By Michelle Barnett
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How to develop a brand identity

Building a brand identity involves a lot of decision making and discussion. Our goal is to create something unique to you, that communicates your service well to the people that need to see it. But as a branding agency the basic steps we take are the same for every client we work with.

Step 1: Brand Strategy

Before we start to design, create logos and select fonts, we need to come up with a Brand Strategy. This tells us what your brand needs to communicate about your business, and where it needs to be implemented.

We ask a lot of questions at this point, to make sure we really understand who you are and what your brand identity needs to do for your business. Key things you should expect to be asked:

  • What is the core purpose of your organisation? Or more simply, why are you here? It’s a big question, and not always easy to answer. Summing up your purpose in a simple, headline statement means you have to cut the waffle and the jargon. And once you have a clear definition of why you are here, other people are far more likely to ‘get it’ too.
  • Who is your product or service for? We help you identify personas that encapsulate your target audience.
  • What is the character of your brand? If this isn’t something you have a clear idea about, our Brand Words tool can help you pin down the personality of your company and what you’d like it’s reputation to be. Once you know why you are here and who you are here for, you can communicate successfully about what you have to offer to your target audience.
  • Over what platforms does your brand need to be applied? (web, print, products, other assets like buildings and vehicles, social media etc). Again, this is something we can guide you with and is often determined by your customer base and how best to communicate with them.
  • Where do you want to be in 10 years time? Once we know the plan for your organisation we can develop flexible branding that will adapt with growth and change.

Step 2: Moodboards

This is a visual exercise that we introduce after the nuts and bolts of the brand strategy have been finalised. We present you with a set of moodboards – a few pages of images that we’ll ask you to sift through. The moodboards will usually consist of existing brands, illustrations, patterns and fonts. Different options that we think could in some way inspire or feed into your brand identity.

One of the reasons we do this is clarification. Moodboards are the first time that clients see their brand values translated into a visual form, and it can cause a lot of discussion. A client company may agree that one of their brand values is ‘Trust’. However for one member trust may look like an unassailable bank vault, while for another it may look like a comforting hug from a friend. Which one the company wants to go with affects which visuals are best for the job.

The web development process, moodboard feedback.

Looking at a moodboard is often really fun for clients. You get to think about your brand from a visual point of view and picture the possibilities. Marking out the options you like and, just as importantly, those you dislike, gives us a clear idea of the direction our designs will take. It is also a really useful exercise if you are part of a bigger team managing a brand or rebrand together. We can compare moodboard feedback and make sure everyone involved is on the same page… and do some further work with the team if it looks like there are stark differences in opinion.

Step 3: Development

a dozen eggs works to combine the outcomes of the brand strategy and moodboards, and use them to start coming up with ideas!

Brand development begins with us creating with some different visuals that work with the brand values and audience.  Exploring multiple options is vital, as there’s never just one ‘correct’ answer when it comes to meeting a brand strategy.  A great example of this is our work with Lotos, who make a range of delicious dips!  The branding for their web presence and packaging needed to be dynamic and fun, with a personal touch.  They really wanted to include some kind of hand-made illustrative element.

We boiled down our initial ideas about that illustration style into two that we really liked.  Here are some photos of that early development work.

Brand development for Lotos using illlustration to meet the brand values decided as part of our brand strategy

The two styles are obviously very different.  One is quirky and delicately drawn, while the other is more abstract and geometric. But both meet the key brand values.  Both will appeal to the audiences we identified, both have that handmade feel, and both can be expanded into full brands that will work well for this business.

At this point we present the options to the client and agree on the final concept. And then we’ll start to flesh that concept out, expanding it to cover every aspect of your business.  This can include anything from web development, printed materials, stationary, packaging, logos, icon packs, signage…  We don’t like to leave any stone unturned!

This is often the longest stages of the process, as we beaver away behind the scenes. However, like any good branding agency, we’ll send you regular updates, and there will be ongoing conversations as we work to tailor your brand precisely to the needs of your business. By the time our agreed deadline rolls round you’ll already have a strong idea of how the finished article will look.

Step 4: Launching your Brand Identity

This is the grand reveal of your new brand identity, complete with all the elements ready for you to use. The website goes live! The packaging arrives! The new identity can finally be seen by the public! It’s pretty exciting for clients, and really satisfying for us to see our designs out at work in the real world.

Lotos ended up selecting the more abstract design concept, which we continued to develop into a range of container sleeves for their dips.  You can easily see how our designers evolved that that early concept into the final product.

LOTOS dips in four different flavours

LOTOS brand and packaging

If we’ve made you a website, we offer ongoing support. Businesses continue to change, but a well constructed site can be tweaked and adapted rather than you needing to begin again from scratch.

If you’re going to be doing future work yourself, for example leaflets or an expanding range of products, we may also leave you with some Brand Guidelines. These are a document that lays out the rules for using your brand elements, particularly if it includes fonts, colours or logos. Sticking to your Brand Guidelines means that your brand stays consistent and if always recognisable.

Your Brand Identity is now active and ready to represent you to your audience!

What is a brand audit?

The areas that are covered within a brand audit include; visual identity, navigation and user experience on web, photography and illustration style, the words used within all marketing and social media and digital design

Fran Johnson - 24/05/2016
When should I think about a rebrand?

When should you think about a rebrand? Is your visual identity looking tired, or has your company changed strategic direction.

Fran Johnson - 30/08/2017
Why are brand guidelines important?

Brand guidelines are created in order to establish consistency when a logo is applied. A set of rules to check decisions against can be a very wise move in large organisations with big design teams.

Peter Vickers - 21/12/2015