This is the third time I’ve started this article with the goal of providing a concise and comprehensive and definitive guide to helping you decide how to approach visual design and brand identity to building a profitable business.

I quickly got lost in the weeds and realized that the topic was too complex for a concise article.

I’m a designer. I LOVE beautiful design and I love delivering beautiful design programs for my clients and seeing how excited they get with the results. If it were up to me, I would spend all my time making everything look perfect.

At the same time, I am a business owner. I’ve launched successful ecommerce businesses, and in the heat of getting a business off the ground, I was forced to pick my battles. I needed to put a lot of stuff out there that wasn’t up to my highest standards as a designer – but it was effective and the business succeeded as a result.

That experience has made me much more pragmatic and holistic in my approach to integrating visual design into a business. It’s also given me a business partner mindset when working with clients – I really want their businesses to succeed.

So with all that in mind, instead of a comprehensive guide, here’s my collection of observations about graphic design and visual brand identity (design) that I hope you’ll find helpful as you ponder how to use design as a powerful business asset.

Great design adds fuel to a fire already burning.
Alone, it can’t launch a business and it can’t save a failing business. If you’re not offering concrete value, you’re just putting up a facade.

Design isn’t pretty.
Design is telling your story while adding meaning and showing the way.

Great design will boost your confidence – which is no small thing.
The best part of my job is when clients get really excited about their new branding materials and website, and getting copied by their competitors.

But it won’t magically make you market your business better.
Marketing is hard work. You need to have a practice of consistently creating content and connecting with your audience. Design will give you the tools and infrastructure to do this better – but you still need to do the work. Do the work first.

Leveraging design is important for your business success, but don’t fall into the trap of perfectionism.
Consistently creating content and connecting with your audience is more important than everything looking perfect.

Early on, it’s OK to leverage templates and stock images.
Hire a designer to help you curate and customize – this will set you apart from others at the same stage who are trying to do it all themselves, and help you be competitive with more established players.

When you’re ready, making a serious investment in design can help cement your status as a leader.
Nothing more immediately conveys credibility than top-tier visual design. This also goes for the design of your web navigation and customer journey, which also helps you deliver the best experience for your audience.