How to Start from the Bottom in Branding

Shannel Wheeler
5 min readJun 1, 2022
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto:

How many scenarios can you think of where you actually wanted to start from the bottom? Here’s one: the branding process from start to finish. Over the years of my design career, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate this “bottom-up” approach; it’s a strategy that produces more meaningful brands and helps the visual design translate even more effectively. Here’s what it means to start from the bottom:

The Foundation

Graphic design is visual problem-solving / visual communication. Brand is really just perception — how others perceive a company, organization, or individual. We can’t control how people perceive things but we can help shape it. Insert graphic design here as a huge contributor to the visual expression of the brand. But the visual part takes shape when the other parts of the brand (perception) come together to help inform how things should look: that’s messaging, personality, culture, values, and experiences. All of these pieces work together to help shape a brand.

Maslow has a point

Familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If you need a philosophy refresher, you’ll remember that famous pyramid with basic human needs (food, water, etc.) at the bottom, safety on the next tier, then love/belonging, then self-esteem, followed by self-actualization at the very top of the pyramid. The theory is that it’s hard for a person to focus on and fulfill the areas purpose, love and the “higher” things of life before meeting their basic survival needs. I believe branding is the same way; you’ve got to start at the bottom of the pyramid with a solid foundation and work your way up to attain the best results:

Brand Pyramid, ©Shannel Wheeler

Messaging Core

The heart of any brand needs a purpose behind it and a way to express who it wants to be. That’s because people resonate and relate to other people more than they do with products or services; there needs to be a human element. This core includes messaging like a mission (what the company/person wants to achieve), vision (what the company/person envisions for the future as a result of the mission being carried…

Shannel Wheeler

Left-brain creative | Brand/Design Implementation | Design Instruction and Inspiration | Creating with Purpose: