Designing a knockout brand identity, should come after you first understand what a “brand” is, and how it’s slightly different from “brand identity” … so that we’re on the same page on some of these definitions. Seth Godin, the marketing guru, has a great definition of “brand”: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Notice how in this definition, the “brand” includes emotional, visual, historical, and human values, apart from its physical appearance and symbols. The real aggregated value of great Content Branding and Design is the “brand experience” that separates different brands in a world where quality is often more or less equal between competitors.
Deciding what kind of logo you want for your brand
“Brand identity” can be said to include that elements that make up the visible face of the brand. This would include logos, typography, colors, packaging and messaging. Brand identity both attracts new customers to a brand while also making existing customers feel at home. It’s very important that brand identity must be consistent, whichever form it is seen in, because it represents and reinforces the emotions associated with a brand.
There are four elements that you (or your brand identity designer) need to be careful about when undertaking the designing:
1. Your brand identity design should be pleasing and likeable. You may have seen experts asking you to envision your brand as a person. For example, ask yourself: “If my brand were a person, what kind of likeable person would he or she be?” You could go even further, and try this exercise. Ask yourself: “If my brand were a celebrity, which celebrity would he/she be?” This imagination of a person could be a good starting point for nailing down different visual cues of your brand’s personality in the brand identity design. Either way, see if this celebrity or personality behind the brand is not too quirky and is generally likeable to a lot of people.
Your brand has to appeal to large groups of target audiences, so an evenly likeable personality is a good angle to go with.
2. Make the brand logo memorable. Think of all the brands you remember because of their logo design. Your logo design is central to your brand identity design. It’s the part of your brand identity that people will be exposed to the most, so it needs to align and look at home with all the other elements of your brand identity, as well as the broader emotional attraction of your brand. For example, take a look at all these well-remembered logos:
Image courtesy: Hubspot Blog
When you look at some of these logos of very established brands, it makes you wonder if the logos are making the brand memorable, or the brand is making the logo memorable. Either way, that’s the kind of nice dilemma to have. Your logo has to become so intertwined with the brand, that it would be hard to dissociate the logo from the brand eventually. That’s the kind of design to aim for – one you can live with for eternity (almost!). Also notice how the most powerful logos are also the simplest designs.
3. Make sure the color palette you choose for your logo is based on good color psychology. Did you know that different colors have a different psychological effect on people of different genders, ages or even geographies. Red, for example, represents anger in some cultures, good omens in some other cultures, and is taboo for some people around the world. So there’s no one color that does the trick. But you have to think why the color blue seems to such a favorite with social media channels. For example, Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter favor blue for their logos, don’t they? If you want to know more about color psychology, charts like the one below may help. But ultimately it’s a sense of your own intuition of whether the colors you choose sit well with the qualities of the brand emotions you want to reflect.
Image courtesy: Visme
4. Typography should be treated as visuals rather than as text. Your fonts are seen as much as read. Many designers seem to get stressed out about finding just the right fonts, and you may wonder why all this fuss. But fonts are powerful.
The most famous fonts are recognizable even when taken out of context. Fonts are visual elements, just as much as they are textual elements. Try to go for a single primary typeface to lead your brand design, and make sure it looks good with your logo and your color palette. You should have a secondary typeface lined up that supplements the primary typeface, so that the logo font is not diluted by using it over and over for less important elements of your brand identity.
There’s just one rule for choosing the right typeface: keep it simple and unfussy. No curls and twirls, just simple clean lines. Think how it will look when it’s very big or very small. Something that can size up or down well, and look good in color or black-and-white is the perfect choice.
To check which typeface you like best, make sure you give them all a level playing field. Type the same text over and over and see it in different typefaces, all set to the same point-size … as in the example shown below. Only when you see them in the same sizes and with the same text can you really tell one from the other in its visual impact … or your choice may get skewed by the context in which the typeface is seen.
Should you design your own logo or hire a professional logo designer?
There are no questions about it. Because your logo is tremendously important, and something you have to live with for life, it’s worth every dollar you have to get it professionally designed. These free templates or quick DIY logo design offers online won’t pass muster. Worse still, don’t be tempted to take someone else’s logo and tinker with it a bit here and there to create your own version of it. That’s disaster.
If you’re not prepared to spend money on a professional logo designer, you’ll get the same cookie-cutter ideas as most average online brands and websites have … and you’ll know the real distinction between average and really good when you see a competitor pip you to the post with a slick professional logo! And then you’ll have the rest of your life to rue the decision you made to try cutting costs by designing it yourself.
