As a person, we want to stand out from the rest. To do that, we rely on our character and our identity. The same principle goes for your company/brand. If you want to differ from everyone else in the marketplace, you need to have a unique brand identity. It is the ingredient that frames your company image since the beginning.
Powerful branding depends not only on the visible elements such as logo, posters, website or other branding material. Your branding and identity also rely on your brand message and the emotional effect that the message sends to your target audience.
Consumers want to buy from brands that have a message that they can believe in. For example, people don’t buy Nike items because someone over promoted it on social media. They buy because they are aligned with Nike’s identity and everything that Nike represents as a brand.
What Is Brand Identity?
Before we outline the basic elements of brand identity design, let’s discuss what is a brand, as well as branding itself as an ongoing marketing/PR practice.
According to Seth Godin, a marketing mastermind, the word “brand” addresses:
“A set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
In essence, a brand is the perception that consumers have for your company. It is much more than just design. A brand is an entire experience that separates your products and services from the others that are comparable in the marketplace.
As stated by Entrepreneur Magazine, the process of branding is:
“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”
If we analyze the above, we can conclude that brand identity is the entire face of your brand. Brand are the elements of your business that paint the image of your company for the consumers.
The right brand identity includes designs, packaging, presentation and messaging. It attracts new customers and makes the existing customers feel appreciated. Your target audience will always connect your brand identity with your business and that is the link that will build the connection between you and your audience.
Your Brand and Product Identity
As with everything in business, the branding process starts with a goal-oriented attitude. Your business goals and personality should be the pillar of your brand identity. In order to get the wanted results from your brand strategy, you need to set the right priorities so that your marketing and design team/partners know where to go with your message.
Before you start working on your visual branding image, you need to have a clear character of how you want to be presented in the marketplace. You need to think about the details that will backup your visuals and that will bring you success among your customers.
Your entire brand identity can be described by answering the following questions:
- What is our mission?
- What are the values that drive our company?
- If our brand was a person, what he/she like?
- What is our unique value proposition (UVP)?
- What is our brand voice, how do we communicate?
When you set the right goals and after you define your brand personality, you need to do your homework and thoroughly research your target market. The research process is vital if you want to really understand the characteristics that will affect the success of your brand.
This is why you need to dig out valuable insights about your competitors and learn from their good and bad experiences when it comes to branding and product placement. By having the right data and learning from your findings, you can create a brand identity that will be different and stand out from the competition.
Your identity design should begin with the needs of your target customers. With your brand identity, you need to make a positive and long-lasting impression on potential customers and win over their trust. With proper research, you’ll get deeper into your consumer’s factors for deciding which brand is trustworthy and you’ll have the groundwork to create everything that you need to win them over.
Designing Your Brand Identity
Just like Nike used all the right elements to form a brand identity that relates to some of the most powerful athletes in the world and with millions of other consumers, that’s how you need to combine your elements and compose your brand identity.
If you nail the design of elements such as the logo, website, packaging, posters, commercials etc., you’ll successfully deliver your message to the consumers.
When you design your identity as a brand, you need to start with the basics. The following are the basic elements of branding and identity design of your products/services.
Your typeface/font will play a big role in your entire brand image. There are four significant types of fonts:
- Serif – These are fonts like Bookman or Times New Roman. The end of each letter is marked with a “foot” or a serif. They are classical fonts that can make your brand appear traditional, trustworthy and classical at the same time.
- Sans-serif – Fonts such as Calibri or Lato. These are typefaces that are without the “foot” or the serif. They have leveled edges as opposed to the serif fonts. Sans serif fonts can give your brand a smooth, and modern feel.
- Script fonts – Script fonts are typefaces with a personal touch, like calligraphy and handwriting fonts, like Forte or Comic Sans MS. They’re excellent if you want to give your brand a more casual and soft feel.
- Display typeface – These are fonts that are used to decorate your designs, such as Allegro or Cooper Black. Most often, each of them has a unique element that other typefaces don’t have and are brilliant if you want to make a bold statement that people won’t forget.
The font that you’ll pick will have to say a lot about your brand, so that’s why you need to choose intelligently.
You need to be consistent with your typography because you’ll want to develop empathy and loyalty for your brand. In other words, you need to choose a font and own it. There are many criteria to take into account when choosing your brand’s typography style.
Serif or Sans Serif?
Think about which is more appropriate for your company. To learn more about these two major types of fonts, you need to dig into their history. The serif fonts go all the way back to the Roman Imperial era and their origins can be found in carved inscriptions on stones and buildings.
