Musings

Brand Design Part 2: What's Included?

Chris "Boz" Harrold / Marketing Insights / 28th Nov 2019
Chris "Boz" Harrold 28th Nov 2019 Marketing Insights

Many of you will be reading this as a potential client - debating whether to take the plunge and invest your hard-earned time and money in updating your company’s tired old logo, outdated office decor or dull and lifeless sales literature.

You might therefore want to know exactly what it is that makes up a ‘brand’ and what you might get for your money. You may be surprised as to how many of the inconsequential little things that you do as a business have a dramatic bearing on how it is perceived by your potential customers or clients.

Last week we tried to pin down what a brand is. We’ll start with the first and most recognised elements of a brand and go from there. I’ve tried to include an example of each below.

The logo

Understandably, this is often the first thing people look to update when they are considering a re-brand. Often it’s the only thing they consider.

It’s potentially the most reproduced element of the brand and it’s important for this to be consistent and immediately recognisable across all platforms (e.g. your website, printed posters, display ads and mobile app, for example).

A strong logo will often embody many of the organisation’s characteristics in a single piece of design. It’s for this reason that there is (sadly) no such thing as a quick and easy and effective logo - it just has too much influence on the perception of the brand.

The Beats by Dr Dre logo manages to clearly represent the earpiece of over-ear headphones on the side of a head, a backwards musical note and the letter ‘b’ for ‘Beats’ all in one simple, strikingly-coloured and easy to reproduce symbol.

The colours

Colours can hugely influence your audience’s opinion of your company and even radically change their understanding of what it is you do. To make it more difficult, colours come in and out of vogue all the time and can look dated or out-of-place very easily. On top of that, certain neon colours or metallic effects are difficult or impossible to reproduce in print.

That’s assuming your brand even needs colours. Greyscale (i.e. black, white and grey) palettes are cropping up more and more now and can be effective in the right hands.

Gradients have seen a huge surge in popularity over the last couple of years, meaning that the tireless brand designer cannot simply just pick one or two colours that work will next to each other, they must find several colours that work perfectly when blended together and effectively represent the business.

Uber’s new logo and brand contain very little to no colours. Is this because black and white is the clearest signage for busy cities around the world? Uber claim the colour palette “takes advantage of our existing strong – and globally positive – association with black. If you are interested, you can check out Uber’s brand guidelines here.

The typefaces

Whether or not the typeface you choose to use (both in your logo and in your wider communication) has serifs or not can play a huge part in dictating how your company comes across.

Depending on the exact font family, those little decorative bits on the end of the characters’ stems or descenders could either lead your audience to believe you are a professional and reliable company with a long history or that you have fallen behind the times and have not yet optimised your brand for a life online.

There’s more to it than this of course, as we haven’t even mentioned the effect that hand-written (‘cursive’) or display fonts might have on the perception of your product or organisation.

Certain companies - with the budget to support such things - commission their own custom typefaces. These can help imbue every line of text with the desired characteristics and personality of the organisation.

Netflix Sans is described by its brand designer as ‘clean’ and ‘neutral’ with the uppercase characters appearing ‘cinematic’. Whether or not you instinctively know the typeface has been designed especially for Netflix, your subconscious mind may recognise certain shapes or curves from the company’s logo.

The imagery

What is going to be in the images you use to accompany your messaging? Are you going to use photography or illustration or iconography? Does your brand even need to accompany it’s messaging with visuals?

It’s also important to consider the follow: If you represent one group of people in your photography, are you by default excluding others? If though, you don’t feature people at all and only your products, how can you be sure your customers can fully relate to those product or your company? Lifestyle photography and lifestyle brands are hugely influential.

Many clients choose to commission specific photos and photoshoots or purchase carefully curated pre-existing images. This helps ensure that every image contains the right colours, shapes, subject matter and level of detail and looks like it’s part of the same series or collection.

Similarly, illustrations can be commissioned to even-more-perfectly encapsulate the new brand.

Mailchimp (a popular email marketing service) re-branded last year and introduced, in Mailchimp’s words, all the “weird, lovable elements that endeared our earliest customers to Mailchimp” while being careful “not to lose the heritage”.

The tone of voice

We could describe this as “how the character of your business comes through in your words”.

As a business owner or marketing manager, you probably use thousands of words to represent your business every single day. The exact words you choose to use, and how you link them together into coherent sentences will make a big difference to what your potential customers think of you and the organisation you represent.

Companies sometimes come to us admitting that they know that their marketing materials are ‘boring’ or ‘dry’ and wanting help to better engage with their audiences. Others want to ensure that they always speak in full, well-formatted sentences and avoid slang wherever possible. For this, they’ll need careful copywriting and proofing.

Whatever is right for your organisation, make sure it is tailored to your primary audience and used consistently. To give an example, Volkswagen recently re-branded and, along with a new ‘lighter’ logo, a ‘female’ voice will speak for Volkswagen in “almost all markets”.

Supporting elements

The above list is not exhaustive by any means. You may also want to consider your organisation’s…

  • dress code or uniform
  • vehicle livery or signage
  • Interior and exterior design
  • Gender (masculine, feminine, inclusive, non-binary, etc.)
  • Common shapes, angles or trademark features
  • Sound - including music, sound effects or vocals
  • Smell, taste or texture

Actually pinning down each of these elements, designing what needs to be designed and deciding what needs to be decided is a difficult job. It takes someone who is good at listening to the client and their target audiences; a creative person who can generate new and exciting ideas; someone who has their finger on the pulse of current design trends and - last but not least - someone who can talk-the-talk and get the relevant stakeholders really excited about the new brand.

Phew! That’ll have to do for now. Next week, we’ll explain exactly what is needed from the client before such a process can begin.

In the meantime, if you’d like to talk to us about potential re-brand, new logo or full brand design, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Chris

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.