We all know great design has a critical role to play in creating a powerful brand as evidenced by the many examples across every sector and category around the world. The question here is, where do you start and how do you ensure that your chosen brand design direction is relevant and appropriate to achieve that much sought after success.
Branding your business, product, service or organization effectively requires a combination of multiple factors, each of which must congruently communicate your brand story, positioning, values and so forth in a way that’s relevant to your primary target audience. Every touch point in your brand communications arsenal needs to maintain consistency across every channel and medium if it’s to be successful. In fact the visual cohesiveness of your brand is so important it can make or break your brand success.
Brand design encompasses multiple elements, disciplines, specialist skills and strategies but for the purposes of this article we’ll touch on a just couple as examples. The principles of good brand design go beyond merely logos but include signature colour palettes, fonts, product packaging, digital design, uniforms, advertising, brochures, stationery, exhibition stands, digital presentations, videos, vehicle livery, signage etc., in short all your brand collateral and even the look of your physical premises or retail space, if you have one. Successful brand design identity incorporates and unifies every aspect of your business including both what your team, and your customers see and experience in the physical tangible sense offline and digitally or online.
The following principles will help guide you in creating, auditing or revitalizing your visual brand assets in order to achieve better brand recognition. They will also help you achieve a more sustained and powerful impact that resonates with your core target audience.
Brand Identity and Logos – The Power of Simplicity
Logos are vital as visual hooks for your brand, they are the tip of the iceberg so to speak. A strong brand logo, managed and protected through well developed brand guidelines, is a very important tool in helping unify all the visual aspects of your business and ensures that your products, marketing collateral, and company communications are appropriately underpinned cohesively by your brand visually.
Image via www.time.com
However, many businesses make the mistake of allocating insufficient resources to really thinking through what their brand logo should convey. Many neglect to develop their brand profile, which essentially underpins the creative direction for their brand logo coupled with all the other elements of their brand identity.
Your brand logo is a distillation of your core brand message, your brand values, the outward expression of your organization, product or service. It underlines who you are and what you stand for and is the fundamental means for customer recognition. It acts as the icon differentiator to your competitors, and yet so many companies and products have non-descript bland, forgettable, indifferent logos lost in a pool of meaningless mediocrity.
Image via www.nationalgeographic.com
It’s also important to note that great brand logos don’t need to be overly complex or excessively detailed either. In fact those that are the simplest are often the most effective and have that much sought after timeless longevity that carries them through all the fickle trends, turbulence and deviances in the market place over the years. Indeed complexity, or too many secondary messages can cause confusion. If the viewer has to work hard ‘to get it’ then its largely failing as the symbol for the brand. Think of brands like Time Magazine, National Geographic, the Olympic Rings, Twittter, Apple, Dell, Guinness and Tayto . All of these brand logos are instantly recognizable, timeless and convey the values of the brands behind them at a glance.
Image via www.nike.com
Simplicity is often the secret to a successful brand logo. Some of the most recognized logos in the world are also the simplest, like the Nike Swoosh. The Nike Swoosh is an instantly recognized dynamically curved line representing all the Nike qualities and lifestyle attributes. In fact, this simplicity underpins all of Nike’s branding, from the Swoosh to the iconic three-word slogan “Just Do It,” to the company’s latest gadget: the FuelBand fitness tracker, known simply as Nike+.
Image via www.mcdonalds.com
In some cases, a simple logo can become a phrase, a slogan, and a beacon for the business it represents. McDonald’s yellow, stylized M is known the world over as “the Golden Arches,” and all it takes is a glimpse of this sign to signal the availability of fast, tasty food to customers.
5 Principles for Effective Brand Logo Design:
1. Simple: Unique and recognizable, without being overdrawn or excessively complex
2. Memorable: Achieves an instant connection to your brand
3. Timeless: Will remain effective and relevant for decades to come
4. Versatile: Works in monotone black and white, spot colour or full colour, large scale or small postage stamp or thumbnail size
5. Scalable: Is fully legible and maintains its integrity in large scale high resolution, vehicle livery or side of building size format to small scale postage stamp or low resolution online thumbnail size
6. Appropriate: Reflects your brand profile, messaging and company brand values
A great brand logo is one that is distinctive, different and memorable and conveys a concept or meaning — the core values of your brand, in one strong distilled message.
The concept, shape, and execution of your brand logo should meet all these criteria in order to function effectively in its representation of your brand while also bolstering your visibility and recognition. Remember a logo is a bit like a tattoo, its not something you readily change, so give it the resources and due diligence it deserves from the beginning if you want to reap those long term rewards.
