Developing a Brand through Website Design: Part II

by Michelle Salater on June 30, 2010


In case you missed Part I of Developing a Brand through Website Design, you can view the post here.

Below is Part II of Developing a Brand through Website Design. This post is an interview with Sunni Chapman, founder and owner of Efflorescence, who discusses the essential components associated with branding a business. Specifically, Sunni shares her web design expertise and illustrates the importance of website design in attracting clients and expressing a clear brand message.

5. How do lines, shapes, and colors play a role in the tone of a website?

MAJORLY! Most people look at a website, and they will immediately like it, dislike it, or love it, but they can’t pinpoint why.

This is the very immediate and intuitive response that enables truly outstanding design to be so powerful. We’ve all walked past something in the street, or in a gallery, or on our travels that just made us stop and look for a minute, right? You don’t give it a lot of thought at first; you just stop in a second or two of pure awe and intrigue.

I believe it is in those first few seconds of awe that we are all looking from the same perspective, the pure presence, and alert appreciation that a moment brings. It’s something we all have from time to time, and different people find it in different things. But there is something unpronounced in that moment that speaks volumes to people, and this is what design is able to do.

Once a design has captured its viewer’s attention, you have enabled your viewer to see beyond “just another website” and opened him or her up to the potential of yours.

Lines, shapes, and colors play a vital and essential role in creating a visual piece of work that is able to capture people’s attention in just the right way. These elements play a pivotal role in creating the tone of the website, as well as the person that website will most likely attract.

For example, straight lines and cool hues will convey a more masculine, contemporary tone to a website design, and fluid lines, curves, and a softer, slightly warmer color palette will translate into a more feminine and earthen tone. But what happens when you introduce other textures, colors, typeface, or shapes into either of these? This is the role of a good designer: to take all of these elements and combine them in a way that speaks to multiple sensibilities while still working harmoniously to create a visually pleasing overall design.

There is a great deal of subtlety and trial and error in this process, and that is why good design takes the time that it does. Just another thing that I love about the artistic process!

6. What is the most challenging aspect of web design? How do you overcome this challenge?

To be quite honest with you, the greatest challenge is getting started! I realize now that this is always the time in the project when you’re just “thinking about it.” The actual design process has not begun yet, but you are just faced with creating an entirely new and original design for a new and wonderful client. You want to give him or her the absolute best design ever but aren’t sure what that’s going to look like yet or where it’s going to come out of. Therefore, the beginning of a project can be quite intimidating at first.

I have learned over the years (and am still learning with every new job) that it’s best not to get stuck at this stage and not to “think” about it too much. I just try to dive right in, start playing, and see what comes up. You could easily get trapped in “perfectionist” mode and never go anywhere. It’s the same with painters and all other artists—you just have to let go and get your hands dirty. When you do this, you free yourself from the biggest thing that holds all people back in all professions: fear. Once you free yourself from fear, you have cleared the path for the full potential of the design. Even though I know this, it is still a struggle to let that piece go each time. This is why I usually start by searching through photographic images or illustrations that are relevant or will be used in the design—this always inspires me and gets me in the rhythm.

The other most challenging aspect of web design, for any designer, is probably changes to the designs. Sometimes what a client has in their mind just does not translate well from a design perspective. It can sometimes be challenging as a designer to let go, even though it goes against your better “design judgment.” Whenever a client requests changes, I first approach the client with my recommendations and thoughts. And, if he or she still wants to do otherwise, I resolve to do the best that I can to find a solution that best serves both purposes. I always want to ensure my client is happy with the end result!

7. What do you think is the number one mistake businesses make with their websites?

I think the number one mistake businesses make with their websites is not fully believing in their website’s potential. There is an incredible amount of power and potential in a website, but unfortunately, it is often untapped.

So many business owners think that it will be enough just to get a website published, to get their name out there, or get the most amount of content that they can in order to increase their search engine rankings. They don’t feel as though the appearance of the website matters much and don’t care how the information is conveyed, as long as they come up in a search and the site looks “okay.”

But having your website pull up on search results is only half the battle. Thousands of websites come up in a search when you type in any key term, but once they click on your website, how are you going to keep them there? Even if they were referred to you directly, you still need to find a way to keep these potential customers on your website.

Cultures the world over are incredibly visual. If you do not visually engage your audience in those first few seconds, you have lost them. There is nothing to distinguish your site from the next site, and there is no reason for them to not look elsewhere and find a more stimulating user experience or a lower price.

Plus, at a time when anyone can publish a website for any product or service virtually overnight for next to nothing, businesses really need to visually establish themselves as a serious and trustworthy brand and stand out from the pack. This is why it’s crucial to develop a unique style and substance in your website, so that you can create brand recognition and trust, and so that you can show your potential customers the true value of your service or product. Because when a company has invested in their positive image—it shows. And it speaks volumes to the business character and integrity.

I have received many emails over the years from people who wrote me for no other reason than to say, “This website truly moved and inspired me—it’s beautiful!” And that to me is SO amazing and fills me with gratitude. The fact that people from all over the world would take a moment out of their busy day—not because they need something, but just to note that appreciation and that they were touched on some level by one of my designs—is truly a wonderful feeling. This, coupled with the great successes of so many of my talented and amazing clients, is how I know that when you truly commit and put your absolute best into your business, the world rises to greet you, and the rewards follow suit.

