The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Brand Identity
Updated: Jul 28
A strong brand identity doesn’t happen overnight. You can't just pick a few colors and haphazardly slap together a logo that makes no sense for your company's branding purposes, then hope people will love you because of it. This requires deep thinking, team communication skills with designers who understand what they're doing well enough on both sides of this process; knowing exactly how you want others outside of your company see your brand. The process of branding can be both intimidating and confusing, but the reward for a job well done is worth it in every way. What should it include? How do you start? Who needs to be involved? Whether you are a first-time entrepreneur, an established business owner or already have your own marketing agency at the ready- we can help. We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to get everyone on their way and if that wasn't enough then our handy toolkit will make things easy as pie! Let’s get started.
What Is a Brand Identity?
Is it your logo? Your color palette? Your infographic style? It’s all that—and more. When we think about brands, they're often associated with how an organization looks and operates. But what is involved in branding? Branding can be defined as "the outward expression of your brand including its trademark name communications visuals or appearance." To us at least, this means that you need to pay attention not just on things like colors schemes but also feelings when designing products for customers because those are part of making them feel welcomed into their store vs feeling pressured not buy anything-a totally differentiator. That said, the visual elements of a brand are what most people think about when they talk about identity.
Why Do You Need a Brand Identity?
Your brand identity is more than just pretty packaging. It's about telling the story of what makes you unique and why people should care, which means design can be an important tool in transforming how they interact with your company, product, or services.
1. Differentiation: How can you stand out in a crowded marketplace? Your brand identity can play a strong role. Whether you want your product to stand out on a shelf, or you want your ads to stand out on Facebook, creating a consistent, cohesive presentation is the secret to success.
2. Connection: The more effectively you communicate who you are, the easier it will be for people to engage with you and, ultimately, join your community of lifelong fans. 3. Experience: Everything you create reflects your brand. Thus, if you want to create a consistent, cohesive brand experience, you need to present a consistent, cohesive identity. From your website to your social media, to your sales brochures, a strong identity is the key to elevating your brand experience.
Being a brand is more than just having an identity and communicating it. Many brands elevate their status to art, while others enter into the playing field with Warby Parker or Casper; however, there are many who fall short because they do not know themselves well enough- which makes marketing difficult for them in turn (The truth: too many businesses fit this category).
In order to be successful, companies must have a strong brand identity. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of competitive and creative companies-you will need one.
"Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” - Jeff Bezos
What Does a Brand Identity Include?
When you create a brand, it's like building your own toolbox. You can choose from basic or extensive visuals to help communicate effectively and convey what is important for the audience in mind. Regardless, every brand needs a basic identity, which includes three core elements:
Creating a wider variety of content is essential for any brand, but it's also important to think about how you'll design elements that can be used across mediums. If your business has more than one channel or platform (or plan on having), then these extra tactics may include: Photography
You don't have to design everything all at once. If you know that your future needs will be different from what they are now, start with the basics - like a logo and color scheme for example. You can build out other elements as needed based on how things progress in development or if there's demand for changes down-the line.
What Makes a Strong Brand Identity?
In order to be successful, you need more than just a good design. It's important for your brand identity and long-term goals that it reflects who you really are as people - which means taking into consideration all of your different perspectives so they can guide what decisions get made moving forward. In order to have a strong brand identity, it is important that you work on both your internal team (e.g., branding ambassadors) and how people who will interact with the company's products or services feel about their experience. To truly succeed, you need to build a brand identity that is…
Distinct: It stands out among competitors and catches people’s attention.
Memorable: It makes a visual impact. (Consider Apple: The logo is so memorable they only include the logo—not their name—on their products.)
Scalable: It can grow and evolve with the brand.
Flexible: It can be used in many different applications (web, print, etc.).
Cohesive: Each piece complements the other.
Easy to apply: It’s intuitive and clear for designers to use.
When a company's identity doesn't resonate with their target audience or isn’t truly reflective of the brand they want to portray themselves as - it can be quite an endeavor.
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” - Scott Cook
How to Build a Brand Identity
Building a strong brand is all about knowing who you are and what makes your company unique. It can be difficult, but with the following 10 steps we'll walk through how to get there.
Step 1: Know Your Foundation
That’s right. The last thing you should do when building your brand is to focus on its visual aspect because this will be the foundation of all other aspects, so make sure it's built well before adding anything else. When you know who your audience is, what they care about and how to talk with them; then design a visual identity that tells the story of your brand. Without this foundation in place, you can't create an effective picture or logo for yourself.
How to Do It
Before you proceed, make sure you know your:
Brand Heart: This is an articulation of your brand’s core principles (specifically your purpose, vision, mission, and values).
Brand name: If you haven’t done this already, find out how to choose the right name. Note: You really cannot design a logo without a name.
Brand essence: This is your voice, tone, and personality.
This is your opportunity to let people know why you're going through this process, and what challenges have led up until now. If it's because of an identity crisis or simply starting over from scratch, then be sure that everyone on the team understands both sides - not just their role in changing things around.
As long as you have your core brand elements established, and your team is on the same page, you can proceed.
Step 2: Assess Your Current Identity
It may be difficult to convey the subtleties of your brand in text, but you can do so with an interesting and creative visual. Just remember that good branding is ultimately about good communication--to make sure your output aligns with what customers are looking for when they see this information on their screen or paper product; reflects who YOU really ARE as a company (not just some faceless entity); communicates all aspects crucial while engaging audiences into taking action. Thus, you should start with a brand assessment to understand:
The current state of your brand’s identity
How that brand identity might be crafted or tweaked to align with your goals going forward
By taking an honest look at your brand, you can get the insights needed to build one which accurately communicates what it is.
