 1/2 hr drive!) Professionally it was a bit daunting at first. There isn’t the sheer volume of potential clients in Newcastle like there is in Melbourne. Getting your name out there is tricky, as businesses in smaller places put a lot of weight on word of mouth referrals. You need to be patient as it takes time to build up your reputation. We were lucky in that previous Melbourne clients were nothing but supportive of the move and many have stuck with us even now, two years down the track.

How would you describe your work?

We are first and foremost a branding studio and that is at the core of everything we do. Generally our projects begin with a client requiring a new brand, or a rebrand in the case where a business is evolving. We like to work closely with our clients, spending time getting to know their business first before jumping into creative. Once an identity is finalised we roll-out to any number of touchpoints, be it business cards, stationery, web or environmental design. Visually we are big believers in less is more and find that a minimal approach allows for the clearest communication.


Who is your typical client?

Our studio doesn’t have a typical client and we tend to attract from a variety of sectors, which I have always enjoyed. In saying this, quite often their problems are similar e.g. businesses evolving internally with new technology having a bigger influence on processes. In recent years the studio has attracted a lot of not-for-profit organisations which has been really rewarding.

Which part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?

Presenting the concept to the client is always stressful – but when they love the work and have a big smile it always makes my day. We have an initial collaborative approach with clients and like to involve them in the strategic process. I find working this way really beneficial, as relationship-wise we form a team. This also means when we unveil the concept, the client already has a general idea of what the identity is going to look like so there is no ‘presentation shock’. By getting clients more involved, they take more ownership over the brand as truly theirs which is great!

What advice would you give to someone starting a design studio?

While some manage to pull it off, I would advise against attempting to start a studio straight off the back of study or abruptly leaving a full-time position. The way I got to where I am now was in small transitional steps. I began freelancing after hours until I could no longer manage both it and my day job. After this I began a part-time position and eventually moved on to doing my own thing full-time. Even then I still occasionally took contract jobs or a bit of freelance before I was in a really secure place to start the studio. This was great for me as it’s low stress, low risk, and gives you opportunities to keep earning some steady cash whilst setting yourself up and gaining regular clients.

Once you’re set up, keep your overheads low by setting up a home office – although if you don’t trust yourself to get things done at home, co-working spaces are a great alternative.

Plan ahead. You need to be constantly thinking about the future and looking for new clients to keep the work flowing. Aim to transition your regular clients to retainers to give your business stability. Make sure your website and social media are regularly updated – leaving these jobs until the work starts to dry up will only give you a headache. 

Lastly, don’t neglect the admin. Xero is great if you’re looking for some easy to use accounting software and helps you keep an eye on those monthly budgets. Also, figure out what those budgets are! There are lots of easy to find calculators out there to help determine how much and how many hours you need to be charging. If you prefer the printed word, the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines is a great resource.


What is the creative community like in Newcastle?

Really blossoming which is fantastic! There a lot of talented people here doing amazing things. Newcastle has one of the highest retention rates of any place in Australia. This is of great benefit to the area because while people often leave to experience other (bigger) cities, they then bring that experience back home with them when they return. 

What does a typical day involve for you?

I jump on my phone with my morning coffee to check any overnight emails, social media and read the news before heading to the office by nine. As Scott and I have evolved our roles within the business, I now spend the first full half of the day on meetings, scheduling, accounts, proposals and emails. After lunch is when I’ll aim to get into any creative work – this can be helping the guys with any overflow or actioning our latest brand roll-out. 

Each day ends consistently at five. After working in bigger agencies where it seemed competitive as to who could stay the latest, I'm very aware of leaving on time. Occasionally if there are deadlines looming we will work after hours, but I like to avoid that as much as possible.

I enjoy cooking so most nights revolve around making dinner. Being winter, it gets dark earlier so nights are spent in hibernation, but in summer it’s hard to resist a walk along the beach to the Anzac Memorial Walk (if you’re ever visiting Newcastle I recommend it!).

What are your plans for the future?

Currently the biggest priority is moving into a new studio space by the end of the year. When we established the studio in Newcastle, we started in a smaller space while we got ourselves settled but have quickly outgrown it. Currently we have three team members, with the studio networking with quite a few external creatives on a project-by-project basis. We intend to keep this model moving forward as it allows for the greatest flexibility on projects and personally it makes for my ideal studio balance.

To view Amanda’s work visit Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Photography by Sophie Tyler

Mirella Marie is the owner and creative director of Vertigo, a Melbourne based graphic design studio specialising in brand identity and design. She is also a contributor for Women of Graphic Design, a project examining the work of female designers around the world. Join her on Instagram @studiovertigo.

Tools of the Trade: Carli Hyland & The Grim Press

By Brianna Read Who better to discuss tools than a woman who grew up on a farm!  Carli Hyland of The Grim Press was kind enough to allow me to quiz her about the tools of the print trade. The Grim Press, so named because of its beginnings in a disused funeral parlour, was created by Carli and unites her many talents into one creative practice.

The aspect of Carli’s practice which first piqued my interest for this column was the fact that she uses both high and low tech tools to create. When pressed to narrow down her ‘can’t do without’ tool she replies “computer and pencil”. I am sure most creative folk are now nodding in agreement; most of us cannot do without either of these rather brilliant tools. One look at the beautifully crafted pencils made by Carli and the reverence is obvious, the humble pencil is given a whole new meaning when viewed through the lens of The Grim Press.

The toolkit of The Grim Press certainly does not end there. I enquire after a foil lined box housing an ultra violet globe on a long power cord and discover that Carli is quite at home in a hardware store. This contraption (another great word for a tool) was crafted entirely by Carli as a makeshift exposure unit for the print plates she hand makes. This is where the process really starts to sing… Carli sketches using a pencil, refines a design using the computer, prints the design, exposes the design to plate then prints the inked design onto paper using a small hand wound press. There is a wonderful blend of the old and new, the latest, greatest and the makeshift at The Grim Press!

I mentioned that Carli grew up on a farm and she credits this upbringing as the source of what she calls her ‘How can we make this work with what we’ve got?’ approach. The can-do nature of folks who have had to make do is a common thread in stories about the origin of a tool. I must point out that this aspect of Carli’s creative practice is not the first thing you would assume when viewing her work – the ideas of do-it-yourself and makeshift often bring to mind phrases like ‘not quite right’ and ‘rough around the edges’ – and while evidence of the handmade is present, all her designs, prints and publications are immaculate, high quality professional pieces. When I mention this nature of her work a discussion on the merits of mastery ensues…but that is fuel for another column I think!

With a background in visual arts, photography, book making, illustration and graphic design The Grim Press is a rare design practice offering clients a diverse range of design and print services. Carli’s clients can have custom made gift cards, logo design, hand bound books and publications and since the recent acquisition of a new printer using archival quality inks The Grim Press is also offering a high quality art printing service too. This is the made to measure of graphic design and printing!

Adding another string to her already full bow Carli is preparing to run workshops teaching willing students how to design and create their very own hand printed stationery and hand bound journals.

Carli's printmaking and bookbinding workshops begin in October at The Gasworks in Albert Park, Melbourne.

Carli Hyland and The Grim Press can be contacted by email at or through her website contact form here.


Brianna Read is a designer/maker based in Melbourne. Her knitwear label Jack of Diamonds Knits  employs traditional hand-made techniques in combination with machine knit technologies. Brianna’s multi-faceted creative practice encompasses design, production, works for exhibition and machine knitting workshops