SharePoint 2010 and Branding
Some time ago, before SharePoint 2010 was popular, I write an article (http://nadirkamdar.blogspot.com/2010/07/please-dont-pimp-your-sharepoint-site.html) pleading with the world to please stop creating fancy looking SharePoint sites, because you are not using SharePoint the way it was intended, and you are creating a maintenance nightmare.
Now, with SharePoint 2010 around, I think its time we re-visited this topic.
Lets me start off by saying that SharePoint has improved greatly when it comes to branding, but I still believe that strong branding should be limited to internet sites.
Intranet sites are more feature heavy, and those features has a default size, layout, structure and design that fits the default look provided by SharePoint, so I still see a lot of additional time spent on tweaking the features so it fits the new look, and then a lot of time will be needed to maintain these tweaked features.
So, when you want to apply a brand to a SharePoint site, use the publishing templates, these templates are designed to be a strong WCM (Web Content Management) type site, so the features are more limited to publishing content rather than collaboration and BI (Business Intelligence) type features but the overall look of the template is easier to adjust, tweak and re-design.
There are now some great tutorials out there to help you be a SharePoint Designer Guru; I like his article straight from the Microsoft MSDN site: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg430141.aspx, and if you prefer a video, here’s a great one from Technet: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-za/sharepoint/hh239611, it’s a series of WCM videos but Chapter 5 gives you a 40 minute video just on branding.
And, after all that training, if you need inspiration, check out Top SharePoint: http://www.topsharepoint.com/ for the biggest gallery of Branded SharePoint sites.