Just like your personal identity makes you uniquely you, your brand identity is the special sauce of your business that sets you apart from every other Tom, Dick and Harry, Inc. on the block. And your brand identity design? It’s what shapes your company.
But what exactly is brand identity? What does it have to do with design? And how do you shape a strong brand identity that takes your business to the next level? Here’s the breakdown:
Table of Contents
What is brand identity?
What does the term brand identity mean?
Brand identity is the collection of all elements that a company creates to portray the right image to its consumer. Brand identity is different from “brand image” and “branding,” even though these terms are sometimes treated as interchangeable.
The term branding refers to the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand. Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Let’s say you are a middle school student. As an awkward pre-adolescent, you want to be perceived as cool and get invited to sit at the best table in the cafeteria. But you can’t just force other people to have that image of you. In order to develop this brand, you need to do some work.
So you make sure you watch the right YouTube channels so you always know the latest meme. Maybe you start working on your free throw. And cultivating on an impression of Mr. Archibald, your science teacher. These actions are the work you’re putting towards develop your desired image; they’re your branding.
Finally, you need to make sure you look the part. You save up your money to buy the new Adidas shoes everyone covets. You get a new haircut. You try out for (and join) the basketball team.
Those tangible elements—the shoes, the haircut, the team membership—that’s brand identity.
Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable to your customers. Your audience will associate your brand identity with your product or service, and that identity is what forges the connection between you and your customers, builds customer loyalty, and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.
How to develop a strong brand identity
Know who you are. Before you know what tangible elements you want to make up your brand identity, you need to know who you are as a brand.
A colorful, playful & fun brand identity design by pecas
Who you are as a brand is made up of a few key elements:
These elements are what define your brand, and before you start building your brand identity, it’s important you have a clear understanding of each.
If you’re having trouble figuring out who exactly you are, don’t sweat it. Sometimes, all you need is a simple brainstorm to help you get clarity on who you are as a brand.
You can also check out this awesome branding workbook from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. While this workbook is geared towards personal branding, the strategies will work for any type of business model.
Once you’ve locked in who you are as a brand, it’s time to build the identity that will bring your brand to life and show who you are to the people who matter most: your customers.
Design: the foundation of your brand identity
Just like your Adidas built the brand identity of your middle-school-star-athlete persona, your design is what will build the brand identity of your company.
Your corporate design assets are the tangible elements that will determine how your brand is perceived. Things like your logo, your packaging, your web design, your social media graphics, your business cards and the uniforms your employees wear.
In other words, nailing your design = nailing your brand identity = building a successful business that’s an accurate representation of who you are as a brand.
So, how exactly do you nail your design and build a brand identity that will take your business to the next level?
Developing your brand designBefore you start creating your design assets, you need to start from the ground up and lock in the basics of your design structure: the building blocks of your brand identity.
The building blocks you’ll want to determine before you create your design assets include:
TypographyTypography refers to—you guessed it—the font (or type) you choose for your branding materials. It’s particularly important to choose logo fonts and brand fonts wisely. There are four major types of typography:
The typography you choose will say a lot about your brand, so choose your fonts wisely.
A brand guide with brand colors by ludibes
Next up is color. People—your potential customers included—have psychological ties to different colors, and using branding colors and logo colors strategically can have a serious impact on how your brand is perceived by your audience.
Here are what the colors of the rainbow (plus a few extras) can do to help your brand identity:
Form/ShapeWhen it comes to your designs, you also want to think about form and shape. This subtle but effective element that can be used to reinforce the desired reaction from your customers: so, for example, a logo that is all circles and soft edges will inspire a very different reaction from a logo that’s sharp and square.
Here’s how different forms can shape your brand identity (pun intended):
Designing your brand identity
Your brand identity is made of many elements. Once the building blocks of your design are created, it’s time to work with a designer to bring your brand identity to life and translate who you are as a brand into tangible design assets you can use in your marketing.
Your brand identity can be expressed in any number of elements. Depending on the nature of your business, one asset or another may be more or less important.
For example, a restaurant should put a lot of thought into their menu and physical space. A digital marketing agency, however, needs to focus more on their website and social media pages.
Common elements of brand identity include:
Logo design is the cornerstone in your brand identity. When working with your designer, you want to aim for your logo to tick off the following boxes:
You also want to make sure that your design partner delivers your logo in multiple formats (like a black and white version or multiple sizes) to ensure you always have the logo you need—and that each is in line with your brand identity.
Learn more on how to design the perfect logo.
Your website is one of the most representative aspects of your brand identity. Especially if you’re running an online business or a digital product, your customers will definitely check your website out before deciding to do business with you. Your website is where your brand identity should come through in full force.
Learn the building blocks of effective web layouts.
Rose Finch gin bottles designed by sikarame. lIf your product is a physical one, then product packaging is key to attracting the right customers. Whether you’re thinking about the bottle of a cold-brew beverage, or the mail you’ll send to your customers who purchased clothes from your ecommerce business, don’t underestimate the value of good design in improving the experience – and driving both loyalty and repeat purchases. Packaging is an awesome opportunity for your design to shine.
Business cards. If you’re doing any sort of business development (and who isn’t), you’ll want to stock up on business cards. A well-designed card offers the chance to reinforce a positive opinion of yourself in the eyes of potential clients or customers. When it comes to business card design, keep it simple: your company logo on one side of the card and your key personal details on the other side should suffice.
Learn how to design the perfect business card.
Email is a great way to engage your customers and drive business. But most people are at inbox overload, so if you want to grow your business via email, you need the right design strategy to set yourself apart from the clutter. Think about the purpose of the email.
Are you trying to make a personal connection? Then keep it short, sweet, and simple. Are you trying to educate? Then format it well so it’s easily readable and scannable and add a few images to make it pop. Are you trying to tell your customers about a new clothing line you launched? Make a few stunning product images the focus.
Create a brand style guide
A brand style guide is a must to preserve your brand identity.Once you’ve got your design assets, you want to make sure they’re used in the right way, which is why you’ll definitely want to create a brand style guide. This document—which outlines your design assets, when and how to use them, as well as any design do’s and dont’s for your brand—will ensure that any future design is in line with your brand identity and generates the right perception with your audience.
Consistency is key to create a strong brand identity. You wouldn’t want your brand to look totally different on social media than it does on your website. That would confuse customers and make your brand feel less trustworthy and professional. So, make sure to always stick to a brand guide that covers all the different elements of your brand identity. That’s what is going to enable you to build brand recognition and brand loyalty in the long term.
Brand identity in a nutshell…
Your brand identity is what sets you apart from the endless sea of competitors and shows your customers who you are and what they can expect from working with you. And if you want your brand to be perceived in a positive light, it’s crucial that you nail your brand identity and create designs that accurately portray who you are to your customers. And now that you know how to nail that identity, it’s time to start designing.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.