The 4 Steps To A Powerful Branding Design Process

Written by Dante Botha

Branding Design Process

Branding design process starts with understanding who you’re marketing to and having a better understanding of how to position your brand within the market to reach your goals. Now it’s time to build your brand visually in a way that stands out from the competition!

Branding Design Process

The branding design process is about a heck of a lot more than outsourcing your logo to some fly-by-night guy online for a few bucks. Unless, of course, you’re happy with mediocrity.
Hopefully you’re not.

So you’ve got this great idea for a new brand…

You’ve gone through the process of understanding who you’re marketing to and have a better understanding of how to position your brand within the market to reach your goals.

It’s time for the next step: designing your brand.

Great brand design is a complex, yet valuable asset when it comes to brand development. If you can build your brand visually in a way that stands out from the competition, you’re golden.

It’s easier said than done. You can’t just wing it – you need to engage with the entire branding design process in a thorough and decisive manner. Without a solid commitment to this process, you’re likely to overlook certain aspects of your brand design and deliver a sub-par brand as a result.

There are four key ingredients when engaging in the branding design process. Each of them is crucially important in the grand scheme of brand design. You absolutely need to get each of these right if you want a fantastic brand design.

The First Principle: Brand Logo

Ah, yes. When it comes to the branding design process, this is what lots of people see as the entire operation.

There’s actually a lot more to brand design than a good logo, but that doesn’t mean for a second that you should take your logo lightly.

The biggest, most successful brands invariably have logos that are memorable, and when people see these logos, they immediately think of the brand.

Big brands understand the value of a logo that fits with their brand image and looks great at the same time. Skimping on your brand logo is like stomping on a runner’s foot before they begin a marathon.

For an example of a great brand logo, let’s look at Apple. It’s pretty logical that their logo includes a picture of an apple. But the way they’ve done it suits their brand fantastically.

Apple products are all about two things: stylishness and ease-of-use. Their logo suits this image fantastically.The Apple logo doesn’t use lots of bright, brash colours, or excessive furnishings. It’s a simple, elegant image of an apple.

The Apple logo is an example of an icon logo.

There are 6 types of logos that we have identified:

  1. Icon
  2. Word Mark
  3. Combination Mark (Icon & Word Mark)
  4. Icon and Letter Abbreviation
  5. Emblem
  6. Legacy

Logo type 1: Icon

Apple Icon

Icon logos are devoid of text. They strictly consist of images only and are generally used for their simplicity. We’ve already mentioned Apple as an example of an effective use of an icon logo.

Logo Type 2: Word Mark

Samsung Logo

Word mark logos are, in a lot of ways, the opposite of an Icon logo. They (almost) exclusively consist of text. An example of a word mark logo is Samsung’s logo. While it has a blue oval behind it, there is no powerful imagery in this logo other than the text.

A word mark logo is also a fairly simple form of logo. With this logo, however, the emphasis is on etching the name into the mind of the consumer, rather than an image.

Logo Type 3: Combination Mark

Huawei Logo

A combination mark logo is a combination of the icon and word mark logo types. This means that they utilise an icon as well as wording within the logo. These are, according to our research, the most common type of logo.

They allow the brand to simultaneously use an icon that can be memorable, and wording that helps the name of the brand to stick in the mind of the audience. An example of a combination mark logo is Huawei.

It’s worth noting, however, that just because they’re the most popular type of logo, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the other types. Some brands work better with other types of logos.

Logo Type 4: Icon and Letter Abbreviation

IBM Logo

This type of logo is very similar to a combination mark. The major difference is that instead of using words, the logo only uses an abbreviation.

You’ll basically find this type of logo used when the brand is best known for their abbreviated name, rather than the full one. IBM is an example of this.

Logo Type 5: Emblem

Levis Logo

This is a more type form of logo. It involves the creative use of visuals to represent the brand. Emblems are usually more abstract than the other logo types and are often used as a badge on products. An example of an emblem would be Levi’s. Emblems are most common in brands trying to be cool, modern and fashionable.

Logo Type 6: Legacy

KFC Logo

These logos are used by older, established brands. There is no hard and fast rules, because these brands have developed iconic imagery over time that can be used within their logo to create the connection for the customer. An example of this would be KFC, with the image of Colonel Sanders’ face being imagery that has historic connections with their brand.

With so many options, which logo type should you choose in your branding design process?