There are very many professional designers you can approach, but there are some good practices to follow to find the right designer. First of all, know that there are a very specific class of designers who specialize in logos. So choose one of them instead of a general graphic designer. Secondly, make sure you ask these eight questions suggested by Liz Murphy in her article “8 Questions to Ask a Logo Designer You Want to Hire”:
- “Can You Provide Work Samples?”
- “Do You Have Any Testimonials?”
- “What Do You Need to Know About Me?”
- “How Much?”
- “What’s Included?”
- “What’s the Timeline?”
- “What’s the Process?”
- “Who Is the Project Manager and Point of Contact?”
The moral of the story is that the more you know and like the designer, the more you’ll like the design. Design is a very subjective thing. It’s a connection between two minds. You have to hit it off with the person who’s designing for you. That’s the most important step to getting on the right track with the design for your brand.
Why every brand needs a brand identity guidelines manual …
All good brands have a great style guide. Sometimes it’s as simple as creating a little informal booklet that catalogues the specific colors, type, logos, imagery, patterns, taglines, etc. of your brand, to make sure your brand is always represented consistently. Sometimes, brand guides are elaborate documents that are sacrosanct down to the last comma and full stop.
Either way, the objective of having a brand identity guidelines manual is to ensure that your brand has a set of “usage guidelines” to be followed by everyone who produces marketing materials for your business.
As a first step toward controlling the presentation of your logo, create high-quality artwork files and lay down stipulations that your logo must be reproduced only from these approved files. Besides requiring use of approved artwork, also control how your logo can appear by establishing usage guidelines in each of these areas:
State how your logo must appear as a single unit. Too often, you or your hired staff may get the creative urge to take liberties with your logo (like wanting to increase the size of one element and decreasing the size of another, or by moving elements into different positions to alter the shape of the logo in order to fit it into a tight space). Ban this license to fiddle with the logo, and make sure you have ready-to-use logo artworks in several allowable shape variations.
State the guidelines for placements of your logo. For example, define how your logo can appear in different communications and content pieces. Clarify exactly how much open space must exist between your logo and surrounding elements. Define how and where your logo should and should not be positioned. Define the smallest and largest size in which your logo can be allowed to appear.
State the color specifications for your logo using recognised color formats. In your guidelines, spell out the technical colors in which your logo can be reproduced. Web colors are colors used in displaying web pages, and the methods for describing and specifying those colors can be as an RGB triplet or in hexadecimal format (a hex triplet) These are all technical color shades represented in certain technical terms, so that the shades of color are consistent and highly accurate. A color tool or other graphics software is often used to generate such technical color values.
Follow good examples of recognized brands’ identity design manuals. Just to get an idea of how well articulated some brand guidelines manuals can be take this example of Urban Outfitters. The whole manual can be seen if you click here.
Image courtesy: Urban Outfitters
Knowing when, how and why to create a tagline
A tagline, sometimes also called a slogan or motto, is a phrase that accompanies your brand name to smartly and succinctly translate your positioning and brand statements into a few memorable words. These words must provide an indication of your brand offerings, promise, and market position. Great taglines have a number of common attributes. When creating your tagline, see that it meets these criteria that best-of-breed taglines have:
- Your tagline must be memorable. When you hear it, you should be able to remember it and repeat it with ease.
- Your tagline must be short. Great taglines have as few as eight or ten syllables, so that they’re quick to recite, easy to tuck below logos, and include in the briefest of communications.
- Your tagline must differentiate your brand. In fact, experts believe a great tagline must be so unique that it doesn’t sound okay when linked to a competitors brand name.
- Your tagline must reflect your brand’s identity, character, promise, and personality. It must also be believable and original.
Your tagline must add to the meaning of the brand name, without requiring to repeat any of the same words or concepts.
The question is often asked whether you need a tagline at all. The answer is that a tagline works for you when the brand logo isn’t always visible. For example, in audio communication like a podcast, the tagline can be verbalized as the representation of your brand (since the logo isn’t seen). Even otherwise, taglines that are pithy are well-remembered. They represent the brand’s “attitude”. There’s nothing to be gained by dropping the idea of a tagline. So if it can enhance your branding, why not have one?
As with brand logo design, it’s best to get a professional copywriter, if you can afford one, to give you a polished tagline. There’s also an online service from Taglineguru.com, if you want to give them a shot!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Branding & Design”:
- Designing A Solopreneur Website To Look Like A Million Bucks!
- What’s In A Brand Name? For Your Solopreneur Business, It’s Everything!