The typeface survived even after all those centuries in many other forms and with some minor but foundational changes.
With ancient origins, it is clear that serif fonts are more suitable if you’re a brand that is in the academic or cultural communication.
Sans serifs, on the other hand, emerged in the 19th century, primarily as a typeface that is used for newspaper advertisement headlines.
With the emergence of technology and reading screens in the 20th and 21st century, sans-serif fonts became accepted as a font that is also suitable for reading purposes.
This is due to the complexity and bulkiness of serif fonts. The serif font isn’t always the most suitable when it comes to different screens and is not always rendered as it is in the print media.
With that being said, if you want to be read and followed by the modern consumer, you may want to opt for sans serif font as the more appropriate choice for today’s digital habitat.
Think about Contrast
Regardless of the numerous typography trends, the calligraphy-inspired stroke harmony of thick and thin strokes is still recognized today in the construction of the digital typeface.
Typefaces that have bigger contrast are more practical when it comes to displaying sizes and elegance.
However, their use for written text copy is tricky because of the delicacy of the thin strokes, which have a bad effect on small-sized displays and reduce the visual definition.
If you use a low-contrast font, you’ll also meet up with a few obstacles. They’re excellent for larger texts, but when they’re used for a standard text, the decreased internal space also decreases the visual definition.
Both of these contrasts can have a significant role in your brand identity. A high contrast can glow with dignity and grace, and a low contrast can amplify the feelings of stability and confidence.
Have Font Stress in Mind
Let’s look at the letter ‘O’ from the Cardo typeface family.
If the bottom right has the same thickness than the upper left of the letter, then this typeface has a diagonal stress. This is due to the calligraphic construction that is utilized for traditional Roman typeface styles that are used for text. This ‘angled’ stress is considered to be warm and friendly and provides more organic texture for your brand.
Now let’s look at the letter ‘O’ again but from the Arapey typeface.
As you can see, the two halves of the letter ‘O’ are a horizontal image of one another. The sides of the letter are thicker than the top and the bottom. This means that the typeface has a vertical stress. The vertical stressed typeface has a more modern feel and elegance, characteristics that are acknowledged in magazines and posters.
Your typeface should come after you’ve discussed your business, logistic and technical brand requirements. In a nutshell, to pick the right font family for your brand means that you need to pick a typeface that will not only look good, but it will also be appropriate for communication across different channels.
Emotions are a powerful thing and they drive people’s decision-making process. This is where your branding colors step in. They can provide you with a direct path to your customers’ minds and hearts. You can affect how the audience perceives your brand by carefully picking and using colors in your brand palette.
Here’s how the major colors can help your brand identity:
- Red – All about passion and excitement. It is the perfect color if you want to showcase a loud, youthful and exhilarating brand.
- Orange – Another lively color that is all about friendliness and play. It has the similar effect of red, but it is used less commonly and it could make your brand stand out.
- Yellow – The color of the sun. This is the color of happiness. The joyful vibe of yellow is excellent if you want to present your brand as fun, attainable, and inexpensive.
- Green – A very adaptable color and it can be used for any type of brand. When people look at green they think about dollars and nature. If you have a brand that is connected to those things, green is the right choice for you.
- Blue – One of the most attractive colors, blue can help you present your brand as firm and reliable. If you want to be liked by a larger group of people (demographically speaking), you should definitely go with blue.
- Purple – It is known as the royal color and if you have a brand that is luxurious, purple is your sound choice.
- Pink – By tradition, pink is tied to the feminine lifestyle. If you own a brand that is targeting the female audience, you should definitely think about using pink.
- Brown – One of the colors that are not used that often in branding. But that can be your main advantage, so if you really want to stand out, you can use the color brown in your brand palette.
- Black – If you want to be perceived as a luxurious and modern brand, there’s nothing more classy and potent than the color black.
How to Choose Your Brand’s Color Palette
The process of choosing your brand colors can be confusing. It’s difficult to come up with an exact formula that will work for every brand.
Brand Personality -> Target Customers -> Color 1 + Color 2 + Color 3
Have 3 Colors
You’ll need your base, accent and neutral color. The base color is your most important and you’ll choose that one first. It should reflect your brand personality and your most dominant characteristic as a brand. The accent color will be the one that you use the most after your base color. Accent colors also need to contain a brand characteristic and match perfectly with the base colors. A neutral color is most often the background color like black, white and gray.
