Hiding in Plain Sight: An Inside Look at Brand Identity in Design

Legendary graphic designer and art director Paul Rand once said, “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”

A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. Take a moment and think of your favorite brands and the instant thoughts and feelings they evoke. What qualities make them most memorable for you? Colors? Symbol? Attitude?

Corporate branding consists of many components including a positioning statement (in 360 speak, this is known as “that one thing”), tagline, logo, supporting imagery and clear messaging that all work together cohesively to convey the brand’s look, tone and overall personality. Successfully implemented design helps brands achieve recognition and build customer trust and loyalty.

The iconic Nike swoosh, the clever FedEx arrow, Apple’s sophisticated use of the color white, the creativity of Google doodles—these are design standouts that have elevated their respective brands. 

Logo color infographic

Logo

The logo is the cornerstone of a company’s identity system, the first visual impression it makes to the world. At first glance a logo may seem deceptively simple—yet a wealth of research, strategy and creativity has been packed into a well-designed mark. It can consist of logotype (where the font is customized, like Visa and Disney), a symbol (abstract or pictorial), or a combination of symbol and type. 

Sure, we’re living in a virtual world where anyone can buy a $50 logo from a McLogo site (and that may work just fine for a teenage mowing service), but businesses can’t afford not to invest in their visual identity. Renowned graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass stated, “Logos are the graphic extension of the internal realities of a company.” A company’s identity should match and support its mission and goals, and authenticity and quality are key to reaching and keeping customers. 

What sets a great logo apart from others? It’s appealing, simple/clear, memorable, timeless, versatile, innovative, and enforces and inspires the overall brand. Color and typography are two über important design elements that help infuse personality into a company’s visual identity and distinguish one brand from others in the marketplace. 

Color 

Color delivers instant emotional impact to viewers, and color psychology is truly a fascinating topic. Colors wield a powerful and often subliminal influence, and designers choose them deliberately. Red, yellow, and orange are commonly used in the restaurant industry to whet our appetites; blue is extremely popular for businesses from healthcare to banking to technical fields because it conveys trust and dependability. White is often used in cosmetics packaging for its clean, fresh feeling. Green is a go-to choice for environmental and financial businesses. Many companies include a secondary color in their logo and a coordinating color palette in their branding pieces, and these help to further customize their brand. There are cultural variances for color meanings so it’s important to know your intended audience and be aware of differences (for example, yellow in Latin American countries symbolizes mourning and sorrow, as does the color black in Chinese culture).

Typography

Typography also helps visually describe and reinforce branding through style. Fonts give different impressions to viewers and are chosen strategically by graphic designers to best express the personality of the brand. Whether your business or product is high tech or hand-crafted, the right font can instantly communicate appropriate brand flavor. Sans serif fonts bring a modern, simple feel, while serif fonts generally have a more traditional, formal feel. Script and handwritten fonts offer a completely different visual vibe.  

Investing in your brand’s visual identity

Design can—quietly or boldly—help your brand connect, inspire, educate, provoke, entertain, persuade, and influence consumers, including potential customers. Brand cultivation is as important for a Fortune 500 company as it is for a grassroots startup. And quality design creates visual cohesion and helps ensure customer recognition, interest and loyalty.

Whether you’re starting a new company, or looking to polish up or completely overhaul your existing logo and branding, investing in your brand’s visual identity is one of the smartest moves you can make.  

Mimi Eanes
April 8, 2021

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