Brand identities (also known as corporate identity) are essential, but they often evolve, so how do you improve further?
Your brand identity is the document that holds the elements of a brand together; without one, design and creativity become a mish-mash of styles created by different designers for different projects.
This can cause issues with the effectiveness of your branding and brand awareness.
Why is brand awareness important?
If your brand looks different every time someone engages with it it can cause issues with brand trust, brand equity and brand recall, so the importance of brand identity is to avoid these things.
Your brand identity should ideally also be linked to your positioning strategy in marketing messages and materials – things like your vision, mission and values statement and your brand positioning should ideally be done before any creative work takes place.
This can often be the first step in improving your brand identity because creativity alone will not cut it; you also need the thinking behind it.
How does your brand identity affect awareness and equity?
As mentioned above, solid brand guidelines will improve your overall branding.
Brand awareness examples (also known as brand equity examples) include things like:
- Customers have an understanding and knowledge of what your business (brand) is known for
- Someone knowing in advance about what they can expect from your marketing before they see it
- People are willing to buy from you, even if your product is more expensive
If you can achieve things like the above, your brand identity strengthens your awareness and equity.
If you have a current brand identity document that doesn’t quite work for where your business is now and where it will be, follow these tips to get it right from the get-go.
Brand identity design services will help you ensure that everything is in place and all the bases are covered.
How to improve your brand identity:
- Review what you currently have.
- Identify the stuff that needs looking at.
- Is this an evolution or a revolution?
- Decide what needs work and what doesn’t.
- Plan the work and budget for it.
- Get started on the improvements.
- Roll it out.
- Tie it all down.
- Manage it all moving forward
- Build in room for future improvements.
- So what is a brand identity designer, and how can they help you improve your brand identity?
- How we can help you improve your Brand Identity?
If an agency tells you to throw everything away and start again, you should be wary.
Whatever state your brand identity is currently in, there will be some equity to carry forward.
A review of your current brand identity and all your marketing collateral is a great place to start.
You can also explore other branding design examples at this stage and brand identity systems to get some idea of where you want to be (do you want to reflect entrepreneurship, experience, knowledge, enterprise and so on).
This brand identity graphic design review should include things like:
- Your logo
- Marketing collateral
- Sales collateral
- Social media
Gathering all these materials together will give you (and us) an overview of where you are now and help us plan where we can help you get there.
Your brand identity agency should never proceed with any new work without reviewing what you currently have.
There should also be a series of questions about what works and want does not; this understanding is crucial to avoiding previous mistakes and issues.
Brand identities are a complex mix of creativity, images and copy – you may find that what you consider the worst ‘design’ connects best with your audience due to what it says rather than looks like.
You should also ensure that your brand identity covers the 7 brand elements considered important for all brands (and not all of these are creative):
- You should be purpose-driven
- You need to be unique
- Know and understand your target market
- Consistent communication and on-brand creative at all times
- Authentic and believable
- Strong – being able to deal with negative feedback
- Visually powerful – memorable creative work
Once a review of everything has been completed, there will be a list of to-dos.
These will be in the form of:
- Stuff that works but needs to be redesigned
- Stuff that doesn’t work that needs to be reconsidered
- Stuff that isn’t there at all that needs to be created
Once we have this list, we have a clear path to improvement that we can address.
We use the word ‘stuff’ here as we don’t know at this stage what anything is; it could be your advertisement design through to your website – it’s an open book.
Once you have identified everything that needs to be considered, this can be mapped out into a corporate identity template to act as a roadmap for the work.
Improving some brand identities requires little work as much has already been done, whilst others need more of an overhaul.
Your research and collection of all your ‘stuff’ should guide you as to which direction is best for you: some small tweaks and additions or something more radical.
There is no brand equity formula to fall back on here – every brand is different, so be wary if your branding agency seems to be running you through a process that does not seem right for you wat this stage (for example, pushing a revolution when all you want is an evolution).
Rome was not built in a day. Likewise, it’s unlikely that things will be a quick fix.
Depending on your industry, you may need to change many things, which takes time.
Planning the rollout or application of your brand identity comes down as much to budgets as it does to the need to do so.
