How to Build a Great Corporate Identity Design
What is brand identity? Is it your logo? Your colour palette?
It’s all that and more.
- What is Corporate Identity?
- How to Build it?
- Brand Strategy
- What Makes it Great
- Do Your Research
- Identify Your Competition
- Take a Look at Your Existing Brand
- Build Your Identity
- Design System
What is Corporate Identity?
Brand identity can be defined as the external expression of a brand, including its trademark, name, communications, and visual appearance. Therefore, it should be a sum of the appearance, feel and communication of your brand. Sometimes it even includes how it sounds, tastes, feels and even smells.
Essentially, this is a way of communicating with the world, distinguishing yourself from your competition and creating a brand experience that encourages people to engage with you. As Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room“.
How to Build It?
We have developed this step-by-step guide to building a brand identity.
If your brand is in its early stages or preparing to rebrand and is not sure where to start, follow these tips to move through the process and build a stronger brand identity that will make you successful.
You should define your brand identity so it will help you understand the best brand strategy, with a detailed plan of what you’re trying to achieve and how. Brand identity and content strategy help you communicate in ways that allow you to actually achieve these objectives.
Even before you nosedive into your brand identity, a fully fleshed out strategy is crucial. As we go through our creative process, we will cover some elements of brand strategy, but in this post, we will concentrate mostly on the process of designing your brand identity.
To be successful, it is important to complete your strategy and understand the core values, brand voice and brand messaging architecture of your brand (positioning, value prop, tagline and brand stories), as your visual design works alongside these elements.
If your brand strategy is not documented, you must start one as soon as possible. You can focus on brand identity once you have documented your brand strategy.
What Makes It Great
A logo and a palette of colours alone do not create a brand identity. You must also create a comprehensive visual language when designing your identity, which could be applied to everything from your website to your product packaging.
The following depends on your brand’s needs, however, a basic brand identity includes:
- Design System
- Data visualization
- Interactive elements
- Video and motion
- Web design
That said, just because these elements are designed doesn’t mean they are effective. For everyone, your internal team and the people who interact with it, a strong brand identity must work.
As you embark on the design process, make sure your brand identity is:
- Scalable and flexible
- Easy to apply
If any of these elements are missing, your brand team will find it difficult to do their job well.
Do Your Research
When you begin a branding project, you want to approach each phase from a philosophical and highly critical standpoint – inspect, poke, and prod until you get to the core of your brand. Only once you have that intimate knowledge can you translate it into a visual language.
That means doing a fair amount of research before diving into the design. Yes, this is hands-down the most laborious stage. But it is crucial to build the foundation upon which your visual language will stand. Here, your goal is to gather as much information as you can about who you’re trying to communicate with, who your competition is, and where your brand currently stands.
Identify Your Competition
Building a brand identity is all about differentiation: making your brand visible, relevant, and unique. However, without a firm understanding of your competitive landscape, it’s easy to blend in. Thus, it’s crucial to understand not just who your competition is but how your brand compares, in perception and presentation.
To get a snapshot of the competition, do a thorough competitive analysis. If you haven’t done one before, here’s a guide to do it. You can also make a copy of this template to help you document everything.
As you move through the process, pay special attention to how your competitors present themselves in terms of common visual elements, trends, industry-specific visual themes, brand personalities, etc.
For example, we once did competitive research for a brand and found that all of their competitors used the exact same four colours. This isn’t uncommon, as many industries tend to gravitate toward the same visual elements (think Netflix and YouTube’s red colour), but it revealed a great opportunity to differentiate.
Take a Look at Your Existing Brand
Whether you’re building your brand identity entirely from scratch or updating a stale identity, you still need a full assessment of:
- The current state of your brand’s identity
- How that brand identity might be crafted or tweaked to align with your goals going forward
The goal is to understand how your brand is perceived, both internally and externally. Getting an honest and accurate reflection is the only way to understand how and where you’re succeeding or how you need to course correct.
