Branding—and why it's not just about the logo

Branding—and why it's not just about the logo
James Evans
James Evans
Website
Designer

All round purveyor of stuff and things

Branding is not just a nice logo. It is a complete visual language allowing a company to promote their message succinctly. It reaches into every part of a company’s identity, and when it is done correctly, design alchemy occurs, surpassing the sum of its parts. In addition to a logo, there are other equally important elements involved in creating a fully formed, alchemical mix. These include, but are not limited to, typography, color, imagery and graphics.

For a brand design to succeed, each of these elements need to be carefully considered, on their own, and as a part of a cohesive whole. As can been seen below, each item can have a dramatic impact in the success of a design.

Logo

Logos are the most self-evident part of a brand. Either comprising of a wordmark, lettermark, signature, or as a combination, there is no hard-and-fast rule regarding when and how they are used. Possibly the simplest and most well-known logo is the Nike Swoosh, said to represent movement and speed. If you had never seen it, this swoosh could easily represent any industry or company, but with the backing of a strong brand, this simple shape quickly became synonymous with Nike and sportswear.

When brands like Nike reach this level, their signature becomes so recognizable that they are able to drop any associated descriptor (like a wordmark) altogether. Starbucks successfully completed this transformation in 2011 by rebranding to a simplified sea nymph and removing the words “Starbucks Coffee,” thereby simplifying the design and enabling the company to move into other non-coffee related ventures.

Branding is fundamental. Branding is basic. Branding is essential. Building brands builds incredible value for companies and corporations.

Scott Goodson

Typography

Typography is the art of arranging type to make written language legible. What’s more, the vast array of type styles available can have huge implications to a brand’s image.

Typography helps create a brand’s voice. As an example, serif fonts compared to sans serif creates marked differences in perception. The serif, with its little appendages, are likely to ignite images of history and trustworthiness, while the sans serif generally provides an image of modernity and dynamism. As a result, old banks are more likely to sway towards serif whereas a modern hedge fund might be persuaded by the sans serif instead.

Even the use of upper case letters can have an impact via modern ‘netiquette.’ Have you ever read a text message written in FULL CAPS and wondered why you were being shouted at? Although this is a relatively modern phenomenon, the use of caps has indicated ‘grandeur’ and ‘seriousness’ for millennia (look at the Pantheon in Rome, or the Bank of England in… England.)

Another interesting style is the ‘Script’ font variety. These fonts can help provide a voice that sounds personal, honest and friendly, due to their connection to hand writing. Companies that aim to exude a fun, natural and handmade image often take this route.

Color

Color is integral to any brand. For example, what is the first company that comes to mind with the primary color of red? A fair bet that your first answer is Coca-Cola. Or second best, Target. As just shown, color plays a huge role in brand recognition. So much so, companies protect their color palette vigorously, as seen with Cadbury’s Chocolate, where Pantone 2685C is officially “Cadbury Purple.” It is also a good way to differentiate a company. If the majority of your competitors have a primary color of blue, why not use Orange to stand out from the rest? Think of T-Mobile—how many of their competitors use pink?

Imagery

Imagery has always been an important part of a brand, but with the advent of social media, it now has an undeniable role in its fulfillment. 

Images are used to build an emotional response from the viewer, to create a new level of attachment. United Colors of Benetton used this concept to its advantage with provocative campaigns that ultimately had nothing to do with the product. Scandalous photos of mating horses, a nun and priest kissing, and a white baby being nursed by a black woman were intended to be controversial. They later defined the company! 

Not only is National Geographic’s logo one of the most recognizable in the world, it is renowned for its use of imagery, particularly photography, and the production of highly visual content. With social media, and in particular Instagram, NatGeo’s use of imagery has allowed it to successfully transition its brand from print to digital in ways other large publishers are unable.

Graphics

Graphics incorporate color and shape to help with contrast, and, to add visual interest. Louis Vuitton, one of the most valuable brands in the world, uses graphics as one of its main brand components—the monogram canvas. This was not only intended as an aesthetic application but also to prevent counterfeiters. These patterns now identify their products, which are regularly updated for special edition lines and collaborations, and further enhance the brand. 

Burberry, another globally recognized fashion company, has a brand inextricably linked to their “check” pattern. For most, this pattern has overridden the logo as the brand’s main means of identification.  

Finally, the Google “doodle.” The first doodle was originally intended as an “out of office” graphic while the founders were at the Burning Man festival, but has since become an integral part of the brand. It is used to celebrate great historical moments and inventions across the world. This hint at greatness cleverly reminds viewers of Google’s own remarkable presence among the ranks.  

In conclusion, once a brand design has been completed, in all of its forms, its adherence is highly important. Inconsistent implementation can limit the brand’s message and ultimately confuse customers. Simple triggers of recognition from typographical use to color can elicit powerful emotional responses from customers and employees alike. Adding foreign items to your brand results in limited recognition, and as a consequence, sullies the message you want to convey. To that end, consistency and repetition are key to perfecting your message and defining your brand.

James Evans
James Evans
Website
Designer

All round purveyor of stuff and things

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