Guide to Developing a Brand Identity

Develop a Brand Identity 

Jump Ahead

Complete a brand strategy

Research

Build Your Brand Identity

Build Your Brand Style Guide

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What is Brand Identity?

Brand identity is a key component of the success of your company. Everything from logos and colors go into your brand identity but it is more than that. Before we get into what brand identity is and how to create one let’s look at a recognizable example of brand identity.

Brand Identity Example

Everyone has heard of MasterCard. Just saying the name I am sure most of you thought of its iconic logo. The brand identity that MasterCard has created has made it so when just seeing two circles overlap, customers think of their product.

You might also think of their long-running Priceless campaign that sparked the slogan “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard.” This idea that comes to your head when you see the logo is part of brand identity as well but why is brand identity so important? 

Brand identity is the embodiment of everything your company is and does. 

Mastercard-example-img

How Can I Create Brand Identity?

Brand identity is more than just a logo, color palette, and style. It is how your company looks, feels, and speaks to people. Think of brand identity as a way to communicate with the world, differentiate yourself from your competition, and create an enjoyable experience that encourages people to engage with you.

Complete a brand strategy

Brand strategy is a bit harder to define but it encompasses what you stand for, what promises your brand makes to the customer, and what personality your brand conveys. When you create your brand strategy, you define what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. 

Your brand identity and content strategy helps you map your brand’s future and keep your team nailing their brand strategy goals. 

So, before you start to develop your brand identity it is important to have a brand strategy. It is important to complete your strategy and understand your brand’s core values and your brand’s voice as your visual design will work together to convey those elements. 

Understand What Makes Brand Identity Great

When designing your brand identity; create an overall feeling of cohesion and visual language to apply on everything from advertising and marketing content, website and packaging. Depending on brands, this list may change, but a good starting point when thinking about brand identity should include: 

Just because you design all of these things, doesn’t mean they’re effective. In order for the brand identity to be strong, it should work for everyone, both internally such as brand ambassadors and externally, such as customers. To ensure that these elements work, make sure your brand identity is distinct, memorable, cohesive, and easy to apply. Your brand identity should also be scalable so it can grow and evolve with your company. 

Do Research

When you start a branding project, approach it from a highly critical standpoint. Try to discover every aspect of the brand. Once you have figured out all the things about the brand, you can translate these things into a visual identity. Make sure you do a fair amount of research about the brand before starting any of the design phases. This step, which is often skipped over, is crucial to developing a strong foundation for your visual language to stand on. Gather information about who you are communicating with, who your competition is and where your brand stands now. 

When gathering information about who you are communicating with, create personas. Create these different personas to represent different target segments and identify both demographic and psychographic information. Doing this helps in making more effective design choices after you understand your desired segment’s needs, wants, and values. Beyond your primary audience, consider how others might perceive your brand such as competitors or future customers.  

After you have these personas created and have information on their demographic and psychographic, it is important to identify competition. The goal of brand identity is to stand out, but that is hard to do without an understanding of the competitive landscape. As you move throughout this process, pay attention to how your competitors present themselves in terms of common visual elements or brand identities. Think of how Netflix and YouTube both use the same red color in their identity, and then think about how to differentiate. 

Finally, you should examine where your current identity is, regardless if you’re revamping an identity or starting from scratch. The goal of researching this topic is to understand how you are currently perceived. To do this, it is important to get an unbiased accurate and honest reflection both internally and externally. Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your brand, it’s time to move onto the first phases of design.

Build Your Brand Identity

During this stage, you want to take the texts from the last phase of research and translate it into visual concepts. Usually, during research, you will get emotionally based words about your brand so the tricky thing is trying to translate those words into visual representations and enhance the sentiment. Try using word clouds to create words that create images of life. Pick the elements that create the strongest emotional response, trigger imagery, and help establish a visual in your mind. See below for an example of a word cloud I did.

Word-bubble

Brand identity is intricate and encompasses many different things, but it all starts with the logo. Start with pencils and sketch from the words that provided the greatest imagery. During these initial logo, sketches mark out core shapes and complementary imagery as you slowly build up to your final design. Do not use color yet as you want to ensure the core imagery is powerful enough to deliver the message on its own. 

Color Palette 

After you have solid visual imagery it is time to explore colors. Psychology plays a larger role in this than most assume and the attached infographic should help with the basic message your brand is hoping to achieve. Choosing the color helps to differentiate from your competition as mentioned before.

Color-Psychology

The best color palettes are clean and flexible. Stick to this basic formula for color choices: 1 main color, 2 primary colors, 3-5 complementary colors, and 2 accent colors. Don’t put too many colors into your brand identity and use a color wheel to figure out which colors complement each other. While you are doing this, make sure to reference the psychology of color to ensure you are not sending the wrong message for your brand identity.

Typography

Typography is one of my favorite topics and one of the hardest processes when developing brand identity. Often, brands follow trends that become outdated quickly or worse yet, appear unoriginal. The easiest way to avoid these pitfalls is to inform your typography by the shape of your logo. By this I mean make a cohesive flow through your logo to your typeface. Again, try to limit the differences, usually 2-3 typefaces; one primary then a few secondary for specific purposes like copy of a body and user-interface. This is a beautiful example of how typography can induce a mood and increase readability. 

typography-example

created by Richard Rutter from Ketchum

Design System

Since brand identity is all about introducing yourself to people, it’s important to make it an enjoyable experience.

This is often another weak point in brand identity design because people think having their logo, colors, and fonts chosen allows them to assemble them together in any manner and create a brand identity. Consider the hierarchy and layout when trying to design something that makes it easier to navigate visual communication. One sure-fire way to make it easier is to develop a consistent and cohesive presentation. We have a blog published here about web design that goes a little more in-depth about hierarchy and has some examples of good design elements. 

Photography and Illustration

Start to think about the type of imagery you will use in your presentation. For the photographs, including any filters, treatments, and size too. In this example, all the photographs have the same feel and a mostly uniform size throughout. The uniformity in style and design works well to create cohesion. 

Credit: Ralph Lauren Home 

For the illustrations, make sure to not over illustrate and don’t use clashing styles. Think about illustrations working in conjunction with other elements from your brand identity. The Salesforce website is an amazing example of illustration working with a brand identity.

Build Your Brand Style Guide

To avoid using the newly, beautifully crafted brand identity wrong; make sure it is implemented right. This is where the brand style guide comes in. Included in this guide are easy to follow instructions for every part of the brand identity. Include examples and practical detail denoting as much information as needed to replicate the brand identity to other mediums and platforms. After created, make sure these guides are kept nearby for reference and update them regularly as your brand identity will change with your consumer base. This brand guide should lead every campaign and piece of content your design team creates! It really is that important!! 

Conclusion

Designing a successful brand identity takes a lot of work. To help ease the frustrations that come with designing and implementing a brand identity make sure the parties involved are: educated, inspired, and equipped with the right information. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t have the resources to implement your newly formed brand identity, we would love to chat about how we can help.