In most cases, brands use one of the following color schemes:
- Monochromatic – If your brand has one big trait that you want to focus on, having a monochromatic color scheme will help you enhance that trait. This is an excellent scheme for minimalistic brands.
- Analogous – Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are naturally compatible because adjacent colors in most of the cases have a similar emotional meaning. Analog combinations are a safe choice, but not if you really want to stand out as a brand.
- Complementary – Opposites really attract each other, especially when it comes to color combinations. Because there are colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel, they bring out the best results when they’re paired. These are very effective and popular color schemes, so make sure that you’re not copying another brand when you use them.
- Triadic – This is a steady color scheme that pulls three different sections of the color wheel. It is a stable color scheme just like the analogous one, but with more invigorating effect. For the triadic scheme to work, you need to pick the right 3 colors that correspond to your brand’s personality.
Bottom line, choose your color palette carefully because this will define how your logo, website, store design, social media accounts, and advertisements will look like.
When it comes to your brand identity design, you also need to think about shapes. They have the power to strengthen the effect that your brand has on your target consumers. A circular logo will have a different effect than a logo that is squared or sharper. Let’s look at the most common forms and their influence on your brand identity:
- Round – Circles, ovals, and ellipses have the power to ignite feelings of union, community, and love. Rounded edges are also perceived as a feminine trait.
- Straight-edged – Squares, rectangles, triangles and alike. They represent the feelings of trust and stability, but they need to be balanced with a more relaxed shape in order to connect better with your audience.
- Straight – Vertical straight lines are masculine and would work well if your target customers are men. Horizontal lines are more neutral and evoke calmer feelings.
Your logo is crucial for the success of your brand identity. The most recognizable and the biggest brands in the world all have distinctive logos, which is why it is your most prominent symbol and the entire foundation of your marketing strategy. When you decide on your logo design, make sure that it has the following characteristics:
- Communicates your brand values/personality.
- Simple and visually attractive.
- Evergreen logo – not a trend that will pass in a few months.
- It’s within the industry standards.
- Leaves a good impression on the audience.
A good logo is a lot like a good profile picture on LinkedIn. If you want to make more recruiters interested in you, you must have a good picture. It is exactly the same when it comes to branding. You want your logo to look best and your brand to look the same too. This is why you need to ensure that your design team/partners will design you a beautiful and relevant logo.
If you want to get some ideas about your logo design, you need to do some research and get some inspiration from your niche or other popular designs. But first, you need to brainstorm your own ideas. Transfer every idea that you have to paper. In this stage, there are no bad ideas, even the dullest one can spark a conversation and lead to something great.
You also need to analyze how your target audience will perceive your logo ideas. Put yourself in their shoes and think like them. Answer what is important to them when it comes to a brand’s logo.
For inspirational purposes, you can also use Pinterest as your mood board. Create a board and pin every image that is attractive to you and can be your potential logo design inspiration. When you finish with your board, you’ll notice that every graphic design, illustration, and logo that you pinned reflects a style that you gravitate towards.
Above all, the best places to find inspiration for your brand logo are your niche aka your competitors. You need to investigate what’s already successful in the marketplace and how your best competitors created their memorable logos.
However, do not copy them. Instead, make sure that you stand out. For example, if everyone else in the industry uses a monochromatic color scheme, maybe you need to use a lively color palette instead. If the others are more inclined towards a classic logo, maybe a modern approach from your side will liven things up.
There are several logo design styles that you can choose from:
- Classical – Trends come and go, but classics remain the standard. That’s the reason why a classical logo style will give your brand more power and you’ll reach more people as long as your brand lasts in the marketplace.
- Vintage – A retro-styled logo reminds people of the past and evokes feelings of nostalgia and romance. This tells your target customers that you appreciate tradition and you respect the rules when it comes to packaging and product quality.
- Minimalistic – This is a style that is most often used by fresh and modern brands/startups. It involves a lot of whitespace, minimalistic details, and lines that form a polished logo. This showcases that you appreciate what’s modern and cool, something you want your consumers to appreciate too.
- Unorthodox – It’s a common choice for brands that want to appeal to younger audiences. Quirky and unorthodox is a colorful choice and illustrates a positive and friendly vibe.
- Handcrafted – This is the best if you really want to stand out as an individual brand and company. This style works with vintage graphics and can be combined with minimalistic elements for a brighter and more modern look.
