Top Branding Agencies in San Francisco (SF)
Find the best branding agency in San Francisco, CA (SF) for your startup, B2B, SMB, enterprise or SaaS project.
UPDATED: December 1, 2020
Branding is a pretty complicated term, especially these days, when we have a digital environment (aka the Internet). The topic covers lots of aspects starting from the brand strategy, to visual identity, communication strategy, and a lot more. It governs how a brand communicates, looks, and perceives.
The importance of having a partner for your startup/business who can help to transfer your business mission, vision and values into a digital experience (e.g. marketing website, visual brand identity) is crucial. The result of the work is a cohesive brand that communicates the values in the most convenient way to the target audience, from copy to the website design, the color palette and other elements of the brand.
Branding is a tool that clarifies a unique character of the brand and helps to utilize it in the most beneficial way from the business perspective.
We surfed through a number of branding agencies and tried to find some interesting teams who might be a good fit mostly for digital brands.
📍San Francisco, CA 🇺🇸
Mozilla, Salesforce, Xero
FAQ for choosing a branding agency for a startup or an established business.
Some of the common questions people ask while looking for an agency
Q: How much does branding cost?
A: The price depend on the package. It may include things like tone of voice, mission, vision, values, communication style, verbal identity, visual identity, corporate website, bran application, collateral and much more. We’d recommend allocating a budget of around $60K on brand strategy and visual identity and around $150K and more on the previous scope plus marketing website (aka corporate website).
Q: How long a branding project usually take?
A: Based on our research it takes from 3 months to 12 months depending on the scope.
Q: How does the branding process look?
A: No matter what’s the final delivery, the process always begins with collecting information about the product/service, the audience and the ultimate goal of the rebranding. Then branding audit and equity analysis. What works right now, what doesn’t work and should be removed. Competitive reviews and where the product currently fits and where it should be in future. Then based on that information the either brand strategy or brand identity design process begins. The final output of that work is brand strategy and/or brand identity document aka brand-book that sets a foundation for the the future web design and product design work. It includes logo, colors, typefaces, tone of voice, etc.
Here is a more detailed look into a brand identity design process:
Your brand is the face of your organization, and brand identity (or lack thereof) can make or break a company. Projects related to branding may be undertaken for many reasons, a new organization or product, lack of traction with the current branding, dated positioning, or mergers to name a few. Regardless of the reason, following a process for your company’s brand identity initiative (or your clients’) can keep things going smoothly and provide better results.
Your process doesn’t need to be complex or involved to improve stakeholder/client interactions, set clear expectations, and ensure all the various elements of brand identity are addressed. Planning, research, an interactive design phase, and delivering proper assets and documentation are the key steps.
The first stage of any project is planning. This establishes the scope, timeline, and deliverables. It’s a level set for the design team, stakeholders, and clients. Everyone knows what to expect and when.
Different clients and organizations have different needs based on the reason and intent of the project, their size, and their budget. Your skills, and the skills of your team if you have one, vary as well so it’s important not to overpromise.
Is your client looking for just the essentials like a logo design, color palette, and fonts? Or do they require more extensive help like a web site? Here are a few areas that should be discussed for inclusion or exclusion.
- Graphic assets and guidelines — At a minimum, this is the all-important logo. It may also include variations like black and white or different orientations and sizes. Other graphical elements to discuss are icons, photographs, and illustrations.
- Color selection — Typically a full coordinated palette is defined; one or two primary colors and accent colors.
- Typography — Fonts are defined for the logo and/or organization name, online, and print elements.
- Design, Voice, and Style Guides — Based on the overall scope your client or company may need a variety of guidelines established. If web design is in scope reusable assets, style sheets, interactive elements may be needed. Print needs range from marketing materials to corporate publications so a style guide defining layout standards as well as logo, color, font usage is often needed. A tone of voice guide is helpful for ensuring that all messaging, in all mediums, is consistent and accurately represents the persona of the brand.
The research phase has two basic parts, getting to know your client/defining your brand personality, and competitive or market research. Some work may already be complete for the first part in the form of mission and vision statements, a brand persona, or a marketing strategy. Get your hands on this stuff. If you or your client don’t already have this groundwork, you can include it in the scope of the project. Interviewing management teams, employees, and loyal customers can help you identify key identifying traits. This is also a great time to ask stakeholders about expectations and preferences for and over style and feel.
- Are there other brands they absolutely love? A website or log they can’t stand? Why do they feel that way? What feelings do these examples evoke for them?
- Is the brand personality funny? Serious? Young? Established? How does the management team want to be perceived by their target market? There are a few different frameworks out there, such as Aaker’s 5 Dimensions of Brand Personality. Or you can create your own.
- What keywords and descriptors represent them? Are they whimsical like Disney? A little off-color like Duluth Trading Company? Prestigious like Mercedes?
- What is their niche? What do they do better than anyone else? Why do they do it?
The second step continues this work but looks more outside the organization instead of within it. You probably received or elicited basic target market demographics and information about the sector or business area in the first part of the research phase. Now you can look into competitors and customers in more depth. In addition to customer demographics, be sure to ask about target psychographic traits (drivers for the customer base, rather than gender, age, and household income). Look at which competitors are thriving and which are just limping along. Are there common themes among them that you can break out of to differentiate your brand? Or would it be smart to stick to something familiar to your customers? This could be colors, attitudes, or positioning.
At the end of this phase start pulling together your findings for a creative brief that you can use to guide discussions with your stakeholders further in the process. Include things like:
- A summary of your impressions of the organization and its target market
- A brand persona
- Several mood boards (used as a basis for later concepts)
Documenting this and sharing it fairly early on will help make sure you are staying in sync with the stakeholders.
Now you can begin letting the creativity flow. You are sure to have a plethora of ideas spinning around your brain based on all that groundwork and research. It’s time to get it all out in the open and see where you can take it. It’s important to get all ideas down on paper, or on a whiteboard. The whole design team should participate in sketching and brainstorming at the beginning of the design phase. Your ideas will cross-pollinate and evolve through collaboration. Then, a few really great ideas will emerge for further development.
Before going much farther, touch base with those stakeholders again. Keep concepts pretty general for now, skip adding depth and color. Keep them a little raw and rough, you just want to make sure you are in the same ballpark as your client.
Next, flesh out your top 3 or so concepts. Add color, polish them. Package each concept to near completion, and make it as professional as possible. Hit the big elements like logo, color schemes, and fonts. Aim for distinct and memorable for each of these concepts. From these concepts, your stakeholders should select one to run with, or tweak a bit. Your timeline and scope should have a little padding to allow for one last iteration with your client.
Asset and Documentation Delivery
Finally, take the approved concept and document it using your agreed scope. Create final graphical assets, complete any style guidelines agreed to, build the website. Whatever deliverables were included in the plan get built and handed off in the delivery phase.
Processes don’t have to add a lot of overhead. Scale your process to hit the major phases and add oversight as complexity and scope increase. This will save time, money, and aggravation for you and your stakeholders.