April 1, 2010 | Branding
Does your company have a brand identity that is more than just a logo? While a logo is a good place to start, you should consider building your “visual position” to be something larger. Building a system for your brand allows you to meet the demands of different media, while still presenting a cohesive identity.
For example, web site design only allows a limited number of font choices, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a corporate typeface for printed marketing materials. In fact the more elements you can establish as your basic look and feel will mean that variations from that scheme won’t make your brand identity disintegrate.
- Logo or wordmark. A logo is a graphic symbol, whereas a wordmark or logotype is just the words of your company or product name set in a specific, fixed way. These elements should be professionally designed and set.
- Different logo “lockups”. While your logo should always be rendered consistently, you will need variations based on placement and usage. For example, you may need color and black and white variations, you may need versions for horizontal and square applications. But they all should have the same essential qualities.
- Key colors. A corporate color palette is usually defined by the colors in a logo. Often these are one or two colors only, although some are more complex.
- Additional color palette options. In addition to the colors in your logo, what other colors complement them? This can be loosely defined such as: bright and bold, pastel, or cool colors. Or, they may handpicked from a color swatch book. These additional colors are often what really brings together (or makes a disconnect) from one point of contact to the next.
- Corporate typefaces. Choose just a handful of fonts to be used whenever there is printed materials. Make sure these are available on all the computers that will create these documents.
- Standard typographic treatments. Your typographic identity should include ways of handling key types of text, perhaps a consistent way of styling headlines or pull-out text. Work to make these similar from one application to the next. It may be the way you write your URLS, or the way you capitalize your headlines.
- Consistent style for images. You don’t need to use the same photos over and over again, but all imagery should have a consistent look and feel. Maybe the photos are brightly lit and the subject is looking right into the camera. Or, the photos have a subtle color palette and the people never look at the camera but are engaged in their activity. Photos could be close-ups, soft focus, or crisply detailed. You don’t need to use photos! You can use line art, illustrations or just charts and graphs. Whatever you choose, use a consistent style in all materials, whether printed or online.
- Have a full library of graphic elements. These are all the small details that really build a branding system. It could be a background texture, a line style treatment, a use of white space or color blocks. These are the areas where do-it-yourself-ers start to suffer, and where a professional graphic designer can pull together a cohesive look for you.
When you have a comprehensive and broadly built graphic identity, it creates a foundation for a rock solid brand identity.
The truth is, that once you start making things, your identity standards are going to be tested.
For example, item #5 (choose a corporate typeface) is not going to be fully applicable on your web site (unless you’re Ikea and choose Verdana for everything). But if you have seven other branding elements that are strongly apparent in the web design, the site will still be able to promote your recognizable brand. If on the other hand, those other graphics are not well-defined and well-used, each application you create dilutes rather than builds a comprehensive brand identity.