Today, the website is one of the most illustrative elements of a brand’s identity. When customers first hear about your brand, you can bet that the first place they’ll try to learn more about you is Google. Here, they’ll expect to find your website and look around before they make a decision whether to buy from you.
If the design of your website matches the context and the personality of your brand, you’ll have better engagement from your customers online. In your website, you need to perfectly combine every element mentioned so far, from typography to logo, colors, and style.
You’ve already learned above that each color affects humans differently. Choosing the right color combination will provide your audience with more information about what your brand is all about.
The primary and the secondary colors that you’ve chosen for your brand should be incorporated into your website too. You can start with the most dominant color that is in your logo and integrate it throughout the website in places where users naturally gravitate.
Whitespace is an element that shouldn’t be left aside when you design your brand’s website. The proper use of whitespace can increase your engagement rate and boost the attention span of your target users when they land on your page.
If you balance other website elements with whitespace, your website will look more refined, neat and reachable, which are traits that you want to be connected to your brand.
Use Your Fonts
Just like your color palette, you need to think about the typography that you’ve chosen for your brand on your website too. Again, you need to be consistent and express the personality of your brand. Just make sure that you combine the elements properly and that the typography is readable for the users.
When used efficiently and placed in the right areas of your website, images/photographs can show your audience what your brand is all about. Just make sure that they’re in context with your content. Images and photographs need to enhance your brand and make people feel that they are part of the unique clientele.
Your logo is the first impression that consumers have when they encounter your brand. On your website, you need to strategically place your logo. Because the majority of languages are read from left to right, placing your logo on the top left corner will be the first thing that users see when they land on your page and will continue to associate it with everything that they see afterward.
You can also choose to set your logo in the middle or in the right top corner. It’s good to be original but, when it comes to web design, visibility and conversion matter more.
Photography & Supporting Graphics
Your brand identity is not made up only of the logo, colors, and website. You also need to think about other visual elements such as photos and graphic designs. While the logo and typography on your website can remain the same, photographs and other supporting graphic elements can vary in order to express messages such as special promotions, new products, new packaging, etc.
Social Media Branding
Social media networks are an excellent way to enhance your brand voice and one of the vital elements of successful brand design today. When we talk about social media branding, we mean positioning, brand voice, tone, visuals and graphics that spark the wanted interaction with the target audience.
For example, if you’re in the wireless networks and communications business, your brand would probably not have benefits from the Instagram or Tumblr presence. In that case, your best bet is to position yourself as a brand on LinkedIn where business owners and key personnel can notice you.
Another key part of social media branding is visuals. Your social media profiles need to look like they’re owned/branded by your company and no one else. And you’ll want to be consistent throughout all social media channels. In turn, this will help consumers recognize your company wherever their attention is at the time.
Your voice and personality as a brand must also be reflected in your social media posts. Users need to feel your company culture, values, and product/service quality directly from your social media accounts. You need to speak in a way that can create instant relationships with the audience. Most importantly, you need to be authentic, honest and engage back.
Email is a brilliant way to bring more interaction to your brand. However, with the overloaded inboxes, people tend to ignore almost every email that comes their way. This means that you need to work on your email newsletter design too.
Besides your content, which needs to be short and to the point, you need to work on engaging headlines and the email layout needs to be scannable. To offer the best possible experience, you don’t want to have a too wide and not mobile-responsive email newsletter.
Again, use your brand’s color palette, logo, whitespace, fonts, and make your message recognizable to the users. With this, the relationship with your consumers will feel much more complete and the entire brand experience will be unified.
Packaging and product design are another vital part of branding. If you sell physical products, you need to align the product design and packaging with your brand values in order to attract your customers. The packaging alone can enhance the experience that customers have with your company, and like every other design element, it should tell your brand’s story.
Make sure that your packaging includes your brand’s logo, color palette, and typography. Other content that you may/should include in your product packaging is:
- Written Copy – Name and description of your product, and words that motivate the person to buy.
- Images and Graphics – You need to have them ready along with the images and graphics for your web content.
- Stamps/Dates – If your product is of certified quality, put a stamp on it. Also, make sure that you include an expiration date for the product and batch numbers.
To sum things up, the brand design is what sets your company apart from the rest of the pack. You’re probably not alone in the marketplace and if you want to be perceived positively by the consumers, you need to connect with them show them exactly, who you are and what can you offer them.
By using all of the basic branding elements above and with a methodical approach towards brand identity design, you’ll be able to achieve that connection.