Brand Design

Creating the right brand design for your business.

Why do businesses need a brand?

As businesses realise that they need to use every tool in the box to get a competitive edge, more and more are realising the importance that brand design plays in capturing the attention of their customers and would-be customers. Increasingly small and medium size enterprises are coming to realise the advantages they achieve through good brand design and applying it across all aspects of their business; it isn’t just the big players who are involved.

The process of brand design

We’ll look at some of the basics and processes we go through when developing a brand design for a client. Depending on a number of factors, the steps that follow will be applied to the process in differing amounts.

For most businesses this process of brand design and how far the client wants to take it is typically a budget led process. If you’re a small business looking to lift your offering or a new business getting to market the first time then the following applies in some shape or form if you want your business to reach its potential.

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WHAT IS BRAND DESIGN?

Brand design is considered by many to simply be the application of a company or product logo.

Official Description

The ‘official’ description as given by businessdictionary.com is “Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind. Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefits and value.

The reality is more complex and typically the bigger the brand is, the more complex the components. These are sometimes almost intangible elements that might include the language and phrasing that is used to communicate. Simple decisions like never using jargon. Or more complex, like a fondness of the present subjunctive over the imperative.

Why is brand design important?

Brand design can be very simple in its simplest form or complex in its most studied form – but it is always important. We’ve all heard stories of a business making an ill-conceived comment in the media and wiping millions off their value. This happens when they drop their guard on their brand.

Designing and building a great brand involves a number of stages that we look at below.

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BRAND PERSONALITY

Business/product perception

The first things you might consider are, what are your businesses goals and how do you want the personality of your business or product to be perceived? This clearly isn’t something that we as designers can decide as part of the brand design process. It is something that the business needs to explore, with or without our help and tell us. It will form part of a detailed brief.

Defined objective

We help with defining these things through client meetings, questions and research. That’s why a great looking brand can be achieved without any of this but wether it is right for the business or the market is another matter. Working without a clearly defined objective would be like a car salesman guessing the colour their customer wants. It may look great but probably not right for the customer.

Giving guidance

Unless a client has a marketing person/department who is familiar with the brand design process, then we as designers can’t expect them to come to us prepared with all the answers. In this case we guide them through the process to explore the options, reveal the answers and develop the brief. Once that is done the real work begins. We learn as much as possible about the business, use research and the brief and start the brand design process.

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BRAND POSITIONING

Positioning the brand in broad market place is a key to the success of your brand. In simple terms it is how your brand projects itself into the minds of the customer base. It may sound simple but a whole host of things must be given consideration. You want your brand to stand out – but it has to stand out for the right reasons and say the right things.

So how do you position your brand?

There are three basics to consider. First your capabilities as a business and the direction you’re taking it. Don’t project an offering that you can’t fulfil. Then think about your competition. What you do as a business doesn’t necessarily have to be different to them. It needs to position itself better than your competitors. Finally, you’ll hit the mark with the customers by what you offer and the way it’s positioned.

Understanding your customers

Of course there are a great number of things to look at, particularly when it comes to hitting the mark with the customers.

Understanding your customers and prospective customers is an important part of the process. This often comes down in part to judgement but can be more clearly defined with suitable research. Are you high end or bargain basement? Mass market or niche? Local, national or international? Impulse purchase or considered investment? The better our understanding of your customers and what they want or expect, the better will be your brand positioning.

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BRAND EXPERIENCE

You may hear the term ‘brand experience’.

What is this and what does it mean?

It’s how a customer is affected by all the elements that go to make up the brand. The list is extensive and includes things that don’t come straight to mind. 

Website visuals and customer interface are obvious – Is it simple to use or does it appear over-complex. Packaging – Strong, effective and instil confidence or flimsy and minimal. Communications – Do they make the customer feel important at every stage. Are they accessible, reliable and plain talking. Social media – Is it relevant, upbeat, general or gossipy. 

Every aspect of your external and internal communications can shape your brand and form part of the brand experience. The affect that this experience has on your customers will help grab new customers. It will also help existing customers become loyal to your business and even better to become ambassadors for your brand.

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BRAND VOICE

Your company’s brand voice is an important element of the brand experience. It comes naturally to most people that it is important to speak and communicate with your customers with respect and in an interested way. Using the right brand voice in you company communications is all part of projecting emotion and personality into your brand.