It’s fine to look at other brand identity design examples. Still, you need to be mindful that these other companies have different drivers and budgets, so creating a brand identity design template based on what others have done will not work.
Important things first, things you can live with over time can be done over time.
As per the previous point, you do not have to do everything at once regarding brand management and applying your brand guidelines.
Depending on what you do and where your business is on its journey will often form the basis of the planning and budgets:
- If you are a small agile start-up, it’s easier to make big decisions
- An established business with a single office and mainly online marketing can roll out a new identity relatively easily
- A large retailer will have to be more considered due to the amount of work involved in planning and roll-out
- A global brand will need years to plan and implement the work
As we have already mentioned, you need to get the strategy in place first.
Once complete, the logo is usually the best place to start (if it needs work).
Following this, digital assets like your website, PPT slides, digital documents and anything not printed make a sensible place to start as this can be rolled out without the expense of printing things.
We use stylescapes here at Toast for the first stage of any brand identity template. They are a quick and cost-effective way of producing lots of ideas and can show you dramatically different directions without burning through the project budget.
Experienced branding designers prefer to work this way as the creative process is freed-up, and they are not looking for a final design, just to establish a direction.
Corporate identity design should start with sketches and loose concepts, so don’t use an agency that presents three polished ideas and asks you to pick the one you hate the least.
The most important brand identity elements to be designed are:
- Your logo design
- Fonts and colours
- Your website
- Layout grids
- Social media channels
- Marketing and Sales materials
You can work through these in order once the creative direction has been established.
Designing a visual identity is not about designing every element you need. It’s about planning how these things will look and providing guidelines for other designers when they work on your brand.
The basics of brand identity include the items listed above and some of these should be set in your brand identity design book.
This should be covered in your brand identity as it is one of the most important brand elements. Your style guide should include all versions of your logo, how it can be used, how it is not used and should have clear instructions for anyone who plans to use or work with your logo.
Fonts and colours.
Again, these should be completely locked down in your brand guidelines. You do not want anyone using colours other than those specified, so they should all be included. We often produce a main, secondary and tertiary colour palette for clients that covers a range of colours.
You can also specify how these colours should be used across various collateral and which colours should go together.
Fonts are a little more complicated as certain fonts need to be licenced for desktop and website use. We see a lot of identities that make no provision for an accessible font (such as a Google Font). This means that everyone that uses a licenced font needs to have a font licence, and this can get complicated. Complication then leads to people using their own choice of font that they can freely install on their laptop.
The best way to manage fonts is to choose the main font that can be freely downloaded and used without a licence.
If this is not possible, provision should be made in the brand guidelines for the main font and alternative fonts if that main font is not available.
There’s no need to use standard system fonts like Arial or Times anymore as there are 100s of Google (et al.) fonts freely available.
Most brand guideline documents have an overview of what the website should look like. Rather than trying to design the whole thing, the guidelines should contain visual designs for the homepage and a few other pages.
The main reason for this is often that brand design experts may not be UX design experts, so they leave the fine-tuning of the website to those designers skilled in UX and just give the creative some direction.
This is often the part of the brand guidelines that are left most open to interpretation for the designers actually working on these materials.
Your brand guidelines should contain layout options, not final designs.
This allows for some creative freedom when you have different layouts designed. So a Slidedeck and a brochure will follow the grid system but can look different but on brand at the same time.
Typically grid layout templates take in things like headings, subheads, crossheads, layout columns, cover pages etc. They may also include some guidance on using images, icons and other elements.
Layout grids are flexible as there is no way your brand guidelines can cover every layout requirement.
Other design elements.
For other design work, such as social media design, and adverts, there is usually some guidance in the brand book – to what extent is generally down to how much you want everything locked down and the budget you have for creating this.
There are 100s of things that will be designed as part of your marketing campaigns, so here again, it is not always possible to define exactly what these elements should look like – but there should be guides for designers to follow.
Now that everything is designed, it’s time to bring it all together in your Corporate Identity PDF (they are seldom printed nowadays).
Some brands, like Google, publish these online to be accessible to all; other brands fiercely guard their documents.
