Using design to boost your brand identity

Quite often clients approach me as a freelance graphic designer because they need a logo to represent their business, perhaps with an accompanying font, a set of colours and a strapline or slogan. These are all definitely worth having, but there are a few other things you should consider when creating a new brand identity for your business.

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What is a brand identity, exactly?

A brand is more than just a logo. It is the experience customers have with your company – how they feel and what they think when they interact with your website, shop, magazine, newsletter, or any other part of your business. 

All coming under the term 'brand identity’, the design of each of the following touchpoints will ultimately influence the experience that customers have with your brand, and, perhaps more importantly, their perception or opinion of the product or service you’re offering:

  • Company name

  • Logo design

  • Strapline, tagline or slogan

  • Colours and fonts

  • Website or shop front

  • Business cards and letterheads

  • Social media profile pages or content shared on social media

  • Packaging

  • Email newsletters, brochures, leaflets or flyers, presentations

  • Style of imagery, icons or graphics

  • Tone of voice

  • Advertising

  • Any affiliated products and anything else that represents your business

 

Five steps to a successful brand

1. A good logo design

A good graphic designer will create a logo that has meaning and communicates the brand personality well.

A good graphic designer will create a logo that has meaning and communicates the brand personality well.

A logo, or brand marque, is the foundation of your brand identity. A good design will be easily recognisable and tell your potential customers something about the business.

Many logos just use a generic shape, but it has way more impact if it actually means something, tells a story about your brand, your style, personality or product/service offering. The Nike swoosh represents movement, fluidity and speed, the Beats logo looks like headphones on a head, and the Dove logo has a gentle style with an emblem of love and purity to complement their product range. Even something as simple as choosing a square over a circle can influence perceptions. Check out this interesting article about the Psychology of logo shapes.

Minimal logos can still speak volumes. Google’s brand is playful with an approachable style, The Uber logo is globally recognised, representing comfort and class, and Burberry have recently adopted a bold and modern yet classic-looking logo, dropping the dated horse logo and heritage-style, serif font after 20 years.

2. Understand your target audience

If you get to know your clients and target market well, you can reach out to them in a way that evokes an emotional response. This brand archetypes wheel is a great example of how some successful brands position themselves in a way that people can relate to emotionally.

Holding a brand workshop can help you discover your brand personality and decide how it should be positioned. Carrying out user research or empathy mapping exercises can help you understand your customers, their needs and desires. Key insights gained from these exercises help to define your brand values, improve the user experience (UX) of your website and unlock the potential to stir up some emotions, either through tone of voice or the use of emotive imagery or illustrations alongside your brand.

3. Design and communicate according to your brand values

In the same way a strapline or slogan can help to reinforce your brand offering, it can also act as a reminder for you and your employees. Write down your core brand values and stick them on a wall. Whenever you’re about to write a tweet or create any kind of business communication, double-check that it fits within the values, and if it doesn’t, then tweak it according to whatever you’ve put on the wall!

4. Be creative with your brand

I love it when a brand adopts a ‘favicon’. It can be part of your logo, or a stand alone shape used on various touchpoints to add personality to your brand. If you’re reading this on a desktop browser and have a few tabs open,  you should see a few favicons on the tabs (including mine!). It’s a useful way to aid brand recognition when there’s little space, and actually improves your website’s SEO ranking. See how I had fun with my own favicon in these Christmas illustrations.

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If you’ve had the same logo for ten years and are worried about changing it because you might lose any brand recognition that you’ve built up over that time, a brand refresh can still work wonders to inject a new lease of life into your brand identity. Check out this brand refresh I designed for Studentcom. Keeping their old logo, I built upon their existing colour palette with fresh gradients, sourced new, impactful imagery and designed a new icon set, which all worked together to create a fresh, new, stand-out brand identity. You can see another example of a brand I’ve refreshed in this project.  

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Many modern brands are stepping outside of the mould and using their logo in creative ways. This brand refresh for BBC2 is a fantastic example of how a shape can be represented in many different forms, yet still be recognisable. Done correctly, using your brand creatively can help you seem progressive and set you apart from your competitors.

Using animation in a logo is another way to inject life into a brand. It really stands out on social media and looks awesome in email signatures too. The logo animation below is one I created as part of this brand refresh.

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5. Clear and consistent communications

Once established, a brand identity should appear on all business communications – with a consistent use of colours, fonts, tone of voice and communication style, customers will soon recognise the brand style, even without a logo. It can be tempting to add in a new font of colour if you’re trying to capture attention, but a good graphic designer will be able to push your brand guidelines to achieve any desired outcome without losing the brand identity or straying too far from the brand values. You can see how consistency works well across all of the touchpoints in this recent project I created for Brazilian brownie makers Eh Nozes.

Working with a freelance graphic designer

Simple changes to your website, social media, presentations or business communications can go a long way towards improving your brand identity and help you resonate with your customers. Before becoming a freelance graphic designer, I gained more than 15 years’ experience working in the creative industries in Edinburgh and Bristol, and I’ve worked with many brands to create or refresh their brand identity. If you’re not sure where to start, drop me an email at chelledixondesign@gmail.com and I’ll send you a brand questionnaire to help you on your way. I’d be happy to hold a brand workshop or carry out user research to help you understand your audience, or I can just go ahead and design you a logo if you’re already clear about what you want to achieve. I can create a package that works within most budgets, so, if you need help with setting your brand apart from your competitors, please get in touch.