Step 3: Audit Your Competition
Building a brand identity is all about differentiation: making your business visible, relevant and unique. One way to do this effectively? Understand not just who you're competing against but how well they compare with the visual presentation of yours. The audit will show you how to improve your business in a way that is relevant and useful for the success of both yourself, as well as other companies who may be trying out competing brands. The color red is a powerful tool for marketers because it’s consistently used across many industries. For example, you'll find Netflix and YouTube using this same hue in their branding to create an emotional connection with customers who are seeking relaxation or entertainment respectively - but what if your business didn't need such strong emotion? You can differentiate yourself through variety. Trivia: Twitch's purple logo has become one of the most iconic logos in all of gaming. The color instantly became a hallmark for this company, which now operates as an entirely different type than when they first started out more than ten years ago. A competitive audit is an excellent way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.
How to Do It
Keep an eye on the competition as you go through this process; pay attention to how they present themselves using common visuals, trends in their industry-specific branding and logo designs.
Step 4: Hone In on a Visual Direction
Now the time has come for you to get your team aligned on a direction. It's important that design is perceived differently by different people, so there will be no one-size fits all solution here. Colors can have different meanings depending on who sees them and even words used may have an entirely new connotation when spoken aloud or read back as opposed to simply reading text silently in front of oneself; this allows us more than just textual information but also emotional responses which then influences what action someone takes next after seeing your brand identity card (or logo). At this stage you aren’t ready to design yet; you first need to have important conversations and move through exercises that will help you land on a shared vision for your brand identity.
What are the key brand traits you want to express through your visuals?
What type of visuals communicate these traits?
What do you want people to feel when they “see” your brand?
Remember: It is important to get all of your stakeholders in one room so that you can have these conversations and find common ground. The information gathered from this session will help craft a creative brief for designers who are going to bring the visuals alive.
How to Do It
It is important to have open and honest conversations with your team so they can share their thoughts on the brand identity. The insights you need won’t be found in a single meeting. It may take several meetings and lots of discussion before they are discovered, but it will definitely make for an interesting process.
Step 5: Write Your Branding Brief
Once you’ve completed the previous steps, your design is just about ready. It's time to start creating. A creative brief will ensure that everyone on staff can work together in harmony and produce a logo or identity for your brand goals.
How to Do It
Your brief should never overwhelm or provide too little information. It's important to always keep the client informed, but don't give them everything at once.
Step 6: Design Your Logo
Making a strong logo for your brand is the first step to establishing an effective design system. Your carefully crafted mark will help you capture attention and leave behind lasting impressions with clients, customers or potential investors alike.
How to Do It
You can go old-school and use pencils to free sketch in black & white. Make sure that the core imagery is powerful enough, so it doesn't need coloration for emphasis, but work on loose shapes as well as complementary inspiration from your logo mark's design beforehand.
Step 7: Choose Your Color Palette
Think of your logo as an introduction to who you are, and color can be used creatively for branding. It's important not only choose wisely but also consider how people will perceive it because strong emotions may arise in response.
How to Do It
A good color palette is clean and flexible, supplying designers enough choices to be creative but not enough to overwhelm. This includes:
1 main color
2 primary colors
3-5 complementary colors
2 accent colors
Step 8: Choose Your Typography
Every visual element in your identity should contribute to a cohesive and harmonious whole. This principle is true for all aspects of design, including typography which must be informed by the shape or logo created for it.
How to Do It
The typography in a visual language can be tricky, especially when brands want to stick with what is popular for just long enough before it becomes dated or appearing unoriginal (serif vs non-serif). Limit the number of typefaces you use to 2-3. This includes primary and secondary brand fonts for specific purposes, such as body copy or UI faces.
Step 9: Design Additional Elements
Every brand’s needs are different, so you may or may not need to design a comprehensive identity. However, if your business is looking into experimenting with new types of content in the future and want their branding on-point for it then consider including those elements when designing an effective look.
Just as your brand needs to have a clear sense of direction, so too does photography. From product images and advertising campaigns all the way down to what typefaces are used in blog posts - there’s no denying that this medium has become essential for any household name looking towards success.
Illustration is a great way to add some life and personality into your work, but keep in mind that it should be cohesive. You don’t want any over-the-top illustration or clashing styles for maximum impact when used with other visuals like still photos or video clips.
Good iconography is not just something you see in a drawing or on paper; it's also influenced by the industry and medium (e.g., website vs print sales brochures). There is an art to iconography. You need to make sure your message comes across as clear and concise, without any confusion on the part of viewers or readers in what you are trying say with it.
Data visualization is an important component in the design process. It's vital to ensure that your visuals are clear, concise and easy-to understand for anyone who might be viewing them - whether they're on their computer screen at home or if you want people interacting with this data during a presentation.
Step 10: Build Your Brand Guidelines
A brand style guide is the saving grace for a beautifully designed but unused logo. A badly-crafted or improperly used design will only leave you feeling disappointed and dejected, but with an informative document on how best to use your corporate image as it should be utilized—you can’t go wrong.
How to Do It
To create a successful brand identity, it is important to have clear guidelines for every part of the design. This includes examples and use-cases from print materials like brochures or business cards all way through web graphics such as logos on social media pages where they appear alongside some interactive elements if applicable too! Be sure also provide practical detail about how these things can help your designers replicate what you want in their own work so there won't be any surprises when putting together an application seeking approval.
How to Use Your New Brand Identity
In order to ensure that your brand is well-known and easily recognizable, it’s important for you not only maintain a consistent design but also answer any questions or concerns people may have about the application. Designate one person in charge of monitoring these queries so they can be answered as soon as possible--and provide them with clear guidelines on how their work should proceed.