What is brand identity?
Mistakenly, people often think a visual brand identity can be reduced down to a logo. There are many moving parts to a brand’s visual identity, with the logo playing a part of the whole picture. Your total brand identity consists of your visual aesthetic, your tone of voice and your company values. It’s the first introduction you make to people, often without you even being in the room.
In short it’s:
- Brand colours
- Photography and visual styling
- Tone of voice
- Brand values
It’s everything that makes your brand what it is. When we set out to make ours we were excited to change our positioning and present a more accurate representation of our services. When we first started two years ago so much was different to where we are now, and I can’t wait to take you on the journey we went through to arrive at our new look. Even the painful naming bit. Which was really painful.
How we made our visual identity
As someone who worked in the delivery team before setting up my company, I know how important creative briefs are. And how frustrating projects are without a good one. So naturally, I was fairly obsessive of the one we gave to our designer. The creative brief should give a clear picture of what you’re aiming for, whilst still giving enough room for the designer to bring their original thinking to the project.
Our creative brief included:
- Project overview – Who is the project for? What is the background of the work?
- Brand objectives – Why are we going through a rebrand? What value is it going to add over our new brand? What are we hoping to achieve with all of our hard work?
- Deliverables – Specifically, what is being delivered? Is it any of it being done in-house? What are the expected outputs?
- Value proposition – What value do we add when we work with clients? How do we position our services?
- Reasons to believe – What evidence is there that we do what we say we do, and that we do it well?
- Competitors – Who else does what we do? Do we like their look, or do we not? Most importantly, why do we think it works?
- Target audiences – Who are we selling to? What engages them?
- Tone of voice – How does our brand sound? Can this influence the visual identity at all?
- Branding inspiration – What do we like? What don’t we like? Why?
From here, our designer had a steer on what she was rooting out from the wider world. What we then needed to do was narrow down our references and what we liked. To do that, we carried out a Visual Wall exercise.
Visual Wall exercise
A Visual Wall is a broad collection of stimulus you use to narrow down to a more refined view of what you are going after. It’s a fun, interactive session where you can talk through what you like, what you don’t like and where those decisions are coming from. A lot of the time, it’s a blend of emotional, rational and business decisions.
Some of the questions we asked during the session included –
- What are we drawn to?
- What do we want to avoid?
- Where is that association we’re mentioning coming from? Is it relevant to the discussion?
- How do we want to be seen by ideal clients?
- What do we want to do differently this time?
- Who else operates in our space and how do we create a point of difference?
- What messaging excites us?
Then, our designer talked us through a Look & Feel Scale. They’re so helpful as it helps you avoid using vague words such as ‘fun’ and ‘playful’ and makes you narrow down how fun or playful you want to be. Everyone’s versions of these words are different, so it’s great to narrow it down. By putting a proverbial pin in it, we can hope to get closer to what we want.
From this exercise we were able to define a list of keywords we felt accurately described the sentiment of the workshop.
For us, the words we found that most accurately described what we were aiming for were:
- White space (and lots of it)
- Playful messaging
- Process and iteration
- Pop and highlight colours
- Sans Serif
These were the building blocks our designer used to carry out her research and development.
Research & development
The research and development phase (often referred to as R&D) is a crucial part of the branding process as it gives your designer time to seek out helpful, stimulating reference points. Then, they’re able to draw these references together and begin to create the first attempts of your new brand identity. Think of it as a white canvas you’re throwing ideas at, seeing what sticks.
For us, the things that stuck were:
- Highlighting the process we go through on our projects
- Strong, copy-led designs where words are doing a lot of the talking
- A strong colour pop that helps to draw the eye
- A nod to the tools we use to deliver our work; post-its, highlighters etc.
- People-centric illustrations showing a diverse set of characters
- Elements of our namesake in subtle executions
From there, our designer began to build out certain brand elements, including early iterations of our logo. Then we were able to get more specific in our feedback and steer the branding into a new, exciting place. Finally, it was a process of iterating and finalising our chosen route.
To help explain this process further, take a look at the different iterations our logo went through.
In summary, these are the crucial elements you need to create a top-notch visual identity:
- A solid creative brief – Make it clear what you’re setting out to do and why
- Visual wall/ brainstorming – Get everyone together to define what you do and don’t like
- Research & development – Seek out lots of stimulus and turn it into something tangible
- An iterative approach to brand development – Work through a few variations of your logo and supporting elements to create something you can feel proud of
The final result
Finally, everything was bought together in our new brand guidelines – which you may have seen being promoted around the site. Take a look at how it has all come together and let us know what you think of it on Twitter.