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What Is a Brand Identity, and How Is One Made?

Feb 18 , 2019

Today’s entrepreneurs don’t need to be told that building a solid brand for a company is essential to marketing success. What’s more difficult to get across is the process for constructing that brand’s identity. While the concept of branding is main stream, the complex system of creative processes that bring one to life and make it memorable to consumers is still very much a “black box” process. That means people understand widely that it happens, but most have no idea how. This is unfortunate, since brand identity is basically the outward expression of a brand. When brands do not have a clear and consistent identity, consumers do not know what sets them apart from the competition.

How Is the Identity of a Brand Built?

There is a process for constructing the identity and attitude of brands in general. The important thing to remember about this process is that it is built on best practices. That means the steps outlined here are tested and shown to work, but they are not a rigid step-by-step procedure. Instead, these are the stages one should plot a way through with careful attention to define the brand’s values and attitude.

  •  Define the brand’s purpose and positioning
  • Perform the market research necessary to identify the core customer group
  • Engage in consistent brand identity design that helps connect the purpose and audience
  •  Implement brand visual design and other key traits consistently in advertising and marketing materials

Once these stages are complete, the identity is established and managing the brand is a matter of continuing to provide a consistent image while communicating new information to customers about how that brand will meet their needs.

What Goes Into a Brand’s Visual Identity?

Certain traits are easier to identify in text and verbal communications, like the personalities of certain major fast food companies, including these traits in the visual design is important. There are several steps to building a brand’s visual strategy, but the important thing to remember is that the design choices should intuitively reflect those traits. For example, the simple, classic script imitating calligraphy and calling back to visual design styles popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries helps Coca-Cola by reminding customers of its status as one of the original cola drinks and as a classic American icon that has endured through generations.

When building an identity for the first time, these elements are important and need to be used harmoniously to communicate consistent identity traits and attitudes.

  • Logo
  • Typography
  • Colours
  • Illustration
  • Iconography
  • Data visualization
  • Web design
  • Video
  • Interactive elements

This might seem like a lot to manage, but in fact, when an identity is designed well, consistency across all these elements is easy to maintain. The key is to start with the core elements. When a brand’s typography, logo, and colour selections complement one another, they can be implemented across the iconography, illustrations, visualizations, and other design elements used in customer-facing communications.

Best Practices for Building a Brand Identity Package

As mentioned above, the key is to start with the core elements. Using colour theory to identify the colours that match a brand’s attitude by learning about the emotional and cultural cues colours incorporate is a great place to start. Ideally, colour choices should be simple, with no more than two or three main colours representing the brand. To add nuance and depth, brands can incorporate tints and shades, lightening and darkening their identity colours to develop depth and nuance to visual designs. This is especially important in complex visual presentations like infographics and web pages.

Typography works on a similar principle. The font and typeface options should communicate the core emotional characteristics of the brand, and they should also remain legible and distinct. Often, changing typeface on a common font works better for distinguishing it in a customer’s mind than choosing an uncommon one would. It’s also important to avoid using too many fonts. Limit the brand identity design to two fonts or less, and make sure that fonts contrast and complement each other. One way to easily accomplish this is by selecting one serif and one sans serif font.

The colour and typography selections are important when it comes time to design the logo for a brand. Often, both these elements dictate the logo. This is easy to see when considering major international brands like Coca-Cola, Google, and Disney, whose logos all revolve around the simplicity of combining those two elements and leaving graphics out. Logos that are entirely text tend to be complemented by clear iconography that includes a visual touchstone, like Coca-Cola’s distinct bottle design. Another approach is to design an icon for the brand and combine it with the name and typography, or to simply make the logo an icon, like Apple did.

After developing those core elements, deciding how they should be implemented across all customer-facing communications and media becomes a complex process of understanding the design needs of each individual medium and planning a consistent implementation of the visual branding choices behind the logo and iconography to those communications. Documenting these decisions is a matter of building a style guide.

What Is the Brand Style Guide?

Once a brand identity is constructed, a style guide is needed to ensure consistent implementation across the company. By developing a guide, branding teams ensure individual actors in various departments and roles make consistent branding choices. The style guide makes it possible for web designers, illustrators, advertising contractors, and other creative professionals to adhere to the brand’s identity when developing materials, so it establishes clear expectations that make it easier to develop and approve those materials.

Need assistance developing your brands identity? We’re your nearby experts; we can help.

A good style guide makes it easy to delegate the development of new marketing and communication materials, but it takes experience and a keen visual sense to build a brand’s best visual representation of itself. That’s why successful brands build their identities with the help of professionals like KKP. Fast. Local. Personal. For over 35 years KKP has been supplying a comprehensive range of high-quality print, design and sign services as well as marketing assistance to Canadian businesses. Why wait to get started when you could contact us today?