Brand Strategist or Graphic Designer? Which One Do You Need?

When I tell people I’m a brand strategist, I get this a lot:

“So, that must mean you’re a graphic designer.”

And while there are some similarities between the two professions, there are also some big differences.

When choosing who to help guide you on your brand journey, there’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s good to know exactly what you’re getting.

So, let’s take a look at each of them.

Do you need a brand strategist or a graphic designer for your creative business? Sharing the differences in this post so you can make an informed decision in the future!


By definition, a graphic designer is a person who combines text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.


On the other hand, a brand strategist, by definition, identifies the best way to position a brand in the marketplace by defining and executing a brand strategy that affects all aspects of a business. This strategy is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.

One very important thing to note: not all brand strategists handle graphic design, and not all graphic designers focus on strategy.

Conversely, some brand strategists and graphic designers handle both.


Hiring A Graphic Designer

A graphic designer is perfect for you if you already have a solid brand, which means you know who you’re talking to, your brand identity is set, and you have a strategy in place for increasing your brand awareness. In this case, hiring a graphic designer is a great idea if all you need is a few one-off pieces to communicate your offerings.

All too often, however, I hear stories of frustrated business owners who hired the wrong professional for their needs.

For example, with companies live Fiverr you have access to thousands of graphic designers, some charging just $5 for a design ????.

And, while that price point is very tempting (and could very well get you a cool logo design or collateral piece) they are focusing on one element, not the big picture.

A graphic designer, in this sense, is typically not looking at the long-term goals of the brand based on the emotions and feelings a brand wants to evoke. Instead, they’re focused on the short-term goal of designing a graphic element.

Of course, a graphic designer can ask all the right questions to evoke those feelings and emotions and pull out information from working with you, but all too often that’s not the goal.

I realize this assessment of graphic designers might sound like they aren’t focused on what you want to convey, which is not true at all! But when working with a graphic designer in that capacity, they have to rely on you to clearly share the emotions and direction of the brand in order to bring those elements to life. If you don’t know those factors, there will most certainly be a disconnect in what you are envisioning and what the designer provides.

This is why I believe hiring a graphic designer for one-off pieces only works well if you can clearly communicate your brand and brand identity to the designer.

Hiring a Brand Strategist

Hire a brand strategist when you realize there is a disconnect in your brand, and you want to focus on the long-term strategy of how your company is positioned in the marketplace.

A brand strategist considers the foundation of the brand: the mission and vision, the core values, the purpose, and the “why” behind your business. A strategist helps you further define your ideal client and the appropriate messaging to reach that client. Lastly, a strategist works with you to determine the emotions you want your brand to convey.

And, depending on who you’re working with, they’ll also deep-dive into the top three brand archetypes that represent your brand.

I bet you’re like, “Wait. What?!”

I know. I don’t hear too many people talking about brand archetypes, either, but I promise they’re cool and totally worth exploring for your brand! (I know, I know, only the marketing nerd thinks they’re cool ????.)

Okay, here’s a quick overview of what a brand archetype is and how it affects your brand strategy.

The word “archetype” comes from psychologist Dr. Carl Jung. His theory describes the patterns of human behavior from our unconscious minds based on the core motivators and desires we have. You know those personality tests we’re all obsessed with? Consider Dr. Jung to be the grandfather of those tests.

Dr. Jung defined 12 different archetypes to categorize our basic human motivations.

Over the years, marketing peeps started using these 12 archetypes to help humanize brands, give them a personality, and express their core desires.

When you work with a brand strategist, you’ll take a look at your top three archetypes (most brands are typically a combination of the three–kinda like the Enneagram test!) and use them to help build the voice, tone, and personality of your brand.

Then,  the strategist you are working with will do one of two things:  

  1. Pass this info to a graphic designer to develop and create the brand identity (your logo, typography, colors, imagery, etc.), or,
  2. If you’re working with a strategist who is also a designer (like me!), they’ll move onto the next phase of building your brand.

As you can see, there is a pretty significant difference between a graphic designer and a brand strategist.

Most brand strategists don’t typically take on one-off graphic design work unless it’s for a past client, because the brand foundation and strategy is a major part of their graphic design process.

Now that you know the difference between a graphic designer and brand strategist, you can confidently determine which one you need for your next project!

If you feel like you need a brand strategist to help you gain clarity in your messaging and hone in on your brand elements, let’s chat!

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