Before we start discussing what should a corporate identity design include, it would probably be better to start at the beginning. What does it actually mean?
The term corporate identity design usually refers to the brand identity book. A manual that contains the basic brand style guides and includes the essential elements, rules and aspects of how the brand itself should be presented, act or react in certain situations. We can say it’s like an ID, that tells you everything you need to know about the brand.
However, this kind of material should only be available for the people who are working directly with the brand’s image. Clients or any other outsiders should not have access to this visual identity book. Keeping a corporate identity design is like having by your side a brand consultant constantly.
Don’t know how to act in a certain situation your brand is going through? Go back to basics and look for answers in your brand identity book.
Let’s take a look at one of the most famous brands in the history of brands. Wanna play a game? The riddle goes like this:
Red, bubbly black and happiness. You got it! We’re talking about Coca Cola.
Taking a closer look at Coke will definitely make you understand that brand identity books are not just for small brands, they are for corporate and personal brands at the same time. Why? Because it will help you achieve a consistency in your overall brand image. Why is consistency so important?
Consistency is the one thing that sculpts the perception of your brand in the mind of the customer and forms that brand image. It’s the one that makes you think about Coke when you say Santa or “Taste the feeling”, or Starbucks when you say coffee.
As I mentioned earlier, this guidebook should be used by the people behind the brand. In the case of Coke, it applies to the company, partners, agencies, the producers of the bottles, any other parties that want to promote or sell this product.
Good branding will eventually make you skip the need to introduce yourself.
The rules of what a good corporate identity design have changed a lot because the market is constantly changing. It’s like keeping your grandmother’s brownie recipe for years, as a tradition, but constantly improve it. This is why you can’t use the brand image and brand strategy as a justification for not using creativity.
WHO, WHEN and WHAT?
These are the top 3 questions that come to everybody’s mind when they want to create one. Even though there are some ideal conditions for all of these, don’t get stuck in between the “rules”. Every product is different and the market keeps changing.
The most important thing you should and could do is to make sure you make it good. After all, you are putting the pylons of your brand. It’s like building the foundation of your house. You want it to be solid, so that no matter the weather, it will pass the test.
Some people like to stick with the in-house team of designers, while others like to make sure that a team of experts will handle it. This situation can go both ways. Of course, like when building a house, you can ask a construction firm to put the base, or you can do it yourself (if you have the know-how).
There are drawbacks and benefits in both cases. This should be just a matter of what preference. Do you go with somebody who knows the product extremely well, but may lack objectiveness and experience (your own graphic designers), or do you go with somebody who has the knowledge and experience, but may lack some insights (a branding agency)?
It is usually better to have this made before you launch the product. However, there were times in which product management and marketing were not all about strategizing (I know, we find it hard to believe too!).
And as things have changed in the past, we are pretty sure they will keep changing. This is why we recommend for you to keep working on it, and more importantly, improve it constantly.
Identity books are not only about logo design. It should also include aspects like social media imagery, brand vision, values brand personality, web design, packaging design and many other. As mentioned previously, brand identity books are different from product to product. However, there are a few you should not skip.
Let’s face it! We all love stories, of any kind. We like telling them, we like listening to them, we hope our own story will have a happy ending. It’s the same with brands. The easiest way to connect with your audience is by telling them a story, your story.
Each brand should have their own story to tell, it’s the way people can relate to it, or moreover, be part of it. This should also describe and point out the brand’s personality, beliefs, values, and vision. This way, the customer can sketch a first corporate image in mind.
Beats by Dre’s story begins with the listening experience and the emotions that follow, thus introducing top quality sound equipment. This approach was successful because it came as a solution to a big problem of the industry, low-quality sound in headphones.
On the other hand, Toms Shoes has a more emotional story. Their concept was to help the children who didn’t have the chance to buy any and walk barefoot. They matched every pair of sold shoes with a new pair of shoes as a donation for children in need. Toms Shoes got immediate success and it was well deserved.
LOGO (CONCEPT & DESIGN)
Now that you have the story that you want to tell, you should find a way to tell it. The first and most important instrument, in this case, is the logo. The company logo design should incorporate and put together every aspect that you want to transmit (including values and personality of the brand).
After you come up with a concept that will best illustrate your corporate identity, you have to find the variations and come up with the other additional visual elements, such as icons, for instance. Moreover, you have to include variations of the logo such as: with or without the tagline, horizontal and vertical, black, white, colored and on different backgrounds.
While most brands include around 3 or 4 primary colors, they usually come with a complementary color scheme. This secondary palette may sometimes include wider variations of tones and sometimes even neutrals like black, white or gray. This section of the corporate design should also contain CMYK and Pantone remarks for print, as well as web color equivalents.
