While your brand identity is the most well-known part of branding, it's more than just a logo. Creating a brand identity is all about taking the research you've done and strategy you've created and translating it into one visual essence. This visual essence is what most people think of as branding - logo design, color palettes, and typography - but it also guides the decisions about the remainder of the brand design (and there's a lot) that comes in the next step.
Your logo is one graphic that generally combines a brand mark (the graphic element) and logotype (the actual text) to create a brand "signature." The design of each element should work together, but should also be able to be recognizable separately.
McDonald's Golden Arches are used both in conjunction with the restaurant name and separately and a simple graphic, but both are instantly recognized around the world.
Starbucks has a logo that's a bit more complicated, but the brand mark and the logotype work together.
Amazon's brand mark actually combines typography and a graphic that is also a part of their overall signature.
When designing a logo, you want something that reflects your brand statement, but also allows for flexibility depending on where it is used. Having a logotype, brand mark, and signature (and sometimes an alternate logo) allows you to use the most appropriate design in different places. You might choose to use just your brand mark to watermark images and as a simple design on a t-shirt and use your signature as your stationary header and on your website.
Look and Feel
When designing your brand identity (and later all the collateral items), you need to pay attention the look and feel of the brand and make sure that it fits the brand strategy you've already created. This is what is going to make your brand stand out from the rest and be recognizable in your industry. It guides all kinds of choices - from your logo design and color palette to the types of images you share on Instagram.
I have a confession to make: I could spend hours tweaking and perfecting color palettes. I love playing around with color and I know that it's so important to the branding process. Your brand colors should evoke emotion and express your personality to your target audience. It needs to be consistent, but flexible enough to give you a variety of options when desiging. It also has to work in all mediums (on screen, in print, on clothing, and maybe even on a billboard or television) and stand out from other business's in your industry.
When I choose a color palette for my clients, I focus first on their audience and the feelings they want to evoke. From there, I make sure to check out their competition because I don't want to create a design that is too similar to someone else's. Color is a great way to show off who you are and the things that make you unique, so don't feel like you have to stick with what is trending right now.
Choosing fonts may seem simple, but it can actually be pretty complicated. You want your brand typography (from your logo to your website paragraph text) to embody your brand, covey the feeling you want your audience to have, work in a variety of sizes and applications, be legible, and have personality.
I recommend sticking to just two or three fonts - one with lots of personality for your logotype and one or two others to round out your design and that are easy to use as regular text. (You don't really want to use that pretty script font as the body of all your emails.)
Your logo, color palette, and font choices make up the basics of your brand identity and are important to get nailed down early in the design process so that you can refer back to them as you design all your brand collateral and touch points. Knowing which colors and fonts you use (and where you should use which) will make designing your stationary, packaging, or information packets easier because those design decisions have already been made and you have a framework to work in.
Along with The Branding Process outline, I'm going to give you a look into how I use this process to design a brand step-by-step from initial consult to launch. Because I don't want to share any of my client's amazing brands before they are complete, I'm going to be walking you through the design of a business I created: Harvest, an eatery and market.
The first part of building a brand identity is to use the client's Pinterest board and questionnaire answers and build a mood board. This mood board features colors and images that will become the reference for later design decisions. My mood boards don't generally feature a logo design because I don't want to pigeon-hole the logo concepts into one style, but it does drive the decisions I will make as far as colors, style, and imagery for the brand.
I chose Harvest's color palette because the client wanted to have a bright, fresh brand that would stand out and reflect all of the amazing colors in the food they prepare and serve.
I kept the fonts for Harvest fairly simple - a textured Serif font for the logo paired with a simple, legible sans-serif fonts for the tagline. These two fonts also inform the fonts used throughout the collateral design - a serif for headings and titles, a sans-serif for body text and other designs.
When designing the logo for Harvest, I wanted something that would be simple enough to be reproduced easily on all the collateral the company would need, but still flexible enough to allow for alternative designs.
Overall, the identity step of the branding process is making sure that all the basics of the brand design are set and ready to be used to build the collateral items that every business needs. These collateral items can include websites, advertising, business cards, stationary, signage, packaging, and much more depending on the type of business. This is way the initial identity design is so important and can take much longer than the later steps - this is the basis of everything else. For my clients, this means that their brand identity needs to be unique, reflect their business, audience, and mission, and be flexible.
Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family. I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.