This stage requires a fair amount of research, including conversations and surveys with:
- For your internal team, you should distribute a brand audit survey. This survey should be a deep dive into every aspect of your brand, from your values and personality to logo and positioning. Again, this is why having a brand strategy is so important.
Once you’ve completed your survey, you can use that info to inform your creative brief.
Things to include in your brief:
- Why are you rebranding?
- Who they are, how this may have changed over the years
- Current customers, ideal new customers
- Brand perception
- Brand goal
- Primary message
- Value proposition
- Success metrics
- Important insights from past experiences
- Relevant references or inspiration
Once you have a comprehensive and intimate understanding of your brand, it’s time to move into design.
Build Your Identity
At this point, you have a ton of information, including your competitive analysis, customer feedback, brand audit survey, and brief. Therefore, you’ll need to take that text-based information and translate it into visual concepts. Now you will be challenged to figure out how to communicate those feelings visually.
Put your team together to brainstorm word clouds. The focus is not on associating words with other words, the idea is to bring these to life. Then, you will select specific elements which trigger the strongest emotions, images and help you build a visual aspect to your brand.
A brand identity is an intricate design system. Each element influences the other, but it starts with your logo. You can go old-school here and bust out the pencils to free-sketch. As you go through iterations, flesh out logo mark, core shapes, and complementary imagery, all in black and white. As you receive feedback and iterate, you want to make sure that the core imagery is powerful enough to deliver the message on its own, without the enhancement of colour
Image 2 – Spotify’s Logo
Once you have solid visual imagery, you should explore how colour affects our emotions.
A good colour palette is clean and flexible, supplying designers enough choices to be creative but not enough to overwhelm. This includes:
- 1 main colour
- 2 primary colours
- 3-5 complementary colours
- 2 accent colours
Every phase has its challenges, but typography can be tricky in a visual language. Brands often follow trends which become dated or unoriginal. Don’t forget, that your brand identity should be a cohesive language.
Typography should be informed by the shapes of your logo. You’d think it’s a simple choice, but typography is just as emotional as anything else. Limit the number of font families to 2-3. This generally includes a primary brand typeface, then secondary typeface(s) for specific purposes based on where it will be used, such as a body copy typeface, UI typeface, etc.
Brands think that because they have their logo, colour, and fonts they can slap them together any which way. Brand identity is all about introducing yourself to people, it’s important to make it an enjoyable experience. In information design, that means providing a truly consistent and cohesive presentation.
Objectively you’ll need to design an intuitive hierarchy and layout that makes it easy to navigate visual communication. Consider the proper order of content, including headers, subheaders, body copy, images, blurbs, etc.
Image 3 – Netflix’s Design System
This is often a weak point in visual languages. Brands think that because they have their logo, colour, and fonts they can slap them together any which way. Since brand identity is all about introducing yourself to people, it’s important to make it an enjoyable experience. In information design, that means providing a truly consistent and cohesive presentation.
You should aim to design an intuitive hierarchy and layout that makes it easy to navigate visual communication. Consider the proper order of content, including headers, subheaders, body copy, images, blurbs, etc.
Your brand may have unique communication needs, depending on your industry, content, etc. Make sure to also pay attention to:
- Interactive elements
- Motion graphics
- Web design
Build Your Brand Style Guide
The only thing more heartbreaking than a poorly designed brand identity is a beautifully designed identity that is never used or used incorrectly. A brand style guide is a saviour here if it’s crafted the right way.
Include clear, easy-to-follow guidelines for every part of the brand identity, including examples and use-cases. Also include practical detail, denoting as much information as needed to help your designer replicate the brand identity successfully. For more direction, follow our guide to creating a brand style guide people will actually use.
Once completed, make sure guidelines are distributed to the team, stored in an easy-to-access place, and regularly updated.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t have the resources to take on the project yourself, we’d love to chat about how to help you through the struggle.