The answer is complex. Have a look at what other brands within your market are using and decide which of these logos work. Also consider your particular brand positioning. Your goals as a brand, relative to the brands around you, could mean that your logo should be of a different type to theirs. Apple, for example, have a different logo to IBM because they have different goals for their tech products.

Whichever logo you choose in your branding design process, ensure that it is eye-catching and represents your brand accurately.

The Second Principle for Your Brand Design Process: Colour

We’ve all heard about how different colours represent different emotions…

  • Red means anger
  • Green means envy
  • White means peace

…and so on.

In the branding design process, colour is equally meaningful. The colour you choose says a lot about the type of brand you are.

Brand types and their corresponding colour palettes

Brand colours used by fast food companies

For example, if you look at fast food franchises, you’ll find that they tend to lean towards bold, bright colours. For example, McDonalds and KFC both use a bright red as their primary brand colour.

 Brand Colors Used By McDonald's

This isn’t just coincidence. These bright colours make these brands stand out, meaning that it’s easy to spot one of these fast food stores while you’re driving. They’re not particularly bothered about subtlety given the nature of their brands – they’re not trying to be exclusive or classy, but rather inviting and energetic.

Additionally, these bright colours appeal to children. These brands know that children tend to prefer burgers and fried chicken to fancy meals at restaurants, and that children are therefore a large chunk of their market. As a result, they want to brand themselves in a way that appeals to this market share.

McDonalds has taken it a step further with their brightly-coloured clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. There’s a reason he’s got brightly coloured hair, and equally bright clothing. Children love it.

Brand colours used by luxury brands

On the other hand, take a look at luxury brands like hotels, expensive restaurants, and expensive fashion brands. They’re significantly more likely to use a subtler colour palette. Greys, blacks and whites are commonly used by these brand types, while purple and gold (colours that are commonly associated with royalty and wealth) are also more prevalent in these markets.

We’ve done extensive research into the colour palettes used by a variety of different brand types. There is a clear and distinct difference between the colour palettes used by different brand types.

Why choose a consistent colour palette for your brand?

Something else you should keep in mind when designing your colour palette is consistency. As much as it is important that you choose a relevant and effective colour palette, you need to ensure that you then use that colour palette everywhere. There’s no point finding the right colour palette, but not using it on, say, your social media pages. Your colour palette is a part of your identity. Can you imagine going onto KFC’s Facebook page and there was little-to-no red? Instead, there are smatterings of blue, purple, grey, gold, and every colour under the sun.

It’d be weird, right? That’s because leading brands understand the importance of keeping colour consistency across every single bit of brand content. Colour consistency encourages brand trust because the brand appears stable and reliable. It also creates brand loyalty because people will identify your brand more easily.

Do some research before choosing your brand’s colour palette. Don’t underestimate the power of colour – it contributes to the entire visual experience enormously.

The Third Principle for Brand Design: Font

Font choice is probably the most underrated ingredient in the branding design process. A lot of people simply think ‘just use something normal.’

Don’t make this mistake. Your font choice adds to the personality of your brand image. Different fonts give off different visual tones and can influence the nature of your messaging as a result.

When making a font choice, there are three choices:

Font Choice 1: Traditional Fonts

These are your more old-school fonts, complete with little embellishing on the letters. These are known to font geeks as ‘serif fonts’ – because the little embellishings are actually called serifs.

Serif fonts tend to give off an air of classiness and authenticity. They are fairly commonly used for luxury brand design, with brand types such as hotels and boutique stores being common users of this sort of font.

Cartier Logo

Some are subtler than others, and this is also something to consider when choosing a font – if you’re going to use traditional fonts, just how ‘fancy’ a font works for your brand? You don’t necessarily want to use an excessively fancy font if your brand doesn’t want to be particularly exclusive.

Font Choice 2: Modern Fonts

These fonts are also known as sans-serif fonts. As you may have guessed, these fonts don’t have the Embellishments of traditional fonts. These types of fonts have increased in popularity with the rise of the internet age.

These fonts represent a more dynamic, straightforward brand. They’re not as concerned with appearing nuanced as they are with appearing vibrant and energetic. If you’re looking to target a younger audience, these fonts will work well.

Branding Design Process

Again, these fonts come in different forms. Generally, bolder modern fonts are more aggressively energetic, whereas thinner fonts are subtler. The categories of modern and traditional fonts are very broad, so if you plan to go one of these two routes, you’ll need to look even deeper into these categories to work out the specific fonts that works for your brand.

