Expanding Branding: Designing A Strong Corporate Identity
An 8 Step Guide to Elevating Your Brand Identity
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve decided to modernise your company’s identity, making sure your branding is spot on is one of the most important and difficult processes that you need to get right. So we’ve put together a quick and easy 10 step guide to help your branding look professional and perfect.
01) Game Plan
Before eagerly jumping into colours and graphics, you need to know exactly what you want to achieve from your brand. Are you selling a product? Are you selling an attitude? Do you want to reinvent the wheel in your industry? While I would always recommend answering “YES” to that last question, some companies are set up to slot into an existing market. That’s perfectly fine but you need to make sure you are confident with these decisions because they are decisions that will have a huge impact on how your company works day to day. This is possibly the most important part of setting up a brand and will influence everything from typeface and colours to day-to-day customer interactions. If not planned correctly, your business could fall at the first hurdle. As they say – Fail to prepare; Prepare to fail!
02) Put Pen To Paper
I’m not talking of starting drawing – not yet. I’m talking old school handwriting. One of the most difficult things you can do when starting out a company is actually describing it. With every brand I design, I’ll write out a page or two of copy about everything I can think of that describes the company. There’s a fun writing trick you can do to help you out here: set a 5 minute timer and write continuously for the entire time without allowing yourself to stop. It can be hard to write for that long continuously but it will seriously help you get your thoughts into the air. You’ll never know more about your company until you have written about it because putting something into words clarifies and dignifies – it gives your company something solid. What’s more, it will put your work in step 1 to the test.
Continuing with keeping things old school – it’s time to do some homework. Research! It’s a hugely underrated activity that could seriously improve your idea generating process. Look at the weird and the wonderful, the past and the present, the fantastical and the formal – anything from which you can glean ideas for your brand will help you. I’m not saying copy what you find or even curate; I’m saying that ignorance of other designers’ hard work is simply a very silly thing to do. There are many designers that believe they need to isolate themselves and work completely from their own heads. You will also come across clients who refuse to tell you what they like because they expect you to “come up with something completely unique”. Well, just as we all learn languages by researching others’ work and go on to create our own books, poems, and articles – we can research other designs and brands and go on to create our own perfectly unique ideas through this great thing called inspiration.
04) Compare and Contrast
The next step after researching on a broader level is to bring it closer to home: it’s time to look at your competitors. “But that’s just copying!” – No, this is exactly what we’re here not to do. We’re here to create an exciting new brand that stands above our competitors. So, what we need to do is to study our competitors. How do they greet their potential customers? What is it about their design that draws potential customers in? And, what do you think repels them? Now, take what you’ve learnt and create something new, in a totally novel direction that will have customers wondering what they ever saw in your competitors!
05) Your Logo Isn’t Everything
Ok, this one might be hard for you to swallow. Contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about how your branding should be designed, your logo isn’t actually everything. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly important but the brand shouldn’t live and die by the logo. Your brand should be a full entity. So, this is where we need to start thinking very seriously about what sort of typeface reflects your intended tone; what colours draw in customers and suit your product; what sort of visual style captures your company ethos. Don’t underestimate how important the decision of colour and tone is to creating an overall brand identity.
06) But Your Logo Is Something
There are hundreds of tips for designing a logo for your company out on the internet. If you’re into vlogging, I’d strongly recommend taking a look at Will Paterson’s YouTube tips. The general idea of logos is to make them stand out, be memorable, and relate to your company. Absolutely DO NOT buy a ready made logo – you can get a designer to custom design you one for likely the same money and it helps them build a portfolio. Plus, they simply look terrible! Avoid being overly detailed: modern logos hang on minimalism and simple graphics that can work on multiple colours are the way forward. If you do want something detailed then make sure you have a very good designer who can create something pixel perfect. When you blow your logo up onto your van, billboard, or blimp (why not?) then you need every millimetre of it to look absolutely perfect.
07) Consistency and Clarity
Now comes the difficult part; making your brand consistent. There are a lot of interconnected nuggets to a business’ appearance from business cards to websites and countless social media outlets. You need to make sure every single nugget reflects and reinforces your branding identity. Using off the shelf graphics and quirky memes is an absolute no go – be creative by all means but be collected. You are a professional business that needs to look like you have a huge team behind you, even if you don’t. I known a company, for example, that started out with one person answering several phones pretending to be different people and building a company from sheer appearance (and being very good at the job!). Their now a leading company in their field with real actual staff. How? They understood how important their branding was and how ensuring every part of their company’s appearance remained clear and consistent.
08) Be Proud
If you’ve completed all these steps and you look back at your work and think “yes, that’s what I like” – excellent! If not, maybe go back a few steps and work something new out. It’s always important to remember that your first attempt might not be the best shot you can give. I’ve got to the end of several branding concept designs and just not been happy with the results. We are, after all, human and we can’t be right first time every time! Don’t fear going back and starting again because if you aren’t proud with what you’ve designed then you will regret it forever and your disappointment will be reflected in how you work. So be proud. Feel like you have accomplished something great because you absolutely have. This is one big step that is extremely difficult and important to get right. Now that you’re proud, you can go out and sell your brand, sell your product and build a company around a solid foundation that you love.