Creative Process Steps of Branding Design

Competition between businesses was crowded. To be stand out, a company needs to be unique and recognizable by customers. A recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns.

By: Hugo Maja

Branding Fact

What is brand identity?

Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Survey discovered that nearly 59% of people prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them, and 21% say they are ready to purchase a product if it comes from a brand they like.

Some people got used to thinking that only marketing specialists do all the job in branding. However, if you say it to professional designers, they’ll tell you how wrong you are. As an American graphic designer Paul Rand said:

Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.

The term branding refers to the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand. Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world. Just like your personal identity makes you uniquely you, your brand identity is the special sauce of your business that sets you apart from every other Tom, Dick and Harry, Inc. on the block. And your brand identity design? It’s what shapes your company.

But what exactly is brand identity? What does it have to do with design? And how do you shape a strong brand identity that takes your business to the next level?

Brand identity is the collection of all elements that a company creates to portray the right image to its consumer. Brand identity is different from “brand image” and “branding,” even though these terms are sometimes treated as interchangeable.

Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable to your customers. Your audience will associate your brand identity with your product or service, and that identity is what forges the connection between you and your customers, builds customer loyalty, and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.

Creative Steps of Branding Design

How to build strong brand identity?

Powerful branding depends not only on aesthetic features of brand elements but on the details such as message and emotional appeal standing behind it. To create proper brand identity, designers need to get deep into the details about business goals as well as do a research of the market and its target audience. Here we’ve divided a branding process into six essential stages which designers need to go through on the way of brand creation:

1. Decide Your Brand Strategy

Your brand strategy is a detailed plan that outlines exactly what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. It is comprised of your:

  • Brand Heart (purpose, vision, mission, values)
  • Brand Messaging (brand voice, personality, tagline, value prop, brand messaging pillars)
  • Brand Identity (logo, color, typography, etc.)

Before start working on a visual part, we need to identify the character which company or product and services  wants to present. Designing a brand without this knowledge is like drawing a portrait from a photograph. You can do the copy quite right but the work won’t have an emotion in it. 

Practice shows that not all the clients come to designers prepared. They may not think of details and ask only for an attractive visual presentation that will bring success to their business. There is nothing remarkable about it. Clients often see designers like artists creating beautiful pictures and you can’t expect them to know all the peculiarities of designers’ workflow.

Illustration by OrangeCrush

2. Market and user research

When the goals are set and a company’s personality seems clear, designers go to the research work. This step is essential for all kinds of designer’s job, be it a logo or a mobile app. The research helps to immerse into the environment of the future brand and comprehend the peculiarities which may influence its success.

First goes the market research. Designers dig out the information about the market and potential competitors. It’s good to learn from someone’s experience be it good or bad. Having the necessary data experts can create a unique and efficient logo and build a brand identity that will stand out the competition.

Designers and clients’ preferences should step aside to the needs of target audience. A brand needs to make a good impression on its potential buyers or users to gain their trust. User research helps to get deeper into preferences and psychological peculiarities of the target audience.

The design is not a pure art. If you rely exceptionally on the sense of beauty and talent, there is a risk of failing the task. Research takes less time compared to doing the job over.

3. Identify Competitors

Building a brand identity is all about differentiation: making your brand visible, relevant, and unique. However, without a firm understanding of your competitive landscape, it’s easy to blend in. Thus, it’s crucial to understand not just who your competition is but how your brand compares, in perception and presentation.  

4. Logo design

Some people often mistake a logo for a brand but it is only one stage in the process of branding. However, it would be wrong to underestimate the role of logo design. It is the basic mark of brand identity, the most prominent symbol of brand image and the foundation of effective marketing strategy enabling its connection with the target audience. Create a logo is not easy, it  has creative process like a windy road.

5. Define visual brand Elements

Logo design is not the only visual representation of a brand. Certainly, the major focus will always be a logo but there are some more elements deserving the attention such as mascots and typography.

Companies often look for the ways of personalizing a brand and designers have a solution. Mascots are the custom design characters created to represent the brand in a quite symbolic way. They can be created as a part of a logo or exist as an individual brand element. Such characters can establish the connection with users as nothing else. A mascot serves as a tool for communication and interaction with users helping to transfer the message in an unusual manner. People start to see a mascot as a major representative of a company introducing them a product or a service. The efficient mascot guarantees recognizability and memorability to a brand and easily draws users’ attention.

It’s important for your brand to have a set of versatile icons ready. Icons can be used in all different visual elements. Although icons are discrete, an incompatible set of icons can easily be spotted. Make sure your icons embellish your design rather than complicate it.

Another visual element responsible for brand identity is typography. Many logos are created via typography or contain fonts in it but typography doesn’t end here. Banners, business cards, correspondence a company applies should involve brand identity signs as well. You can make fonts also speak for your brand. Designers often create custom fonts for companies to be unique even in such small details. However, it’s not the only option. Experts may choose a combination of regular fonts which will suit a certain brand best. This way users will easier remember a brand because of its consistency in every detail.

6. Demonstrate corporate brand style

When the logo is ready, the color palette is chosen, and other visual elements are prepared, it’s time to unite them into harmonic corporate style. It is required when a designer works on branding for companies providing services. Various attributes can become a branded item depending on a type of a company. 

Stationery Design for SALT

T-shirt Design for Promise Venture Studio

Packaging for Casteller

7. Draft a style guide

The only thing more heartbreaking than a poorly designed brand identity is a beautifully designed identity that is never used or used incorrectly. A brand style guide is the savior here—if it’s crafted the right way.

The importance of reinforcing a consistent brand identity across all mediums and channels cannot be overstated. According to Medium, inconsistent branding can “lose your company customers and damage its reputation”, whereas a consistent brand can “turn customers into followers or brand advocates”.

A style guide is a document providing instructions about correct and wrong ways to use the graphics created for the brand. Traditionally, a style guide includes the explanation of the idea standing behind a logo as well as the presentation of a corporate color palette which can be used for different purposes. It can be good to demonstrate the examples of incorrect usage in order to avoid poor visual performance.

As you can see branding is a complex process. Each step should be well-thought, based on the needs of the target audience and business goals.

Your brand identity is what sets you apart from the endless sea of competitors and shows your customers who you are and what they can expect from working with you. And if you want your brand to be perceived in a positive light, it’s crucial that you nail your brand identity and create designs that accurately portray who you are to your customers. And now that you know how to nail that identity, it’s time to start designing.