Think of it in terms of speaking with a friend. If their personality was to change frequently, you’d worry that they may be going through some sort of crisis. Well the same can be true for your business. A consistent brand voice helps give the outward impression of a strong and stable business. Similarly using the right tone when speaking with customers makes them feel important.

The following is quoted from the Mailchimp’s public facing Content Style Guide and is a great example of this successful company’s inward view of their outward projection.

” 1. We are plainspoken.

By understanding the world our customers are living in: one muddled by hyperbolic language, upsells, and over-promises. We strip all that away and value clarity above all. Because businesses come to Mailchimp to get to work, we avoid distractions like fluffy metaphors and cheap plays to emotion.


2. We are genuine.

We get small businesses because we were one not too long ago. That means we relate to customers’ challenges and passions and speak to them in a familiar, warm, and accessible way.


3. We are translators.

Only experts can make what’s difficult look easy, and it’s our job to demystify B2B-speak and actually educate.


4. Our humor is dry.

Our sense of humor is straight-faced, subtle, and a touch eccentric. We’re weird but not inappropriate, smart but not snobbish. We prefer winking to shouting. We’re never condescending or exclusive—we always bring our customers in on the joke.”

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RESEARCH

Research conducted by designers

We do research on every level. At the lower end of the spectrum, research is done by the designers. They study the market and review the competition. With an insight into the market and competition, and armed with a suitable brief, the designer will be able to start the process of brand design.

Research conducted by specialists

At the other end of the scale is full market research. Specialist companies carry this out using a variety of techniques. These range from door-to-door, on street, focus groups, email research, tele-research and conversations with current and past clients. This research may explore any number of things that are pertinent to the business and the brand, from colours to key words and approach.

To prevent biassed or jaundiced answers, questions have to be carefully considered. Research analysis is presented as part of the brief. It provides an agreed foundation for the logo design and brand design development.

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THE LOGO

We’ve written a whole section on the logo design but as it is such an intrinsic part of Brand design (and the reason most people come to us for their brand-based requests), then we should cover some basics.

Initial Ideas and Sketching

It is a rare thing to see someone put pen to paper in this digital age. Getting initial thoughts and ideas down in sketches still remains an essential part of the logo design process. Sketching allows us to creatively generate concept ideas quickly and review them.

Review

A review of ideas among the team will decide on the best direction for the logo. We then develop and refine the logo designs we feel are most suitable, we turn them into computer drawn artworks using design software.

Presentation

Once we are happy that the logo designs are of a suitable quality we prepare a presentation to illustrate the options to the client. We believe that simply showing a logo design on a blank sheet of paper can make it difficult for a client to visualise the logo working for them. What we do, is show the client the design alternatives working in simulated real-life situations. By illustrating the logos in this way the client has a much better understanding of how the logo will work as part of the overall brand design. This gives the client confidence in the designs and makes the selection and development process simpler for everyone.

Holistic Approach

When creating brand design for a client we like to look at every aspect of the brand design holistically. This creates a far more harmonious brand design than designing a logo in isolation and then working in other elements around it (as seems to be the norm). This holistic approach results in a logo design and a number of other elements that go to make up the brand collateral.

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BRAND IDENTITY

Brand Collateral

The brand collateral is the package that includes all of the elements defined and produced through the brand design process. Top of the list and usually foremost on the minds of our clients is the logo. It is the single most identifiable element of the brand and is usually the key stone. A logo may be different parts. Typically the logotype and a symbol. These may be used as a single element or in some cases may be used independently of each other.

Brand Mascot

There are instances however when the logo per se is not the most immediately recognisable element of the brand. There are brands where the brand mascot may be the key identifier; examples of this are Churchill Insurance (The Churchill dog) and Compare the Market (Meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei). These mascots effectively become your brand representative and make a connection between your business or product and the customer. 

Other elements that may make up the package of brand collateral are colour palette. This may be one colour or a whole range of colours. It could also be strap line artworks if appropriate, images that may be pictorial or graphical, typefaces, type sizes and patterns.

Brand Guidelines

These are usually accompanied with a Brand Book – or for smaller projects, Logo use guidelines. These guide those involved with preparing visual materials and artworks. They help them to prepare artwork that is cohesive and consistent across all the businesses published materials. It will also instruct on correct use of colour and maybe even paper types (see the section on Design for print).

An important part for the maintenance and development of a successful brand, is allowing suppliers access to existing ‘brand correct’ materials. These will provide the designer with living examples of the brand style because they have already been published. This, as a result, further ensures consistency within the brand design.

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