This is part three of a three-part series discussing the composition, importance, intent, and process of branding.
As the embodiment of almost everything your organization is and does, your brand is a vital part of your identity. As mentioned in the first part of this series, a brand is more than just a logo. It differentiates you from your competition. It influences your customer, and it provides a level of trust and relevance.
If the process of brand development seems complex and challenging, that’s because it is. (Luckily, there are professionals available to help you.) With any branding or rebranding project, the strategy will vary based on the needs of the client. However, each new project is approached using a similar philosophy and methodology. Below is a step-by-step guide to the basics of brand development:
Do your research.
This is the foundation upon which the entire brand will be created, so it’s important to get it right. In this stage, I learn all I can about the organization through a series of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Typically, this includes a competitive analysis, customer feedback survey, internal questionnaire, and buyer persona development. For an in-depth look at this process, you can refer back to the first part of this series; each of the five elements must be established in order to define the brand’s purpose and story. A few questions to consider during this phase:
- Who is the audience?
- What secondary and tertiary audiences should be considered (e.g. potential employees, partnerships, other brands)?
- Who is the competition? What elements of their branding stands out to you?
- For existing brands, what is the current state?
- How can the brand be shaped to align with current and future organizational objectives?
The research gathered in the previous step will guide the visual ideation process throughout this phase. It starts with a review of the text-based information; these data sets are then translated into visual concepts. Typically, the emotional language from the research stage drives the brand’s persona, story, and promise through abstract and action-oriented word association. The goal is to identify the types of emotions the brand needs to evoke, and then select specific elements that elicit the strongest responses. Think about the following during this step:
- What is the mission, vision, and promise of the organization? And how do each of these align with customer needs?
- Are the values identified by customers different from those identified by employees? What about between the workforce and executives? How are they different, and what does this indicate?
- How can you effectively employ divergent and convergent thinking to develop a creative and unique visual identity?
Finally, it’s time to begin considering the visual impact of all our hard work and research. This step requires an iterative approach and an open mind. Begin by thinking about the elements that will need visual development — logo, color palette, and typography.
In this stage, it is critical to employ both divergent and convergent thinking skills. By that, I am suggesting that the process should begin to take the shape of a funnel — with a lot of ideas at the beginning to ultimately reach the most effective solution at the end of the project. (Side note: If you happen to be branding a funnel manufacturing company, this process works even better.) Thinking divergently provides a level of elaboration and originality in the early stages of logo development. It’s important to include the following elements in this stage:
- Fluency: the ability to develop a large number of ideas
- Flexibility: the ability to create variety in the types of ideas being generated
- Elaboration: the process of adding to or developing existing ideas
- Originality: the process of obtaining new, novel, or different ideas from those previously developed
Once you have a large and varied number of ideas, it’s time to employ convergent thinking. This includes:
- Screening: the process of filtering ideas based on brand requirements
- Sorting: the process of grouping similar ideas
- Prioritizing: the process of ranking ideas based on relevance and novelty
- Supporting: the ability to review ideas for positive attributes that support the brand
- Developing: the process of strengthening and improving the final concepts
Lastly, the initial stages of logo development should be constructed using only black and white. This ensures that the design will work in multiple formats, sizes, and contexts.
Once you have several solid concepts, it’s time to
introduce some color. Determine
which emotions the brand will likely need to evoke. Think about how color will influence the customer’s ability to trust the brand. You can learn more about this
process in a previous article.
A good color palette is clean and flexible. Additionally, it is absolutely essential thatyou develop a color palette which plays well with both offset and digital printing. Specifically, any logo consisting of more than four colors will likely increase printing costs for the client.
Every stage presents its own unique challenges, but typography can be difficult for even the most advanced designer. This is because stylistic choices in type can subconsciously communicate with a customer before they even read the actual words. Serif and sans-serif typefaces often evoke specific feelings. Additionally, certain typefaces may be trendy at the moment but can eventually date your brand (Looking at you, Wisdom Script).
It is often beneficial to limit font families to just a few — ideally, two or three at the most. This includes a primary typeface, a secondary typeface for specific scenarios, and a body copy typeface (one that works well in print and on the web).
Keep it consistent.
The only thing more tragic than a poorly designed brand is a beautifully designed brand that’s never used correctly. A brand style guide will ensure that your newly hatched logo baby is used correctly. In this stage, it is important to include clear, easy-to-follow guidelines for every part of the brand identity to ensure the highest degree of consistency. Trust me, your customers will notice. Brand integrity is built in the details.
Lastly, it is important to continually revise your style guide as the brand evolves. These will likely be subtle additions that enhance the vision — not significant shifts in direction.
This concludes the three-part series on branding. I hope it provided some valuable information and insight into the process and evolution of brand development. If you’d like to learn more, or if you’d like a fresh look, I’d love to connect.
We would like to thank Whitney Lane for this post, Click Here to check out her website!