Last week I talked about the 3 most important aspects of your brand. This week we’re going to focus on just one of them, Brand Identity.
The goal for the creation of a brand identity, outside of bringing your brand’s personality to life, is to provide you with a set of brand elements that will work for you long-term, and enable you to brand any materials you need moving forward. What I want to do today is provide you with a basic understanding of the essentials, so that you can check it against what you’re currently working with—or what you’re planning to put in place if you don’t have a brand yet—to make sure you are as prepared as possible moving forward.
As I explained in last week’s post, your brand amounts to much much more than your logo. However, the term “brand identity” or “visual identity” can mean different things to different people. So today I’m going to give you an overview of what I consider to be the three essential visual elements all business owners need in their branding toolbox. They are:
This list is, clearly, not exhaustive. Depending on your business, your personal brand toolbox may include all sorts of things outside of these few essentials, but this is a great place to start. Every business needs to cover their bases with these three.
As you’ll see, I often refer to each of these elements as “systems,” because each one includes a number of moving parts that work together in various ways. Below is a breakdown of the three elements and what they often include. I’ll use my work for CB & Co. a branding project for a kosher restaurant in NYC, to illustrate my points.
Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand. It’s your brand’s primary identifier—one that not only declares your company’s name but also presents an image that implies the vision and values that your company represents. For some businesses, one main logo is all that is necessary, but in many instances, a collection of a few complementary logos can be really useful. Here’s what your logo system might look like:
- Primary logo: Your primary logo is you primary visual identifier. It includes your full company name and acts as the main logo used on all of your brand materials. This logo could exist as one static design, or a series of variations on the same design, to name a couple of options. As one example, your logo could exist as one logo design with multiple color variations.
- Secondary logo: A complementary logo that could be used alongside the primary logo, or in different circumstances. This can take many forms; for example, a monogram, a smaller illustration or graphic with the full company name, etc. Either way, the goal is for it to complement the primary logo.
- Additional logos: Sometimes a brand lends itself to a broader system of logos depending on the specific personality as well as the business’s specific circumstances around where, when and how often their brand will be seen.
- Favicon: In case you’re not aware, a favicon is the little icon you see in the tab of your web browser. It helps your site be easily identified when someone has multiple tabs open. A little detail that goes a long way.
2. Color Palette
Color is super important for evoking the personality of your brand, and consistency with color across all of your brand platforms will translate to consistency of the emotion projected to your audience. To maximize the potential of your brand to create an emotional response, your color palette should cover these bases:
- Signature color: Your brand should have a signature color, or set of colors that are used consistently across the board.
- Highlight: It’s best to have one highlight color in your palette that provides contrast. This is especially helpful online, when you need a color to signify links and draw attention to specific action steps for your audience.
- Neutrals: Having both a light and dark neutral will come in handy in all sorts of situations. They can simply be black and white, or something more unique.
- Print and web: You should have a set of color swatches that will work in both print and online applications. The makeup of the colors used for each medium are different, so having a set of specific colors that work for each is a definite must. Even if you have no plans of printing anything any time soon, it’s great to have them available so you don’t have to scramble if something comes up.
Your typography system is especially important for two reasons: 1) its contribution to your brand’s overall look and feel, and 2) its direct relationship to the quality and ease of your brand’s communication. To ensure you’re addressing both, your typography system should include the following:
- Running text: Make sure your system includes a typeface that works for running text, like blog posts, a brochure or your About Page content.
- Headline typography: Make sure your system includes a typeface that works well for attention-grabbing headlines. This can be the same typeface used for your text as long as their are different weights available to create contrast and maximize readability.
- Accent typography: While not entirely essential, including an accent typeface in your system to be used for special circumstances will help to add interest and contrast to your brand.
- Flexibility: An important thing to keep in mind is that the typefaces you choose should have enough variety to them to accommodate all of your content. The degree of flexibility you need will depend on your specific business and the content it requires, but choosing typefaces with a decent amount of weights and styles will provide you with a solid foundation.
- Print and web capability: Since you will likely be needing materials seen both in person and online, it’s important to choose typefaces that are available in both formats, or at least compliment each across media.
Beyond the Essentials
The basics I’ve covered with the three essential elements are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more details involved in each, which I promise I’ll go into more detail on in future posts.
Additionally, your brand will likely include many elements beyond just these three. Most brands that I create do. To give you a brief overview, your brand could also include a mix of supporting graphic elements including, but not limited to:
- Linework or frames
If you’re using some of these already, great. If not, don’t worry, not all brands need additional elements. But they are fun to explore if you have the time and space.
Have a brand already? Download this handy checklist and use it to evaluate what brand elements you currently have available to you. Notice and highlight the gaps, so that you can take action to fill them in.
No brand yet? Use this checklist as your guide while you embark on the brand development process. It can be used to frame conversations between you and your designer or lead you through the process yourself.
Either way, it will help to narrow down what is truly essential so you can start taking action and get your brand out into the world.