Font Choice 3: Combination

According to our research, mixing font types is quite common. More and more brands are willing to push the limits by mixing and matching different font styles in ways that complement each other.

This tactic is particularly beneficial if you’re wanting to keep your brand appealing to a broader target market. It essentially balances the pros and cons of the two different font types out, allowing you to get the best of both worlds.

Our research indicates that modern font types are generally the most common, followed by a combination of modern and traditional font types. This makes sense, given that traditional font types are geared towards representing exclusivity – which in its very nature is less common.

Remember, as well, that you will probably need a variety of font types for your brand. Don’t just pick one type and use it everywhere – you’ll likely want a font type for your main headings, another for subheadings, and a third for body copy. You might want even more font types if you’ve got an extra need for them within your branding design process. Be careful, however – too many font types can look cluttered and disorganised.

Branding Design Process

The Fourth Principle for Your Brand Design Process: Imagery

Finally, we get to imagery. Your brand is undoubtedly going to be using images of some kind – between your website, social media platforms, and advertising, it’s practically unavoidable.

You should plan from the outset the sort of imagery you plan on using for your brand. You need to understand the sort of market you’re appealing to so that you understand the sort of imagery they’re most likely to respond to.

If you’re a lifestyle brand that sells clothing, it’s highly likely that you’ll want to be featuring imagery of people wearing your clothing. You’re less likely to use imagery such as cartoons and animations, as these image types don’t fit your brand type.

If you offer computer software, you’re less likely to be using the sort of imagery that the clothing brand does. Instead, you could be looking to use screenshots of your software in action and animated walk through guides.

We’ve uncovered four common types of imagery that are used in many brand types.

Image Type 1: Product in scenario

This imagery type shows a product being used. For example, if you are a camera brand, you could have images of photographers using your product.

This shows off the experience that your product offers, allowing you to target the human side of your audience.

Branding Design Process

Image Type 2: Product

These are less creative, but still effective, images of your product. This sort of imagery could also be used by a camera brand, who would show images of their product from different angles and focused upon different parts of the camera.

This sort of imagery should be considered in the branding design process if you think your audience is interested in the specifics of your product. If you’re targeting high-level photographers, for example, they are probably interested in the smaller details and features of the camera. They’re less interested in the emotional side of your marketing efforts.

Canon Camera

Image Type 3: Lifestyle

Lifestyle imagery is similar to product in scenario imagery, but either doesn’t include the product within the image, or the product is not the main focus of the image.

This sort of imagery is often used by brands who offer services rather than products. Much like product in scenario imagery, this sort of imagery is focused upon highlighting the experiences that your brand’s offerings create.

Branding Design Process

Image Type 4: Illustration

Something a little different, illustration doesn’t feature photographs at all. Rather, it uses images that have been created artistically – either with computer software or by hand – to represent your brand or offerings.

It is crucial that any illustrations fit your brand type – you shouldn’t be using childish drawings if you’re a luxury brand. Illustration is an ambitious imagery type, but if implemented effectively it can add another element to your branding design process.

Branding Design Process

With a good idea of the sort of imagery you will use, you will further your brand identity by keeping your imagery consistent. This consistency increases brand loyalty, which in turn helps create an authenWe’ve uncoveredtic brand that can keep its customers coming back for more.

Your imagery is more than just an afterthought. Quality, relevant imagery can sometimes sell your brand to the audience more than the text and offerings!

After all, a picture is worth 1000 words… Also bear in mind your capabilities. If you’re a smaller brand, you might not yet have the resources to create fancy illustrations; don’t be unrealistic. That said, there are a variety of useful resources that are available for little to no costs that will allow you to create simple graphics such as infographics. Get creative with your imagery!

And just like that, you’ve gone through the branding design process and you’ve developed an identity that suits your brand! If you’ve followed the tips and tricks in this article accurately, your brand is set to stand out from the competition. What’s the next step? Now that your brand design is set up and ready to go, you should formalise it into a brand guidelines document. This will ensure that you don’t stray from the decisions you’ve made regarding your brand design. It’ll also ensure that other members of your team are on the same page as you regarding your brand design. You can provide everyone in your company with a copy of the document, ensuring that they keep their efforts consistent with the greater brand design.

For now, that’s all. But if you’re interested in learning about the entire branding design process, download our 2018 Marketing Managers Branding Guide. It’s absolutely free and contains our qualified insights into the branding process in a single document.

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