Designing a timeless brand: 6 tips from a pro

When you visit a website or look at a brand, what is the first thing you notice?

Is it the colours? The logo? The icons and animations? Maybe it’s the font or the layout of the page? Whatever your answer, it likely has something to do with the work of a designer. 

Design is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial parts of creating a brand. Did you know that it only takes 0.05 seconds for a person to form an opinion about your website? First impressions are truly make or break. Luckily, good design can set you up for long-term success. 

Good design builds recognition, credibility, and trust. It forms lasting connections and tells a brand’s story in a compelling and authentic way. How do you guarantee good design? Well, it starts with hiring the right designers. 

Jill Leclerc makes up one-third of Rock & Bloom’s superhuman design team. She eats veggies like they’re candy and is a master of gardening, which is probably why she can take an itty bitty seed of an idea and grow it into a beautiful and functional brand, all while making it look easy.  

Here are some of Jill Leclerc’s top design tips: 

1. Collaborate 

Everyday at Rock & Bloom the design team takes part in a design standup, where they share what they’re currently working on. Leclerc says the daily standup is a beneficial way to naturally get feedback from other designers. 

“We’re constantly sending each other our design work and getting each other’s opinions and suggestions,” says Leclerc. “We’ve been collaborating a lot more and it’s really impacted our work in a positive way.” 

Leclerc notes that this is also where she finds her inspiration – speaking with other designers and creatives. 

“I often ask ‘How would you approach this?’ or ‘What style would you go with?’ or ‘Do you think that this is too modern or too old school?’ I think the more eyes, and the more you can collaborate on a project, creates the best result.” 

2. Research, research, research 

“Honestly, I do a ton of research,” shares Leclerc of her personal process. “I find if I do a lot of research myself, that inspiration comes naturally because I have a really good grasp of the concept. I can just start iterating, and then not stop – it just keeps snowballing.” 

One of Leclerc’s goals is to expand her research even further, and to find ways to be more inclusive in her designs.  

“We do cool websites for all kinds of people and when it comes to people who are less represented than they should be, as a designer you want to make sure that they’re being represented in the right way. In the way that they want to be.” 

3. Get out of your comfort zone 

Leclerc says that the most challenging part of her job is doing things that are out of her comfort zone. They are also (usually) the most rewarding. 

“I wasn’t trained in school for web design, so doing a website for the first time, when you’re less comfortable with the program and web design rules, is definitely the most challenging because you don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what you’re supposed to know,” says Leclerc. “It kind of humbles you. You have to be okay with making mistakes and understanding that it’s okay not to be the best because you’re new to this. Does it mean you suck? No, It just means you’ve got to learn and make mistakes, and then you won’t make them the next time.”

4. Perfect is the enemy of good 

One of my favourite quotes of all time goes something like this: “A work of art is never finished. It is merely abandoned.” This applies to creative works of all kinds. Striving for perfection is pointless, because even if you’re happy with the end result, you might look back at it a month later and hate everything about it. Such is the curse of the creative. 

Leclerc notes that at some point she has to know when to walk away from a design, because it will never truly feel like it’s done. 

5. Be open-minded

“This is the one I reiterate all the time, but the best thing I learned in school is to be open-minded,” says Leclerc. “Don’t stay attached to your designs because you’re not designing for yourself. So stay open-minded, show your work to other people, get their feedback, and really absorb what they’re saying.” In other words, being adaptable and flexible as a designer leads to the best outcomes. 

6. Mind the Dos and Don’ts

Not all websites are created equal. Here’s a quick breakdown of Leclerc’s website design dos and don’ts. 

  • Be consistent
  • Create a user-path that involves the least amount of clicks
  • Make important information easily accessible
  • Keep pages scannable
  • Use high-quality, original photography where possible
  • Have fun with it! Hidden Easter eggs and quirky 404 pages are simple things that can really elevate a website
  • Mix too many fonts
  • Have low contrast text
  • Settle for default illustrator colours
  • Use a really stark colour palette
  • Use different stroke weights on graphics incidentally
  • Try to do everything. Make design choices intentionally.

Design work involves a lot of things that the average person might not think to look for when they visit a website, but the overall experience matters greatly.  

“People can go to a website and say, ‘Oh, that looks bad,’ but might not be able to pinpoint why it’s bad,” says Leclerc. “And usually it’s a combination of fonts or weights or brushstrokes or colors. There’s all of these different things that go into creating a good design that the average person isn’t thinking about, but would notice if it were off.” 

Looking ahead

Brands are constantly growing, and since the onset of COVID-19, they’ve had to adapt at a quicker rate than usual. 

“People can’t get away with not having a website anymore or not having a social media presence,” says Leclerc.  “And some people had a really hard time before COVID, understanding how important that was. Anyone who was a little bit skeptical regarding the effectiveness of a website, now believes in having an online presence.”  

Moving forward Leclerc thinks that brands will try to humanize themselves more and focus on building stronger relationships with customers. 

“It seems like designs are becoming more human, less corporate. I find more brands want to connect with people in a personal way rather than a corporate way. The world is becoming less suits to work, more pajama pants while working from home at your computer.” 

As for Leclerc, she’s very content in her pajama pants, but much like the gardener she is, also excited to grow.  
I’m only starting out in my career. And I know that, if in the future, my goals or my dreams change, Rock & Bloom is willing to adapt with me. They have the flexibility and want to see everyone grow. I know that it’s never going to be, “That’s not your lane. Stay there. Just stay small.’ It’s more like, ‘Where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?’”