Brand Identity and Packaging Design
Packaging design is brand identity design at the sharp end, the art of promising and being believed all in the blink of an eye. Consequently your product brand packaging is critically important to your brands success from the moment of visual impact in grabbing the attention of your time deprived and visually overloaded target customer, to communicating your brand message succinctly while protecting its contents and supporting effective ease of use too.
If first impressions are mission critical then the challenge for your brand packaging is to engage your target customer through communicating your brand’s emotional and functional benefits, together with its core brand proposition in a way that’s relevant to them, all in a matter of seconds. In fact recent research would indicate you need to achieve all this in under nine seconds!
If the primary objective of great brand packaging is to communicate your core brand messages while achieving stronger sales together with consistent repeat purchases to ensure business growth and a healthy return on investment, then you need to do everything within your power to ensure your brand design leverages everything in your favour. The following packaging design principles are incorporated into every packaging design project we produce for our clients.
14 Brand Design Principles for Effective Brand Packaging:
1. Demand attention
2. Create impulse
3. Communicate your brand proposition succinctly
4. Project and amplify key brand messages
5. Create emotional engagement
6. Build relationships and encourage repeat purchase
7. Be something worth talking about
8. Use structure, shape, closure and materials effectively
9. Provide easily understood product information
10. Provide appropriate consumption or usage information
11. Support and exceed legal mandatories
12. Protect contents
13. Support social responsibility
14. Reduce your brand packaging carbon footprint
Strong brand packaging supports the story of your brand and reflects its personality and conveys emotion that resonates with your target audience. Remember how important emotional connectivity is, people buy with emotion, not rational. Packaging that is witty, clever, bold, challenging, luxurious, unexpected, feminine or masculine, stark or minimalist for example all make different kinds of statements and say something about your brand that creates expectations – all which work hand in hand with your brand promise.
Never forget, you can’t fool the consumer. Their value and perception of your brand is based on how they find them, experience them and engage with them. The bottom line for business is that great brand packaging design will almost always have a positive effect on the company’s profitability.
If brand packaging design is treated as a cost with a token cosmetic makeover or worse still, a plagiaristic blend of all your competitors designs, then the effect on the bottom line is likely to be largely ineffective. However when viewed as an investment and used as a strategic driver, the results can be very profitable on an ongoing basis.
Branding and Managing Your Visual Assets
Effective brand design extends beyond logos and packaging to involve all aspects of your business, wherever it’s represented. Look no further than Google for an example of unified branding. One of the most powerful and recognizable companies in the world, Google’s designers follow a carefully crafted style guide of visual asset management to ensure brand coherence across every product and representation, from their instantly recognizable primary color palette to their fluid, ultra-modern iconography.
And just in case you’re thinking otherwise, you don’t have to be a Google to apply these brand principles and strategies. Establishing a brand style guide, or a set of guiding design principles to create and manage every element of your brand, is essential in helping you achieve brand unification and ultimately enhanced customer brand recognition.
Image via www.google.com
Your ‘Brand Style Guide’ can start as a very simple 15-20 page document, which can be developed and updated as your business grows. It doesn’t need to be encyclopedic in size to support the management and development of your brand. Many of the brand style guides we produce for our clients typically start at between 20-30 pages in size initially and are added to as the brand evolves and extends across the total business. For reference, Behance offers an exclusive look at Google’s visual assets guideline in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.
Simple and Unified: The Primary Keys to Brand Design Success
Simplified brand design that is carried out uniformly across all visual aspects of your business is the most effective route to success. Consistent brand visuals can do more to solidify your brand than a library’s worth of text. When your customers can recognize, refer and relate positively to your brand at a glance, you’re well on the way to increased brand awareness and growing profitability. Invest in your brand properly from the start, appropriately aligned to your business strategy, and you’ll reap the rewards long term.
What do you think?
• Does your company logo meet the five design principles for success?
• Are your brand visuals truly different, distinctive and memorable?
• Does your brand packaging achieve the top 14 essentials for success?
• Have you developed, managed and consistently applied your brand using a properly developed brand style guide across all design elements of your brand?
• How can you unify your visual presentation and develop brand consistency throughout your business, online and offline?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Over the years I have seen a lot of different brand design briefs of all shapes and sizes from the brilliant to simply dreadful, with too many in-between lacking sufficient substance to really get the best potential return for the resources invested.
Why is the brand design brief so important ? This might sound obvious, but you need to know what you’re aiming for to hit the goal ! In short it’s a critical factor in ensuring your brand design project is successful and you get a real return on your investment.
