Brand Design Part 1: What is a Brand?

Chris "Boz" Harrold / Marketing Insights / 22nd Nov 2019
Chris "Boz" Harrold 22nd Nov 2019 Marketing Insights

Hello, it’s Chris Harrold here - Roots Creative’s Creative Director. As you can see from the title, I’ve written a three-part article about Brand Design and this is the first.

I’ve done this because it is something I am passionate about and enjoy doing. Also because it's a service we offer that can radically change the look, feel, behaviour and performance of your business or organisation and the employees within it - all for the better, of course.

You might have already read our page on logo design but it doesn’t cover all of the aspects of a full brand design and deserves to be expounded upon. I’m going to try and talk you through what is involved without boring you. Let’s see how I get on.

What is a brand?

Before we begin talking about brand design, we’d better just remind ourselves exactly what a “brand” is. There are a multitude of well-written and informative articles out there explaining exactly what a brand is and how such a thing came into being. This article is more of a gentle introduction. I quite like the quote below from the British Tycoon and “father of advertising” David Ogilvy. He describes a brand as

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes”

The definition of a brand may have evolved slightly since David’s time in the mid-twentieth-century to be slightly more all-encompassing. We could now say that a brand is the overall impression or feeling you get from a company’s products, marketing materials, advertisements, communications and trademarks

Designing the intangible sum

OK, so brand design is designing this ‘intangible sum’ yes?

In effect, yes. That’s why it’s often quite a controversial service and such a hard sell - intangible things are always hard to measure return on investment (ROI) against. Not only this though, many of the key deliverables of such a project often rest on the stakeholder’s personal opinions of colours, fonts and shapes and styles.

A new brand should not really be shaped too much by opinion of this colour or that style - many of the theories and trends utilised by a competent and experienced designer will be evidenced online, in academic studies and in-depth market research. It is just that it is often difficult to, for example, convince a busy and no-nonsense managing director that pink is the new colour of the ‘tech’ sector in 2020.

But how does it make you feel?

To see an example of this in action, you only have to look at Instagram’s new logo launched in 2016.

One of the most controversial rebrands in recent years, the new logo was mocked by some saying it looked “garish” and “like it been created in Microsoft paint”. It’s easy to see how it caused such a stir; being so different from the much more detailed and muted Polaroid camera used before.

Instagram’s head of design Ian Spalter at the time, however, insisted the new logo was “a colourful doorway into the Instagram app”.

It launched at a time when flat design was steadily growing in popularity and now sits perfectly in 2019’s saturated world of minimalism, gradients and geometric shapes. That's the special talent of a good brand designer - he or she will produce a brand so far ahead of the trend, it will take a while for the public to recover!

instagram's old and new logos
Instagram's logo changed dramatically in 2016.

As you can see, it takes nerves of steel and a thick skin to both commission and design a new brand. In the next article, we’ll look at exactly what is involved in a new brand design. This includes all the myriad elements that make up a brand and all the important considerations that both the agency and the client need to take into account.

In the meantime, if you'd like to talk to us about any of the points raised in the article above, please get in touch.

Roots is a full service agency offering brand design in Devon & beyond. We've worked with some great companies across a wide variety of sectors; creating stunning, effective brands from the super corporate to the fun and frivolous. We'd love to help your organisation look and perform at it's best through great brand design - whatever you do!


Chris "Boz" Harrold / Creative Director

Whether it’s for print or web, email or exhibition, Boz creatively directs as hard as he can to ensure we provide our clients with only the highest standard of work.