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What is a brand’s visual identity? 

Strong corporate identity design—the process of creating a visual identity for a product, service, or institution through graphic design—combines purposeful and research-driven brand positioning strategy with timeless aesthetic vision. The most iconic and long-lasting brands exist because a group of people dedicated themselves to the practice of discovering a product, service, or institution’s fundamental purpose and representing that purpose through shapes, colors, and words.  

Brand identity design is often broken down into a kit of parts that includes marks or logos, a system or palette of colors, and a system of typographies or fonts. Logos come in various formats, each containing benefits and challenges. Monogram logos or letter marks are some of the simplest visual formats for logos as they often consist of two or three letters. Think HBO or IBM—these iconic brand logos are simply letterforms with light visual adjustment or manipulation. 

Logo Design: The Questions that Create Strong Brand Identity Design

The choice of fonts and colors are creative choices meant to convey a message—what the company does or what it stands for. Wordmarks or logotypes are similar to monograms, they’re just the entire word spelled out, occasionally containing a piece of visual flair (see: Visa, Google).  Even with these two simple versions, a host of decisions present themselves. If a company is relatively unknown, does it make sense to create a primary logo using a lettermark? If the name is too long, would a primary wordmark be too cumbersome for communications design? When designing a brand identity, the function must always balance with the creative. 

Pictorial marks or logo symbols are logos that use just an image to convey the entire brand’s meaning. Oftentimes, companies use pictorial marks as a secondary asset, a term used to denote an additional iteration of the corporate brand or logo that may be used in addition to a primary wordmark. Twitter and Apple both have iconic primary pictorial logos because of the equity and awareness they’ve built through the billions of interactions people have had with their brand images. Pictorial marks need not be recognizable images, they can be abstract shapes or even textures that are themselves metaphors for bigger ideas (see: Chase, Mastercard, and BP). 

Of course, there are logos that combine all of the above. Emblems, for example—heritage-style badges of famous universities or beer companies or nation-states—can combine elements of type, shape, image, and color to create a more complex visual identity, but one imbued with a sense of history, which can be a benefit to a start-up looking to implant the idea of credibility and trustworthiness into the consumer’s mind. Each style of logo has, on its own, various meanings, assumptions, and values locked into it. Our job as strategists is to determine and explore the various logo types that could help our clients achieve their goals. 

How Do You Define a Brand’s Color Palette?

In addition to the logo or logo families as they are occasionally called, colors and typography are the additional elements of a brand identity. Colors carry meaning and psychological associations. They’re also design elements and function as a set. A strong visual identity includes not just a set of colors that work together, but a set of colors that are used as part of a communication system (i.e. if blue is part of our system, when and how do we use it and why?). Similarly, typography is not just an aesthetic choice, but a functional system. If your brand uses a different typeface for headlines and body copy, then there should be a reason. 

Brand Building & Brand Identity in Social Media

At some point over the course of the history of the discipline of branding, the word “brand” started to mean something more than “logo.” Of course, the term is rooted in visual vocabulary. The word’s etymology is derived from the firebrand—a burning piece of wood craftsmen used to mark their products, farmers to mark their livestock. We still use the term “mark” to refer to visual corporate emblems and signifiers, but “brand” has taken on an entirely more expansive meaning, informed by an academic understanding of how we communicate, how we engage with the information the world throws at us. We practitioners of branding have come to understand that people associate far more with a brand than what is communicated by the logo. We now accept that brands carry intangible meanings and unquantifiable values.  The corporate identity or visual brand identity is just one such medium for conveying these values, or meanings, or ideas. 

BS LLC is a branding agency with the experience, capability, and resources to help you create a brand and bring your corporate design to life. We employ methodologies of brand strategy, business strategy, and marketing strategy to prioritize your design needs and match your goals with a purpose-built ecosystem. Our goal is to help you develop a brand personality that raises your corporate image. 

Learn more about our Branding & Brand Strategy