This brand identity design PDF should cover all of the elements listed above (subject to your budget) and then becomes the document you share with any designers or suppliers working with you to produce collateral.
Improving your brand identity can be something that evolves.
Trends and markets change, so this should not be something that you set and forget, but having said this, it shouldn’t require a complete update every year.
Different types of businesses all have different types of corporate identity, so how you create and develop yours will depend on your product or service.
If you are in the FMCG sector, you may need to update your identity more often.
So how do you create a brand identity that is future-proof? The answer is that you can’t really if external factors influence your brand.
How you manage it moving forward effectively is to make it flexible and ensure easy brand application. This way, updates should be more accessible, take less time, and cost less.
We talk more about this below.
Nothing stays the same forever, and this includes your branding. Top tips for brand identity include future proofing it as much as possible, so how do you do this?
The first stage in this goes right back to the Vision, Mission and Values, and the positioning we talked about at the start of this article.
These aspects of your brand need to be solid from day one.
Trends and people change, but your brand should aim to stay true to its brand promise irrespective of how external factors change over time.
A significant change in positioning will simply mean an equally significant change in your corporate identity examples. The purpose of brand identity is tied in with your VMV and positioning so if one changes, so do the others.
Future-proofing and protecting the importance of brand image is what you are looking for here and a lot of the work we do here at Toast is about improving current brand guidelines.
Trends and styles in design change, but there are the classic elements of brand identity guidelines that are formed by the fundamentals of good design.
There are tens of thousands of fonts, but most designers only use a handful, and there is a good reason why; they are simply the best ones. Classic fonts like Helvetica, Futura, Bodoni and so on have stood the test of time very well – are you risking the future-proofing of your visual branding by choosing some random font on a whim?
Best Practice layout.
Grids exist in design for a reason. There are fundamental principles around a layout that have existed for decades. Heeding these will help to avoid significant changes to the basic elements of branding over time.
These rules are also designed to be broken, so you can go off-piste if your brand and audience require it, but it should still be based on a best-practice grid system.
A brand identity designer with experience will know this and help steer you in the right direction. Never be different for the sake of difference, only do it if your VMV, positioning and market demand it.
You will also be surprised just how different layouts can be – just like all the songs written from just 12 notes, 1000s of different designs can be achieved from a single layout grid.
Again, these trends every year, but a solid theory of colour should be used.
Never pick Pantones ‘colour of the year for your branding if it’s not going to be popular a year later. Your brand should be built on solid foundations, and whilst changing colour schemes might seem simple, the costs of rolling these changes out can be large.
Brand identity design jobs involve working with a client to create or improve your existing brand identity.
The reason to work with a company like ours is that we are able to take an impartial view of where your branding currently is and advise on the direction it should go.
Corporate Identity vs Brand Identity vs Brand book.
These are pretty much all the same thing and form part of your strategic brand management and form the core of brand management in marketing.
Your visual identity design team will also bring more than just the creative elements.
As we’ve worked with 100s of different businesses on logo and brand work, we have the experience you need to make sure all the elements of your brand identity improvement work are considered properly.
The importance of brand elements, no matter how small, should all be scrutinised as part of this process, and this is where experience comes in again – we will consider things that you may not have thought about yourselves.
We can guide you through:
- The importance of brand recognition
- The effects of brand recognition
- Solid brand awareness strategy planning and brand strategy purpose
- How do you create brand awareness
- The different types of brand recognition
- Brand equity models
- How to build brand equity
If you can properly define the problem, then you’ve already defined the solution as well.
Chipp Kid, Graphic designer.
This experience is crucial in creating the most effective visual guidelines for your business; all of these things need to be considered.
As we have already mentioned, creative design alone is not the answer to all these. Experience and business knowledge is required.
Different types of companies require different types of brand management.
Here at Toast, we help our clients with some of the strategic elements of identity, but our primary focus is on the creative elements of your branding (check out our brand identity designer portfolio and brand visual identity examples).
- Logo and branding services
- Custom logo and brand design
- Graphic design and branding services
On top of this, we can help you roll out your brand identity across other materials including:
- Website design and build (WordPress)
- Marketing collateral
- Interactive brochure design
- Day-to-day creative and design support