The Brand Identity (or Brand ID) is the core of your brand, the essence of your business, whom you say you are. It typically encompasses the development of a Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Visual Identity, Basic Brand Touchpoints, and Brand Guidelines.
Promoting a business through the development of a commercial identity, or Branding, is comprised of 4 steps.
Every Brand ID Design project is unique, and the workflow can be vastly different depending on the scope of the project, the specifics of the business, the industry, the audience, the budget, and the time-frame. However, most projects tend to follow —with some degree of flexibility— the workflow I have detailed on this site, starting with Brand Research.
Identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. It’s about what works.
— Sagi Haviv
Research is the cornerstone of any branding project. An in-depth understanding of your business, your competitors, and your audience provides a well-informed, rational foundation for all design decisions to be made during the creative process.
This phase tends to take slightly longer for business belonging to highly-technical, niche, or emerging industries since the designer must fully understand the specifics of the business before considering how it’s best to communicate it.
The first step is for you, the client, to answer a few brief questions regarding your business.
At this point, you can also provide a Business Plan (financial information not required), Marketing Strategy, or any other relevant document that could provide insight on your business and your brand’s positioning.
The designer will then review all the information provided and research further about the business, the competition, and the audience for a general overview. Follow-up questions for the client might be required for clarification.
The designer will interpret the information gathered during the Preliminary Analysis, then perform an in-depth survey of (1) the business, its products/services, industry, goals, unique value proposition, and positioning; (2) the competition, analysing how similar companies communicate their brand; and (3) the audience, identifying different personas that represent the market’s key demographics.
Finally, the designer will note all insights into a succinct and practical Brand Research document to be used as reference during the creative process. This ensures that all design decisions will be linked to business goals and strategies.
Based on the insights devised in the Brand Research document, the Brand Strategy aims to define what’s the best possible way for your business to communicate its best features to its target audience, standing out above the competition.
The Brand Strategy document specifies a set of guidelines for the creative process, ensuring that all brand communications will convey a unified, consistent, and clear message.
The Keywords identify the best features of your business. A concise list of the main qualities that the brand should transmit to a member of the audience upon the first impression.
Reinforced over time, each interaction with the audience should cultivate an association between the selected concepts and the brand in the mind of the audience.
A Moodboard is a collection of visual references including photography, illustration, architecture, design, and art. It serves as a source of inspiration during the creative process by identifying common colours and shapes associated with the desired mood of the brand.
Some images might represent the lifestyle of a typical member of the audience; Others might represent the brand’s Keywords or other qualities. The representations can be quite subtle and abstract, or they can be descriptive and concrete.
You must focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect's mind. A word that no one else owns. What "prestige" is to Mercedes, "safety" is to Volvo.
— Al & Laura Ries
Similar to the Keywords, but more concise and concrete, the Creative Concept is a word or phrase that represents the desired emotional response from the audience when interacting with your brand.
Unlike a Slogan, a Creative Concept is not necessarily developed for public use. Its primary purpose is to be used internally as a mantra to guide the creative process when sketching a Logo, copywriting a Slogan, designing an ad, or when developing any other type of brand communication. This ensures that all elements of the brand will convey a consistent message.
A distinctive, unifying concept is essential for building a strong Brand ID.
Both parts that make-up brand communications —(1) the textual content and (2) the visual design in which the content is presented— must compliment each other harmoniously, convey a common mood.
Defining your brand's Personality, Tone, Values, Vision, and Mission —and using these guidelines as reference when copywriting or designing— ensures that the content and the design will share a common and coherent Voice.
Whether a prospective customer sees your Facebook ad, or browses your website, or receives an email from a sales representative, the brand should feel familiar. Maintaining a consistent language that your audience finds relatable and engaging helps your customers build a relationship with your brand and develop a sense of loyalty to it.
A great name must be (1) relatively short, (2) easy to pronounce, (3) has a positive connotation, (4) easy to spell correctly upon hearing it for the first time, and most importantly (5) not already taken.
Naming is exhaustive and iterative process. Nowadays, due to the scarcity of “.com” web domains available for purchase that comply with that criteria, finding a great name has become a herculean task.
The development of the Key Messages involves distilling the essence of the business into a set of four concise and compelling paragraphs directed to the audience.
Each paragraph focuses on a different aspect: (1) the business, (2) the services/products, (3) the differential or unique value proposition, and (4) an abridged summary containing the main thoughts of the three previous paragraphs.
These boilerplate paragraphs are meant to used on the Facebook page bio, on the corporate website, or in any other brand communications.
Copywriting a Slogan consists in interpreting all the information elaborated in the Brand Strategy and comprising it into a concise and compelling word or phrase that conveys the essence of the brand, and entices the audience to want to learn more about the business and it’s products/services.
Each element that constitutes the Visual Identity should (1) communicate the Creative Concept, (2) function well individually, and (3) pair harmoniously with any other element of the system.
At this point, the designer will sketch a variety of logos and test multiple typography, colour, and —possibly— Visual Language alternatives that correspond to different ways of interpreting the Creative Concept.
The Preliminary Exploration is an iterative and exhaustive process. Its purpose is to narrow down a specific direction for the general look and feel of the Visual Identity.
