A strong brand identity design is vital for any company’s success. It shapes every aspect of a company’s marketing strategy and works to support both business goals and customer experience.
In this article, we’ll spend some time learning the fundamental steps that go into any successful brand identity design project. Then, we’ll share a complete checklist of items to help guide your future branding package projects. Whether you’re building your own brand or taking on a freelance design project, follow along as we explore the building blocks of a strong visual brand.
“A brand is not just a logo, website, or your business cards—it’s an experience.”
✔️ Business Goals & Brand Personality
When creating a new brand identity design, it’s vital to consider your business’s goals and your brand’s personality. These two factors should determine an overall direction for your identity, and give you a jumping-off point.
Your brand identity should work to support your business’s overall goals. Virtually every business has a key goal around earning revenue (even non-profits need to do this), but beyond that, what else does your brand want to achieve? Is it about changing the world? Becoming an industry leader? Having the best customer experience?
Outline these goals before moving forward so that you can consider them as your brand identity is solidified.
Your brand identity should also reflect your company’s personality. Defining that personality can be done in a few ways, but one of the most effective is to simply ask key stakeholders to list words they associate with your brand. From there, you can see what key themes emerge to form your brand image.
If you’re designing for a client, freelance designer Katie Cooper recommends you ask your clients these brand discovery questions to better understand their brand goals and personality:
- Describe your company from a 30k foot view
- Where do you see yourself and your company in 1, 5, 20 years?
- What is the biggest challenge you face as a company?
- Describe your company in 5 single adjectives
- What problem are you solving?
- What functional and emotional benefits do you offer your customers?
- Who is your target audience?
- Who are your competitors? What are their strengths? What are your advantages?
✔️ Target Audience
While your brand identity needs to work for your business goals, the only way it can do that is to also work for your potential customers. If your brand doesn’t appeal to them, they’ll turn to your competitors.
Take time to do some research on your target audience before you start designing. Talk to current and potential customers about what they’re looking for in a brand that sells similar products or services. Pay attention to the language they use when describing those brands and see where they align with your brand’s existing values. That gives you insight into where your brand’s potential competitive strengths lie.
“The key work comes before you start designing.” — Daniela Madriz, Brand Designer
Pro Tip: Audit The Competition
Speaking of competitive strengths, it’s important to audit the brands of your competitors. Explore every aspect of their brands, from the color palette to the typography to the imagery they use. Pay attention to their copy, too. How do they talk about themselves and their product? That can give you insight into how they see themselves and their customer base.
Look for trends among your competitors. Are they all using a particular color palette? A particular typeface style? Or maybe certain kinds of images? These can give you insights into what may work for your brand’s visual identity, or how you might want to set yourself apart.
Visual Brand Components
Now that you’ve got a brand strategy in place, it’s time to visually tell your brand story. Brand identity designs have several visual brand elements you’ll want to explore. Some can be considered components (such as color palette, typography, imagery, and even your logo) that can be used within things like website or business card designs.
✔️ Brand color palette
Color is arguably the most important part of any brand identity or design. Your brand color scheme has a heavy influence on the impression a customer gets from your brand and is generally the first thing they notice. A bad color palette can turn customers away, while an excellent palette can reinforce your brand’s values and make customers feel at home.
Consider the mood and emotions you want your customers to feel regarding your brand, as well as the behaviors you want to influence. Then work from there to choose an appropriate primary color to base your brand’s palette on.
The typography of your brand identity has a direct impact on how your content is consumed. Learning how to choose the right fonts for your brand is the first step.
Consider the mood, readability, formality, and adaptability of typefaces to pick the right one. Then decide whether you’ll create your typographic hierarchy with a single typeface or if you’ll combine two or more fonts.
If you decide to combine typefaces, you’ll want to make sure that your font combinations work well together and both support your brand’s mood and image. Be sure that the style of your fonts matches the style of other visual elements you choose to incorporate into your brand logo, website, and beyond.
Considering that a brand’s logo design appears on virtually everything they do, it’s worth spending time and effort to create one that accurately reflects the brand’s values. Decide what type of logo design you want to create:
- Lettermark – Lettermark logos are made up of an abbreviation of the company name, such as BBC or UFC.
- Wordmark – Wordmark logos include only text, generally the company name.
- Brandmark – A brandmark is a pictorial representation of the company, such as the Apple logo.
- Combination mark – Combination marks include both a pictorial representation of the brand plus the company name.
With newer brands, it’s generally best to avoid a brandmark logo, as people won’t yet associate a pictorial representation with the company.
From there, you’ll want to ensure that the company logo design creates the proper mood for the brand. Consider the iconography you want to use, the logos of competitors, and the longevity of the logo.
Logos are one of the few design elements of a company that should rarely change. Consider the logo of Stella Artois, for example; it’s remained largely unchanged since the mid-1300s.
Pro Tip: When it comes to logo design, the simpler the better. Mackey Saturday, the logo designer behind Instagram’s 2013 rebrand, says that one of the most common logo design mistakes people make is to overcomplicate the logo.
