Whether it’s weak or strong, every brand has an identity—a way in which it’s perceived by the public. Each visual element comes together to breathe life into a brand, leading to brand recognition and loyalty. In short, establishing an effective brand identity is essential to creating a customer experience and capturing the hearts and minds of your audience. But what makes up a brand identity? What is brand positioning? In this month’s blog, we’ll touch on developing branding and identity design.
What is a Brand Identity?
Simply put, a brand identity is how a brand showcases itself to its target audience. It’s also the identity it wants to be perceived as. The logo, colors, typography, brand message, and various other visual elements will greatly impact how people react with brands, also known as brand positioning. It’s a brand’s goal to conjure a specific image in the minds of its consumers. This is achieved through a myriad of efforts to craft a consistent, recognizable style and brand messaging for audiences to resonate with. Typically, a brand identity is well documented in a brand style guide.
What Are the Elements of a Brand Identity?
A brand identity is made up of a number of variables, all of which contribute to the overall look and feel of the brand. In fact, there’s not one element that can fully encapsulate a brand. It takes several elements working in unison to create something impactful. Here are the main brand elements to consider:
Voice & Tone
Developing Branding and Identity Design
Every brand identity process is different. Some elements are created in tandem while others are influenced by existing ones. However, each brand element should be consistent and resonate with each other. Indeed, it takes a collaborative team of writers, designers, and strategic minds to create a brand identity that’s capable of making an impact on intended audiences. As a quick reference, here are the main steps you need to consider:
Research & Discovery
This is where everything begins, and it’s the most crucial stage in any branding process. If the client’s brand already exists, you need to know it like the back of your hand. Research its competitors, existing ads—everything. Most importantly, you need to research the client’s audiences. The audiences will greatly influence the direction the new brand identity will take. You need to truly understand them. What are their values and basic needs? We recommend taking time to create audience personas to get a solid understanding of the people you’re marketing to. Next, brew some coffee and have a long sit down with the client. It’s crucial to gauge their expectations and desired results. Have them fill out a detailed questionnaire to make sure your team has everything they need to get started. Client workshops can also greatly aid this process. By creating fun branding activities for them to interact with, you can discern which creative path to explore.
Voice & Tone
You inherently have a voice. Whether it’s spoken or not, you are capable of expressing in ways that are unique to you. In different situations, this voice can change depending on your state of mind and the people you’re talking to. Most people wouldn’t speak to their gym instructor the same way they would to their mother. This is known as your tone, and it’s always in flux. Just like you, brands require a voice and various tones to address their audiences.
When developing a voice, we recommend taking a deep dive into your research to find ideological patterns that resonate with the client. From there you’ll be able to conjure a list of adjectives that may describe the brand and its voice. If this is too difficult, try to describe what it isn’t. After several drafts, the brand’s voice will begin to take shape. As a rule of thumb, try to consider your audience when choosing tones. Communications should also slightly differ between each media platform. For example, the tone written for blogs should slightly alter from print ads.
A brand’s logo says a lot about them. Not only does it provide the first impression of their visual identity, it is the single most important graphic element. Needless to say, it’s kind of a big deal.
There are seemingly endless books that have been written about logo development and it takes a skilled eye to create something that resonates with a brand’s purpose and values. Thankfully, research and client workshops should help narrow down the style and direction that’s needed. At a typical agency, several logo marks and core shapes are developed for the client to review, each with their own distinct style.
Colors play a key role in portraying a brand’s visual identity. When used appropriately, a color palette can express a brand’s personality and values far better than words ever could.
Color palettes are typically explored once the core visual elements are established. The mood of the brand will play a big part in which direction a graphic designer will choose. Successful color palettes are flexible and dynamic enough for designers to get creative with.
Graphic elements play an integral part in expressing a brand’s visual identity. From patterns to textures to other visual elements, these visual landmarks provide the audience with memorable anchors.
Graphic elements are often developed to complement other well established visual elements. There’s not one right way to go about it. Depending on the research and discovery phase, these graphic elements could be in the form of shapes, textures, or handmade elements. Furthermore, they should all be governed by the general artistic direction the client or creative team wishes to pursue.
Typography helps bring a brand voice to life and contributes to its visual identity. After all, the way words are written can be just as important and impactful as the words themselves. Typography not only contributes to a brand’s personality, it can also be used as an additional graphic element throughout designs. Keep in mind that typography should be consistent throughout all communications, but minor adjustments may be required for certain digital platforms.
Once the main visual elements are established, it’s a good idea to start thinking about typography. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of how the brand is starting to take shape and should have a general direction you want to take. If not, start with the broad strokes. Determine whether the brand identity works better with a serif or a sans serif typeface. This will at least provide a general direction to pursue.
Photography helps ground a visual identity in reality and allows audiences to resonate with a brand on a deeper and more personal level. Like many great photographs, preferred images tell a story and compliment the other brand elements.
At this point, your brand should be almost fully developed. Now you need to think about the photography (or lack thereof) you wish to feature. Based on the existing brand elements, you should have a pool of creative directions to explore. If you still need help, consider looking through various stock photo websites to create a mood board.