GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Building the Yarrowhead Farms Brand
February 13th, 2021
In this article I will guide you through the process for developing the brand for Yarrowhead Farms, giving my thoughts into our decisions and what we think makes an attractive and effective logo/mark.
Yarrowhead Farms is a locally owned farm that produces fresh, organic produce, baked goods, honey, and herbs, as well as educating consumers on the benefits of locally grown, organic food.
Owners Amanda and Mike Wilson began their farm in 2018 and are growing larger daily.
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To me, there's nothing more important than the interview in establishing a brand.
I've developed a series of questions that are designed to evoke thought and get the client talking about their company and how they conduct business. Since branding is about perception, it's important to understand what the company is trying to communicate to their community and customers.
As we spoke over muffins and homemade honey at their Wellston, Oklahoma farm, it was clear that what Mike and Amanda were passionate about was that they were an authentic, 100% organic farm and how they wanted to teach others about organic farming and food. What we didn't know - as with a lot of people - is one doesn't have be 100% organic to be labeled "organic". Yarrowhead Farms claims the 100% organic label as they refuse to use chemicals on any of their produce. So we set out to make them not only look professional with a national style brand, we wanted to make sure they looked friendly and approachable.
Not only do they grow their own organic produce, they see themselves as teachers and caretakers of the earth. They produce their own honey, bake their own organic bagels, bread and pies, customize their crop to grow whatever produce a customer requests, and are industry experts on micro-farming. Their long-term goal is to educate other micro-farmers across the country and so we made sure that their brand was ready for that moment.
The benefit of the interview is that - in the end - it gives us clear direction in which to move forward. After meeting with Mike and Amanda it was clear that they needed a brand that was contemporary, recognizable, and memorable.
We like to see what's happening in our customer's industry - most notably with their competition, how they're handling their business, and how they're doing with their branding. Often there's a culture to a business that needs to be honored, so it's important to know what to amplify and what to avoid.
Whichever way we went, we knew we wanted to be able to stand toe-to-toe with these brands. We wanted Yarrowhead to be able to be seen at farmer's markets, co-ops, and restaurants as a champion of the environment, not merely as an organic producer.
With the information learned from research and from the interview we could now move on to exploring what Yarrowhead Farms represents - figuratively and visually.
Branding is about your customer's story. Without this story everything falls apart because it fails to provide a direction in which to go and customer perception of your business can be confusing and your message muddied.
We've learned a lot about branding through Donald Miller's book "Building a Story Brand". He stresses how the proper narrative can influence how you speak about your business, how it can influence your visual identity, and how it can influence your culture. If you're interested in how the proper narrative can build a brand, we encourage you to read his book or participate in his workshops.
So before we even put pencil to paper we made sure we knew the Yarrowhead Farms story and what they wanted to communicate to their customers. Once we were able to understand their narrative, we knew we wanted to position Yarrowhead not only as a producer, but educators in organic farming. So with this in mind we worked on their tag-line.
One of the things that Mike said during our talks was that they were going to "redefine what it means to be organic". We showed him this tag-line and it immediately resonated with him and Amanda. So we now had a tag-line that spoke to both their character as well as their organic nature.
This created intrigue with the customer and confidence that they were dealing with a producer that knew their stuff.
Now that we have Mike and Amanda's story, we can begin to explore what this means visually in a logo. This is the fun part for us because this is our sandbox - a place to explore and create ideas. We accomplish this by creating thumbnails of anything that pops into our head. Personally I've learned that the best way to clear out the clutter and to find a visual consensus is to draw for as long as you can. The more you draw, the more your creative, subconscious mind has an opportunity to kick in.
The idea here is to avoid the temptation to "complete" an idea. The goal here is to put on paper any promising leads that speak to the research and what the client has said about his company. Once we're satisfied that we've found a good direction, the best thing to do is pin them up to your wall and let them breathe. Pausing is one of the most important elements in brand creation as it gives you time to process, critique, and make decisions on what works and what doesn't work.
Below are just a few examples of my early Yarrowhead Farms sketches.
At this stage I like to bring in co-workers and friends and ask them to give their impressions of the wall. This is brainstorming at its best, and getting opinions from those not necessarily close to the project will provide you with great insight and direction.
Once you've decided on direction, it's time to finalize any ideas you'll want to present to your client. As a designer you'll have to decide on the amount of options you show, but for me I prefer to attack this exercise in the same manner as the interview. The goal is to get the client in a creative mindset and to get them talking, so I will provide multiple versions. I will tape these sketches to a wall, tell them why I chose each design, and then ask them "What do you think?" This will usually spark a creative discussion that will provide a treasure trove of valuable information.
Here are some samples I provided Mike and Amanda. Keep a close look at the one's that are circled as they are the beginnings of a concept that will speak to the client and form what will become the final logo.
When designing, I like creating logos that offer rewards for those who see the deeper nuances embedding in the design. This is done through the use of positive and negative space, and so I was happy when Mike and Amanda responded well to the stylized plant sketch. This sketch is immediately recognizable as a plant, yet at closer study you can see how the negative space creates the letter "Y".
At this point we had enough positive feedback to explore this concept further, so we set out to create this idea digitally so we could explore colors and fonts.
Since we've agreed to a basic design on paper, going to Illustrator allows us to give the client a clearer, cleaner look that they can understand and will give us the flexibility to alter shape and color. Now that we have an established icon we can explore what kind of font best represents Yarrowhead.
I wanted to choose a color that was elegant and dark enough to be seen, especially the negative space. I like the deeper teal, especially when a gradation is applied. After discussing it with Mike and Amanda, we decided we wanted something friendly and bright, so I chose a nice, modern (yet trendy) yellow/green that would stand out. We liked this as we agreed that it needs to be seen right off, especially at places like the farmer's market and on packaging.
Because we've gone through all of these steps we're confident we have a brand that speaks to everything Mike and Amanda wanted in a logo: contemporary style, a design that speaks to his industry and cultural peers, and an inviting look that will attract the public as well as restaurant owners.
Yarrowhead Farms now has a brand that will look terrific across many platforms. The primary brand green pops off of any surface, so when you see the many ways we apply the brand it begins to resonate as a serious, solid commercial brand that gives you the feeling of a larger branded company. From their website to signage, to packaging, anyone who comes in contact with Yarrowhead Farms will walk away knowing they have dealt with an educated, solid, and worthwhile brand that they can trust - and feel good about it.
If you're interested in branding your business be sure to contact us anytime. We'd love to work with you in enhancing your visual footprint and to help increase awareness of your business.