My process for designing a brand identity for a small business consists of the following:

Step 1: Define Your Business/Brand
In order to create designs that communicate about your business, you first need to know the story that you're trying to tell. This story consists of 4 components:

  • Who You Are: Your business's personality. To a lesser extent, this also includes your business's plan and path – how you're planning to grow, the change you want to make in the world, etc.
  • What You Do: The services and products you provide and how you deliver those.
  • What Makes You Different: First, you have to figure out who your competition is. Then, figure out what differentiates you from everyone else in your field.
  • Who You Can Best Help: Your target audience, but for many small businesses, this also encompasses the people you enjoy working with, can produce the best results for, can reach easily, and who have a need for and budget for your services or products.

Step 2: Design
The entire point of creating a brand identity for a small business is to communicate the first 3 definition elements (who you are, what you do and what makes you different) to the people you can best help.

How do you do this?

  • By using the universal symbolic definitions of shapes, the personalities of the fonts you choose, and the psychology of color in your choices for your logo and design elements.
  • By carefully selecting photos and illustrations that communicate your brand personality.
  • By creating a Visual Vocabulary that has meaning to your target audience.
  • By taking your personal preferences out of the design process – you may love seahorses, but it's very likely that having a seahorse as your logo would not communicate the right message about your business to your best customers (unless you're an aquarium-supply shop, possibly).
  • By not reinventing the graphical wheel – again, you want graphics that have meaning to your target audience, so it's actually better to not try to make something that's never been seen in any form before. You're going for understanding and meaning first, then uniqueness.

These are the first two steps. After this, there's always the next steps of creating more marketing materials to continue to connect with and reach out to your target audience, but first, concentrate on doing these two steps thoroughly and well. By taking your time here and doing these steps, you'll create a brand identity that will be a more effective tool for your business moving forward – and you may not find yourself having to redesign later.