Once a specific direction is chosen from the Preliminary Exploration samples, the designer will start developing the final logo.
When a final logo draft is selected, the sketch will be (1) tested to ensure it maintains readability at large and small sizes, (2) gridded to fine-tune its composition, (3) developed in multiple variations (typically: Ideogram, Wordmark, Emblem, Tagline, and Signature), and (4) saved in all colour modes and file formats necessary for future use.
Some brands choose to use one single typeface on the Logo Design, as well as on all headings and body text of brand communications. However, most typefaces are either (A) designed exclusively for use in large headings, or (B) optimised for use in body text, maintaining readability at smaller sizes. This tends to lead to a need for a selection of two or —on rare occasions— more typefaces that complement each other visually and functionally.
During the Typeface Selection process, the designer will survey typographic families that suit the tone of the Creative Concept, then select the typefaces that will be used for headings and body text.
A Colour Scheme sets guidelines for the use of accent colours, background colours, and support colours.
A distinctive palette used with consistency over time in all brand communications can become a highly valuable trademark for a Brand ID, allowing the audience to identify the brand even when the logo is not present. Much like the Coca-Cola red, the Facebook blue, or the Spotify green.
A brand’s Visual Language includes all trademark attributes or assets that identify the brand visually (illustrations, iconography, typographic layouts, ...), and it can be very different from brand to brand.
It might (A) include any and all of the following: patterns, textures, illustrations, icons, photography, and photographic treatment; or (B) rely simply on minimalist layouts supported by typography and plain colour alone.
A brand's Touchpoints include all mediums where the company interacts with its audience.
Once a Visual Identity is developed, it must be put to the test —and, if necessary, refined— during the design of the Basic Touchpoints (Email Signature Template, Social Media Profile Visuals, Business Card Template, Letterhead Template, Presentation Slides Template, and Parking Page).
Elaborate Touchpoints (Website, Mobile App, Package Design) and Promotional Touchpoints (Facebook Ads, Newsletter Templates, Landing Page, Brochures, Stickers, Tradeshow Stand, Vehicle Graphics, Clothing, …) will be designed after the Brand ID Design project is concluded.
At this stage, the designer will reduce the Visual Identity to its essence to fit in the most basic form of electronic communication, email.
Due to the numerous compatibility issues amongst email clients and the variety of screen sizes today, the Email Signature Template must be remarkably simple and ubiquitous in order to maintain readability and usability in all email communications.
The designer will apply the Visual Identity onto a professional and distinctive Business Card Template, allowing everybody in your organization to network and increase brand awareness.
A branded Letterhead Template conveys a professional and cohesive tone for all of your business documents.
The designer will apply the Visual Identity to a Slides Template file that communicates credibility and expertise in all of your business presentations.
A website is nowadays a must-have for any brand. It increases brand awareness and gives the brand credibility. However, the development of a custom website can sometimes take several weeks of work.
Having a "Parking" or "Coming Soon" Webpage allows you to start making use of your new brand materials without needing to wait for the final website to be done.
A strong brand binds us internally and differentiates us externally.
— Brian Resnick, Deloitte
The Brand Guidelines present a summary of all the design and strategic parameters that constitute the Brand ID.
The Guidelines must be used as reference and meticulously followed whenever a brand communication is being designed, whether it’s a Facebook post, a billboard ad, or a corporate website. This ensures consistency and develops a sense of familiarity with the audience.
Documenting the thinking behind the brand can also help the members of your organization better understand the vision of the company and embody the brand values.
Every Brand ID Design project is unique and different based on the specifics of the business, the industry, the audience, and the budget. As such, the cost can vary widely based on the scope of the project. An estimate must be calculated for each project individually. However, the overall cost typically includes:
Most of the third-party hires and additional expenses listed on this workflow are optional and, for those which are highly-recommended or mandatory, there are a variety of options suited for different budgets.
All the brands that belong to a common market compete for the consumers’ attention and loyalty. A strategic approach to designing a Brand ID that stands-out from the competition and engages the audience aims to increase competitive leverage and gain a larger share of the market, which translates to more revenue.
The value of a brand, or “Brand Equity”, represents the level of quality that consumers associate with such brand. Once a brand becomes established on a particular market and gains a base of loyal consumers, the increase in Brand Equity allows the business to charge more for their products/services. A “hidden tax” that consumers are willing to pay for continued satisfaction from a familiar brand, as compared to the risk of trying-out a lesser brand for the first time with disappointing results.
A brand is an intangible accountable asset. Along with real estate, machinery, and any other asset that your business owns, it constitutes the value of your business. Designing a strong Brand ID inherently increases the value of your business.
Once the Brand ID Design project is concluded, the new Brand ID needs to be communicated to the audience through a process called Brand Activation.
This typical includes launching your business, establishing an online presence (website and social media), and promoting your business through different advertising channels (Facebook ads, email newsletters, billboards, magazine ads, advertorials, tradeshow stands, networking, …).
Yes, the list of design services I offer include:
Whether you need to (A) fine-tune some details of your existing visual identity or (B) perform a complete overhaul of your Brand ID, the workflow is quite similar to the one listed above, with the addition of a Brand Analysis (also known as “Brand Audit”) during the Brand Research stage.