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Building a better brand identity is the starting point for shaping your ideal brand. Notice I said, “shape” your brand because a brand is not your name or a logo. Your brand is how the world perceives you, and in many ways, it is out of your control.
Often you will hear “brand,” “branding,” and “brand identity” used interchangeably, but they are very different things.
- Brand Identity is all the brand elements: logos, collateral, and marketing materials that you use when marketing your business or service
- Branding is how you market your product or service
- Brand is what the world thinks of you, how the branding work that you’ve done is perceived
More Than Just A Logo
Your brand identity may consist of a number of elements. In fact, depending on your business, one asset or another will be more or less important.
Some common elements of brand identity include logos, business cards, websites, packaging, and the design of email and other marketing materials.
Before you call on a designer to create your logo and other elements of your identity you’ll want to be sure you have a good understanding of who you are and how you want your brand to be perceived. If you’re not sure what I mean, just ask yourself a few questions:
- What three words describe your product or service?
- What are your company values?
- What do you do that sets you apart from the competition?
- What three words would you want others to use when they talk about your business?
Creating A Cohesive Brand Identity
A good brand identity will set you apart from the competition and make you instantly recognizable. There are three main components to everything you will create. Carefully choosing these will ensure your brand identity is on target.
What are these components?
The Shape of Things
Good or bad, your shape has a lot to do with how people perceive you. Are you fit? You must be athletic and have lots of energy. Do you have a few extra pounds? You must be overindulgent and perhaps a bit lazy.
How people perceive your logo will be affected by its shape. Want to be seen as inclusive, friendly, and loving? Make use of rounded shapes. Perhaps you’d rather be seen as trustworthy and lasting? Squares, triangles and other straight shapes are the way to go. Even simple lines can have an effect: horizontal lines imply tranquility while vertical lines suggest strength.
It Really Is Hue You Know
We all know color has a strong impact on how we feel. Careful consideration should be given to the colors used in your designs—they can have a serious impact on how your brand is perceived.
Many books have been written about color and color theory, so I won’t go in-depth on that here. An interesting read if you would like to know more about the history of colors is The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair. NPR called it one of the Best Books of 2017.
Here is a quick overview of the psychology of color and how it can affect people’s perceptions:
- Red: is very powerful and can evoke feelings of love or fear depending on its context. If you’re looking to make a powerful statement or get attention, go with red.
- Orange combines red’s energy with the friendliness of yellow. It can stimulate the appetite making it a great choice for food-related businesses.
- Yellow: joyful and optimistic, yellow can lift spirits and increase confidence. Balance the use of yellow though, too much can create feelings of anxiety.
- Green: is the most-seen color in nature and overall has more positive effects than most colors. Its blend of balance and harmony work well for eco-friendly and health-based businesses.
- Blue: good ol’ dependable blue. Its soothing and calming qualities make it well-liked throughout the world. Blue is often used in health-related business from hospitals to spas.
- Purple: combines the power of red with the calm of blue to create a perfect balance between physical and spiritual. Magical and luxurious, purple is often a good option for luxury products.
And though technically not colors, we can’t forget the power of good old black and white.
- Black: is considered sophisticated and serious. Black is reserved and controlling making it great for high contrast and legibility. Black is often used for high-end products and luxury services.
- White: is pure and innocent. Peaceful and clean it represents new beginnings and idea creation. It is perfect for weddings and modern website backgrounds.
The Power of the Written Word
I’ll cover typography in more detail in other articles. For now, I’ll give you a few definitions and address typography as it relates to brand identity.
Typography is the visual art of creating written words. Before the digital age, typography was a specialized craft, but the computer and the internet have opened typography to the masses. A typeface is a particular design of type, while a font is a particular file that allows you to layout and print typefaces.
When thinking about your brand identity you’ll likely consider one or more of the four major styles of typefaces: serif, sans serif, script, and display.
- Serif typefaces (like Times or Garamond) have little feet on the end of each letter. Serif fonts are classic and help your brand appear traditional and trustworthy.
- San serif typefaces (like Helvetica or Franklin Gothic) do not have the little feet and create a more modern and sleek feel.
- Script typefaces are like cursive handwriting and can be used to create a more luxurious feel.
- Display typefaces tend to have unusual shapes, outlines, or shading and can make a bold statement.
Whatever typeface you choose will say a lot about your brand, so you’ll want to choose wisely.
Putting It All Together
I began by saying that your brand is not your name or a logo, but your logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity. While it may be tempting to type out your name in a font from your computer and call it your logo, please, resist. You should work with a designer who can help you create a logo that clearly communicates your brand.
A good logo should:
- Not be trendy, you want it to stand the test of time.
- Align with your industry’s standards but be unique enough to stand out.
- Be visually appealing and uncluttered. Simple and clean is best.
- Make a lasting impression.
Whether you have a physical product, or a digital product or service, how you package it is important to attract the right customer. Don’t underestimate the power of good design for everything from the cover of your ebook to the bottle for your latest craft brew. Packaging is where your brand can really shine and encourage both repeat purchases and customer advocacy.
The Business Card and Other Collateral
Your logo may be the cornerstone of your brand identity, but your collateral materials are a chance to reinforce a positive opinion of your brand. Even in today’s digital world, a well-designed business card can be indispensable for business development.
Your website is one of the first places that potential clients will encounter your brand identity. Make sure colors and typefaces are consistent with your brand. The layout and photography should reinforce your brand message on every page.
Email remains one of the most effective ways to engage customers and drive business. This has caused most people to suffer from inbox overload, so you’ll want to have a good strategy and great design to set yourself apart.
Carefully consider the purpose of each email and design accordingly. Are you launching a new product, trying to educate, or build customer loyalty? Each type of message requires a different approach to content and design.
Keeping Things Consistent: The Style Guide
One thing that many small to medium-sized businesses fail to create is a brand style guide. And that is a mistake. You’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating your brand identity, but it won’t help if the assets aren’t used in the correct way.
The style guide is a document that outlines your brand assets. It can be fairly simple or rather complex and defines when and how to use the assets. Creating, and using, a style guide that includes any design do’s and don’ts helps ensure your brand identity will shape the right perception with your customers.
Stand Out From The Crowd
There is more noise and competition than ever before. Your brand identity is what sets you apart and shows customers what they can expect from you. To positively shape the perception of your brand it is important that the design of your brand identity reflects who you are and your company values.