“People try to put too much into a logo. They try to combine too many ideas so that there isn’t one clear, or core concept. If you can identify one thing that matters most in a brand, and communicate that in a clear and distinctive way, that’s the key to success.” — Mackey Saturday, Brand Designer
Additional Brand Elements
While the color palette, typography, and logo design are the backbones of any brand, there are other tangible elements you’ll want to consider depending on the size and scope of the brand identity project you’re working on.
Photos are a great approach to connect with your audience—which means, you want them to stand out from your competitors. Determine the style of any photography used for the brand, whether it’s product photos, photos for advertisements, or social media content. Think about the mood, colors used, whether photos should include people or not, and other aspects. Ideally, when potential customers see your brand’s photos, they should be able to recognize your brand.
Pro tip: A simple way to give your photos a consistent look and feel is to apply the same filter across all photos or enhance photos using other creative photo-editing techniques.
Not every brand uses illustrations—but if you determine that it’s the right choice for your brand identity, you’ll want to create an illustration system that’s unique to the brand. Consider the style, mood, color palette, and content of illustrations. Take time to figure out the most relevant concepts to illustrate and how these illustrations will be used. This will shape how you incorporate illustration into the finished brand identity design.
Icons are commonly used in digital interfaces like websites, mobile apps, and software. If you’re designing icons as a part of a brand, pick an icon style that reinforces the brand’s mood and values. Just like your logo design, avoid overcomplicating your brand icons. Keep them as simple as possible, especially at smaller sizes. The best icon designs are simple shapes and pictograms that people can instantly identify.
✔️ Social Media Assets
As more brands start to see the value in an engaged social media following, brand identity designers can be tasked with creating social media graphics for different brands. This usually includes creating editable social media design templates that help keep your client’s brand visuals consistent long after the brand identity project is completed. Just make sure that your clients are familiar with how to use the social media templates and what they should or shouldn’t change on them.
✔️ Brand Guidelines
Your brand’s identity should be clearly spelled out in a set of brand guidelines—also known as a brand style guide. Also known as a brand book or brand manual, a brand style guide is a document that describes a company’s visual identity so it can be applied cohesively.
A brand style guide not only includes the visual elements laid out above, but also howeach of these elements should be used, both individually or together.
Your brand style guide should include:
- The brand color palette, including the exact hex codes and Pantone colors for each brand color.
- The typefaces used, along with how each one should be used. For example, it’s important to spell out which fonts should be used for headings vs. body text, the sizes, and styles to be used, etc.
- Instructions for how to use the logo, including the minimum size, acceptable colors, and any necessary padding around it. It can be a good idea to include multiple versions of the logo, such as a wordmark, brandmark, and combination mark, and how to use each.
- Other guidelines for how to use photos, illustrations, icons, and data visualizations, as needed.
Consistency is key for establishing a strong brand identity, and a brand style guide helps ensure that consistency. These brand guidelines should be easily accessible for anyone who might create designs for your brand, as well as anyone who might use your brand’s logos (such as affiliates).
If you’re a freelance graphic designer working with clients, you can create client brand guide presentations from scratch, or save time by downloading professional and fully-editable brand presentation templates.
Strong Brand Identity Design Examples
As we said earlier, the best place to start when building your brand identity is to study existing brands and consider why they made the stylistic choices they made. Get inspired by a collection of brand identity design examples below, and think about how each brand’s visuals communicate a message, brand personality, and values.
SeatGeek by Hoodzpah
SeatGeek is a popular mobile-first ticketing platform where fans can buy and sell event tickets. Last year, they approached the design team at Hoodzpah to redesign their brand with a new logo and custom typeface. According to the brand identity case study, the goal of the rebrand was to “breathe the life of live events back into the brand, differentiating from tech-sleek competitors.”
“The custom type is inspired by the lively typography that used to dominate show-posters, and still lives on in venue marquees.” — Hoodzpah
Firefox by Ramotion
Mozilla Firefox hired the design team at Ramotion to create their master brand, combining the Firefox Browser with several existing and new products under one roof. According to the official case study, the main goal of the branding project was to “transfer the feeling of trust that Firefox Browser users enjoy to the entire brand family in the future.” This is a great example of how branding is applied across digital products like websites and mobile apps.
“We explored not dozens but hundreds of options and directions. It takes time to explore all possible options and come up with a single solution that just works. This simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Ramotion
Pitch-Works by Brass Hands
Brass Hands designed the brand identity for Pitch-Works—a service that creates custom pitch decks based on your specific business goals. Pitch-Works’ brand identity design is a great example of how typography, colors, illustrations, and other visual elements work cohesively together to create a memorable brand experience. In the examples below, you can see how Pitch-Works’ branding is applied across their marketing website, communicating a clear brand voice and personality.
Build Your Brand Identity Design Portfolio
Ready to grow your brand identity design skills and get hired by clients? To build a successful design career and get discovered, you’ll need to showcase a few strong brand identity projects in your portfolio. With Dribbble Pro Business, you can build an instant design portfolio, get daily freelance design leads, and more tools to help you grow your career. Sign up today!
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