Think who, what, where, when, why and how ? Your brief should be, to some extent, an extension of your business strategy. It should reflect the desired commercial endeavours of your business and provide all the detailed information necessary to understand your business dynamics in depth and should clearly define the results you want to achieve i.e. the commercial objectives of the project.
In many cases over the years we’ve had to write the client brief, following in-depth discussions, questioning and probing, to ensure project clarity on all fronts, which the client has then endorsed and signed off before the project commences.
The following are some tips on how, and what to include, to write a great brand design brief so you can get the best return for your money. The questions posed should give you roughly 80% of your brief content with the remainder resulting from and thorough an in-depth discussion with your chosen brand design agency.
1. What does your business/organisation do ?
Be clear and concise, providing as much detail as possible. Avoid industry jargon and don’t assume your chosen brand design company knows your company or market intimately.
2. What are your business/organisation goals and why ?
How do these goals relate to the brand design project ?
3. What are your primary communication objectives and why ?
Are your trying to create greater brand/product awareness or sell more product ?
4. How do you differ from your competitors ?
Be objective and tangible in the description of your differences.
What are their advantages and disadvantages compared to your business/product/organisation ?
5. Do you have industry, market or category insights ?
Are they up-to-date ? It is essential to share this information with your brand design partners so they can develop an in-depth understanding of your needs. Have you completed formal/informal market research into to your market, product etc. ?
6. Do you need brand profiling and positioning work ?
This will provide the strategic direction for your marketing activities, distinction within your business’s market and drive the inspiration for the creative delivery of your marketing messages.
7. Are you revamping, relaunching your business/product/organisation or launching a completely new product/venture to market ?
If revamping or relaunching, how does your old offering compare with the new ? Does your brand/business/product/organsiation have an existing brand style guide ?
8. Who is your primary target market ?
What are their demographics and psychographics ? Describe them in detail.
If you have a secondary market or multiple audiences ? List them in terms of priority.
9. Have you considered the text content required for your project ?
Do you need professional copywriting input ? How many languages do you need and do you need professional translation services ? A printed brochure or website will have an entirely different requirement and writing style to a brand packaging design project. Compile some raw copy where possible, even in short bullet form, to give some indication of your text content requirements.
10. Does your business, industry, market or organization have legal mandatory information which must be included in all your communications ?
Does your product or market have mandatory information such as colour coding which must be used in specific ways, on or in, your communications e.g. European egg packaging has EU colour coding for designated egg sizes ? If so, it is essential you provide all this information fully proofed, up front with clear guidelines on usage.
11. Do you need commissioned professional photography or illustration ?
Does your project have specific visual content which should be included ? If so why and what is it ?
12. What is the full remit of your brand design requirements ?
Does it have a printed requirement (product design, stationery, brochures, display or exhibition stands, vehicle livery, direct mail, packaging, point of sale etc. all of which is your brand collateral) ? Does it have an online marketing requirement (website, ezine newsletter, Facebook presence, LinkedIn presence, Twitter etc.) ? Do you need a branded digital showreel, video or sales presentation using, for example, Power Point or Keynote ?
13. Do you have industry or market category benchmarks ?
If so what are they ? Are these industry, cultural or category standards ? Your brand design team needs to know as much as possible to understand what is mandatory, what has worked/not worked to date and where they can aim to exceed and excel, to be distinctly different for long term competitive advantage.
14. Do you need market research or focus group activity to test your new brand design outputs ?
Don’t proceed with your launch on a hunch or worse still, your own personal preferences. Your personal preferences are not relevant if they don’t mirror those of your target market and even if they do you should still test and measure !
15. What is your budget ?
Your chosen brand design experts need to know what your limitations and budget boundaries are to avoid a valuable waste of time and resources. They need to understand where and how they can achieve the best return for your money.
16. What is your lead time or deadline for launch to market ?
Develop a detailed schedule with key milestones indicated e.g. consultation, concept development, market research, testing, photography, production, delivery and launch to market etc. Be realistic in your expectations. Unnecessary mistakes can be made if a complex project is rushed to market prematurely. Alternatively if the project must hit the market by a critical date then be upfront and honest. Some elements may need to be dropped or postponed to another occasion and a simpler solution offered to meet the deadline.
If you need a new name for a product, business or organization most of this information is just as essential for a brand name origination brief too.
Try not to be too prescriptive on the aesthetic aspects of the brand design brief. You want to get the best out of your chosen brand design team so you need to give them room to manoeuvre creatively.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add to these tips ?
Drop us a line, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Persona Branding & Design Consultants
Contact: Lorraine Carter
T: +353 1 832 2724
Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
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