A business owner once said to me:
“I thought my logo was my identity was my brand. What’s the difference and why should I care?”
It turns out, my reply surprised them. So I decided to write a few blog posts on the terms to hopefully enlighten more business owners who are just starting out or have been at it a few years and are thinking of repositioning.
In my previous post I discussed the finer points of logos. In this post, I’ll break down brand identity. In my next post, I’ll talk about the more nebulous and often misinterpreted concept of brand and branding. For each, I’ll show examples of projects I’ve completed for my clients, to help reinforce my points. Let’s get started!
An Identity is more than
the sum of its parts.
A business’s (or brand’s) visual identity is a system of interconnected parts with a common structure and function. Logos, color, fonts, and messaging work in unison to identify a business in the marketplace, in contrast to its competitors. When developed correctly, a visual identity projects a professional, confident, and cohesive appearance.
In design terms, this positive outcome is called “gestalt”–a German word for an organized whole that is greater (or other than) the sum of its parts. Having only one part, such as a logo, is not considered an identity. Similarly, a single melody does not make a song.
Core Identity Parts:
Simplified version of a logo that may use letterforms, but never words. Think of them as a logo’s relative, only refined for smaller spaces.
Color is all about emotion. What hues and values truly represent the business’s personality and point of view.
Words are clearly about communication. But the typefaces words are set in are also a very important consideration, because style, like color, evokes emotion. Choosing a font that’s in harmony with other identity elements and the message it’s conveying, makes reading it much more meaningful and cohesive.
Extended Identity Parts:
The name of your business or product is really the beginning; the foundation of your foundation. It sets the tone for everything you say and do. A name that’s simple, accurate, appropriate, and accessible is critical to forming a memorable and lasting impression. But just like a visual identity, there are rules and principles to follow when choosing the right one. And unfortunately, gut instinct isn’t one of them.
It’s hard to have a conversation if you don’t know who you’re talking to, or if you’re just talking to everyone and hoping anyone will listen. So what you say, how you say it, and who you say it to, matters a great deal in creating an effective and sustainable message.
Having an online presence for your business is almost as important as having air to breath these days. And technology changes quickly, so staying up to date on the latest web accessibility standards, and remaining relevant by providing authentic, rich content is critical for growing your brand.
While most communication is digital these days, businesses still need to identify themselves through printed materials. And those touchpoints need to show consistency–from annual reports to vehicle wraps, a unified look is key.
A product on a shelf needs to speak clearly and loudly, contrasting as much as possible against the mob of competitors. At the same time, retaining a cohesive look in order to create trust and memorability.
Interior and exterior signs, event and store displays, wayfinding graphics, etc. They all play a huge roll in adding consistency and clarity to a visual identity.
There’s no better place to apply your identity than to a walking, talking billboard.
“A WonderLab of Creative Possibilities”
A visual identity
is the figurative soul
of a business.
Figuratively, a visual identity is the essence of a brand; like the groove of a song, it is the driving force that makes it genuine and real. Developed and nurtured correctly, a cohesive identity grabs attention, builds trust, and sustains itself for the long haul. Unfortunately, not all songs have groove, and surely not every identity has a soul.
A style needs a guide.
The mark of any effective visual identity is a clear and thorough style guide. It’s impossible to predict every situation, brand execution, or implementation. So for those held with the responsibility of accurately promoting your business, it’s most helpful having a manual full of guidelines, rules, and tips to help clarify and communicate values, vision, and correct usage of all visual elements.
So, what are you made of?
Gasoline and grit or cinnamon and spice? Whatever characteristics you identify with, it’s critical for every business to genuinely understand who they are–for themselves, for their customers, and for the success of their business.
So now that you have a better understanding of brand identity (and logos), stay tuned for my next post where I’ll discuss those nebulous concepts of brand and branding.
Does your business need a visual identity?
If so, let’s talk. I can help.