Let’s play a game. What if I’d show you the color scheme of some of the most famous brands in the world and you try to guess them?
You probably already guessed. Yes! It’s Google!.
What about this one?
You suddenly feel in the mood for coffee, don’t you? It’s because of Starbucks.
Just watch out for the creative design trap. Identifying your brand with too many colors can be misleading. You want to get a reaction from people as soon as they interact with your specific color, so be careful.
If you are still having trouble imagining why the color is so important, take a look at the swaps below. Can you image Google in Yahoo colors and vice versa? Well, now you can! You’re welcome.
What about some of the biggest competitors of all time, Pepsi, and Coke, or Subway and McDonald’s?
If you feel uncomfortable looking at these, you are not the only one, and we’ve just proved our point. Color scheme/palette makes a lot of difference.
In order to make a coherent presence in your customer’s mind, you have to align your design with your typography guide. This way, whatever the typeface is, you’ll be prepared with a font that suits both your brand image and your material so that it will make it easier for people to identify you.
Take a look at this font analysis, and you can clearly see the difference. We’ll take a look at Givenchy, Nike, and 40 OZ NYC.
While most brands use the same fonts, sizes, and styles for all of their materials, the identity design book should include references to how the text should look in different circumstances, devices, print or digital, vertical or horizontal as well as the dimensions. This is recommended because you should always have an alternative in case your original typography scheme doesn’t fit or turn out
The layout part should be filled with examples of how the other elements should be incorporated in different scenarios. Placement, print grids, web layouts, logo and white space, orientation and much more.
It’s like creating plots of behavior for future possible scenarios, such as landing pages, email templates, website, social media posts, flyer design and so on. Moreover, this chapter should include complementary design items such as icons, patterns, and textures recommended in the brand’s graphic design.
If you want to do a great job, you should start from scratch. How? By taking a look at your audience. I’m sure you’ve heard about contouring your user and buyer persona, that meaning creating fictional identities of what your regular buyers look like, how they behave and the reason why they purchase you.
See, in order for you to be successful, all your efforts should be channeled into their direction. Otherwise, you’ll be trying and trying, hoping for good luck to meet you halfway. If you are skipping this step, you would possibly be walking on death row, or pointing at a target blindfolded.
Instead of creating and building up an image on assumptions, you should spend some time working on research, studying the market, the competitors, their behavior, focus groups, interviews and so on.
Focus on quality, not quantity.
The audience chapter from your identity book should be very specific. Who are you selling to, why would they be interested in buying your product, what problem would you solve for them, what is their educational background, sex, age, occupation, income, interests, hobbies and more. How will this help you?
All these aspects will guide you through the whole creation process (from logo to applications), in order to fulfill their expectations. You can’t sell cosmetics to men as well as you can’t expect kids to buy cigarettes and beer. So make sure you orient your intentions and attentions in the right way.
You know that vibrant vibe that every Coke commercial is making you feel?
You might think it happened once, but actually, they are doing it every single time. Over and over again. How? They are just respecting their tone of voice. The overall message communicated in all of their materials is happiness, joy, and friendship. That is their approach.
It’s like the brand’s personality. You can be serious, fun, funky, classy, adventure and much more, but you can’t be fun and serious at the same time. Usually, most brands choose more than one word that defines that tone, but they are related to each other.
For instance, Apple is inspiring and innovative at the same time, Gillette combines top quality with confidence while Dunkin Donuts turns into a necessity and convenience with “America runs on Dunkin”.
So what is yours? Pick a direction and stick with it!
The world is filled with brands that are trying to make it. We make it, the competition is harsh, but at the same time, you can’t expect wonders if you didn’t do your homework. Impossible is nothing, Connecting People, Think Different, A Diamond is Forever, I’m loving it, and many others. I bet you can name all of those brands I was referring to, only by reading those lines.
Name them mottos, slogans, taglines or whatever you want to call them. They usually sum up your vision, values, the tone of voice, positioning and uniqueness, altogether. I know, it seems scary, to sum up all your work in only a few words, and it will probably take some time to find it, but believe me, once you do, you won’t even need an introduction.
So don’t forget to include this in your brand book, and most importantly, explain how you come up with it. Your tagline should definitely be based on your audience and what they expect as an immediate benefit.
A brand’s identity book is similar to a visual guideline of how people who come in contact with the brand or any other collateral parties that may be involved, including potential investors and stakeholders. This brand book should work both as an adviser in identity crises as well as brand development instrument that can help you grow consistently.
Didn’t think about it like this before? Well, I guess it’s time to start working on your before London Bridge is falling down and wonder what the cause is.
Preventing is always better than to cure (a brand crisis) and a being forewarned means being forearmed. So what do you think the ideal corporate identity design book should include?