About Sunni

Sunni is pronounced “Sunn-e”, but don’t worry, I get “soon-e” all the time. It’s my fault for spelling it that way! It’s short for Sunshine—which you can blame my dear mother for. But even though for the majority of my young adult life I despised the name and its chipper implications, I have come to discover that I do indeed love to shine a little light in this world, in any way I can. So I guess she was on to something. Thanks, Mom.

Having always had a creative spirit and a love of art in all its forms, I serendipitously stumbled into this wonderful field of design while taking fine art classes at a not-name-dropping-worthy, but perfectly located community college. It was here that I fell in love with design, counted my blessings that I had found something productive I could do with my creative aspirations, and earned my degree in Applied Art & Design. After three years as a senior designer for a local design firm, I struck out on my own and opened Bella Fiore Art & Design in the hopes of creating a design firm that is driven by art, rather than functionality alone, and that provides a level of service to its clients that is hard to come by in the web design field.

Fast forward eight years, and I am proud to say that Bella Fiore was and continues to be a remarkable success, and the wonderful people that I have worked for have made that possible. I could not be more grateful for everything that has transpired (and I mean everything), and I look forward to the continuing success of Efflorescence under the same belief and principles.

~ Sunni (& Kita — lapdog designer extraordinaire)

Visit the Efflorescence website here.


If you like this post, you might also like:

  1. Developing a Brand through Website Design: Part I
  2. When Is Time for a Website Makeover?
  3. Don’t Ignore the Telltale Signs of a Bad Web Design Company
  4. Two of the Most Important Investments You Will Make in Your Business
  5. Take Website Visitors through an Experience, Not a Torture Chamber
  • Joe Picks a Winner

    Sunni you've done it again. Looks like our schooling shared the same design philosophies. But that's no surprise, for any discipline shares tried and tested concepts, and Web Design is no exception. Especially when you talked of the importance of colors, lines, and shapes. To use the classic example, that's why doctors' office waiting rooms are painted in cool shades, blues and greens, because it's been proven that colors affect our emotions, and when anxious patients are waiting to see the doctor, the cooler colors keep them more relaxed than would warmer fiery reds or orange. Of course these days the patients' anxiety probably stems more from waiting so damn long to see the doctor rather than their medical condition! :-)

    Another important element I'd add to your list is appropriateness. Sometimes customers see a website they like and want one just like that for themselves. That's when we go to work trying to explain why it's not appropriate for their objectives. Of course, that's not always easy to do.

    Case in point: I once received a mailer from a local landscaping company just before the holidays. On the face was a black and white photo, with black and a very dark green thick border around the photo and type. I thought it was a holiday greeting from a funeral parlor! The colors looked okay, but they weren't anything to convey the joy of the season, especially from a company that deals with colorful flowers! Inappropriate color choices. Seeing an opportunity, I took the mailer to the landscaper and tried to explain why this design wasn't the best choice for the brand image I knew they were trying to get across. They threw me out
    But the point is, like in print, appropriate design elements are necessary for good, eye-catching website design too!

  • Sunni

    Absolutely!! Excellent point. And one that I’ve dealt with quite a few times – but unfortunately forgot to mention. :) Thanks!

  • Blase Ciabaton


    Thanks for another great post! It's so refreshing to get “real life” testimonials from people who “get” it. Sunni's work really is spectacular! I'm not surprised that she gets compliments from all over the world.

    Regarding Joe's comment, how ironic that a landscaper would send a marketing piece that is “visually challenged.” Of course it's important for all types of businesses to consider the visual impact of marketing and print, but I believe that it's especially critical for any business whose product or service is primarily about making a visual difference in their customers' lives. Examples include graphic designers, architects, landscapers and many others. Seems like the landscaper Joe mentions really missed an opportunity to connect visually with potential customers.

  • Joe Picks a Winner

    You hit the nail right on the head, Blase, ironic being the keyword. Especially for a landscaping company to send such a bland greeting. Even the post office, which isn't about “making a visual difference”, had a more gleeful holiday greeting that year! :-)

  • Joe Picks a Winner

    You're welcome, Sunni, but I'm sort of glad you forgot that element. Sometimes I think the general public thinks of graphic/WebDesign as kind of a fluff occupation. This is understandable when you see on the web offers to get a free website, or the plethora of free templates, the public doesn't take the profession seriously. But there's a lot to know, and a lot to remember, to come up with eye-catching, unique, beautiful designs such as yours. You may have forgotten in your writing, but your designs don't show lapse of memory at all. But to the public I say, would you use the free lawyer or doctor and think you're getting the same quality of services? :-)

  • webcopywriter

    Great point Joe Picks a Winner! You wouldn't use a free lawyer or doctor if you were looking for quality services. Same goes for almost everything else in this world including a graphic designer, copywriter, etc. Thanks for your input!

  • webcopywriter

    I completely agree Blase. When you're in an industry that involves visually aesthetic elements, it is essential that you make an impact–or else you'd be out of business!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Previous post:

Next post:

Copy Doodle Blog Categories

Blog Marketing
Blogging Tips
Business Communication
Business Success Tips

Marketing Tips
Online PR SEO
Social Media Marketing
Video Marketing