Symbolism is usually the first thing that comes to the mind when people think about the brand’s visual identity — eg., the swoosh, red cross, golden arches, and chewed apple. It’s also just one small piece of the picture. And while memories of a brand are driven by the quality of a product or service, the quality is frequently being backed up by a range of designed elements that are relevant to what’s offered.
Brand identity is tangible and appeals to the senses. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move. Brand identity fuels recognition, increases differentiation and makes big ideas and meaning attainable. Brand identity takes various elements and unifies them into whole systems.
“Design plays an essential role in creating and building brands. Design differentiates and embodies the intangibles–emotion, context, and essence — that matter most to consumers.” Moira Cullen — Senior Director, Global Design The Hershey Company
We’ve all heard that on an average day consumers are exposed to 6,000 advertisements and each year to more than 25,000 new products. Thankfully brands help consumers cut through the increase of choices available in every product and service category.
My process of designing brand identity in 4 parts:
Discovery & Research — Together with client we run collaborative workshop sessions where we gain a deep understanding of the business and users that will help develop successful brand experience. This approach accelerates the strategic process and brings clarity throughout the entire project.
Developing Brand Strategy — All the information gathered during the workshop is synthesized. After achieving agreement about what’s been done already we develop a brand statement, key messages, brainstorm THE BIG IDEA, write a creative brief and visualize the future using mood boards. The verbal side of a brand is as much important as the visual.
Designing Visual Identity — My design process always starts with designing a logo. After a few weeks of intense explorations, I choose two concepts that work the best and move on to designing brand identity, exploring applications, finalizing brand architecture and then presenting the visual strategy to a client. After achieving agreement at this stage we move forward.
Finalizing the design — After the chosen route has been refined, we do the due diligence to assure that any designed symbols don’t infringe upon existing copyrights. If everything is fine, we move onto the guidelines phase. The guidelines are there for two reasons — consistency & creativity. Consistency is about showing the core toolkit elements such as logo, color codes, fonts, whereas creativity is about showing how those elements come together, how they’re used.
Reasons to invest in brand identity
- Make it easy for the customer to buy. Compelling brand identity presents any company, any size, anywhere with an immediately recognizable, distinctive professional image that positions it for success. An identity helps manage the perception of a company and differentiates it from its competitors. A smart design system conveys respect and delights the customer by making it easy to understand features & benefits. It creates loyalty and most important — builds trust.
- Make it easy for the sales team to sell. Whether it is the CEO of a global conglomerate communicating a new vision to the board, a first-time entrepreneur pitching to venture capital firms or a financial advisor creating a need for investment products, everyone is selling. Strategic brand identity works across diverse audiences and cultures to build awareness and understanding of a company and its strengths. An effective identity seeks to clearly communicate a company’s unique value proposition. The consistency of communications across various media sends a strong, trustworthy signal to the customer about the laser-like focus of a company.
- Make it easy to build brand equity. The goal of all public companies is to increase shareholder value. A brand or a company’s reputation is known to be one of the most valuable company assets. Small companies and nonprofits also need to build brand equity. Their future success depends on building public awareness, defending their reputations and sustaining their value. Strong brand identity will help build brand equity through increased recognition, awareness and customer loyalty, which in return helps make a company more successful. Managers who take every opportunity to communicate their company’s brand value and what the brand stands for — they are building a precious asset.
How long will it take?
Every business has a sense of urgency, regardless of the size and nature of the company. There are no shortcuts to the process, and reducing steps may be harmful to achieving long-term goals. Developing an effective and sustainable identity takes time. Every project is unique, so there is no universal answer about how long it would take. From my personal experience working with SME’s, brand identity development takes somewhere between 2–3 months. However a rebrand of a big corporation could take up to a year to complete.
Measuring the impact
Brand identity systems are a long-term investment of time, human resources, and capital. Each positive experience with a brand helps build its brand equity and increases the possibility of repeat purchasing and lifelong customer relationships. A return on investment is achieved through making it easier for the sales team to sell and more appealing for the customer to buy. Clarity about the brand drive success.
Decision-makers frequently ask, “Why should we make this investment? Can you prove to me that it has a return?”. It’s difficult to quantify the impact of a new logo, a better brand architecture or an integrated marketing communications system. Companies must develop their own measures of success.
Those who don’t expect instant results and think in the cumulative long term, understand the real value of incremental change and focus.