Ask people about brand identity and design and they’ll often describe a logo. While, yes, a logo is a near-essential brand design element (more about this in a moment), it’s also just one piece of the overall branding puzzle.
To stand out in the marketplace, your brand needs various design elements – separate ingredients that should work together and complement one another, forming the recipe for a successful brand.
The brand design elements your brand needs include:
1. A logo
A logo is a symbol or other small design that is adopted by a business or organisation to identify its products, premises, vehicles, uniforms, services, marketing and more.
Once upon a time, a mark of ownership would quite literally be branded into the skin of an animal (the origins of “branding”). People in the marketplace quickly built-up associations with those brand marks – whether a farmer was pleasant to deal with, whether their animals were healthy, whether they offered good value for money, etc.
Over the centuries, logos evolved from this. Now, your logo has to tell its own story about your business but it doesn’t just have to stand out in a local marketplace; it may have to grab attention against competitors from around the world.
Get your logo wrong and it can seriously damage your brand (if you don’t believe us, check out these logo fails!) Get your logo right, however, and it can elevate your business to a whole new level (as it has for these businesses).
Fonts offer a surprisingly powerful way to communicate your brand identity. There are thousands of options in a vast variety of styles including serif (i.e. with small line strokes at the end of the horizontal and vertical lines of each letter form), sans serif (i.e. plainer fonts without these extra strokes), handwriting and calligraphy as just a few examples. You can even commission a designer to create bespoke fonts for your business.
In many ways, each font has its own personality – there are fonts that are playful, professional, serious, dramatic, challenging, confrontational and more. Equally, fonts can help to convey meaning. Just look at the image below; the words are the same, but the meaning is very different!
As with most brand design elements, deciding which font(s) to use to represent your business must be about more than personal preference.
- Which fonts best reflect your core business mission?
- Which fonts reflect your business tone of voice?
- Also, which fonts work well together?
- Are the fonts easy to read?
- Do they appeal to your audience?
Most businesses use one or two fonts in their branding (three as a maximum). It’s common to have a main body font and then a secondary font for headings or other text-based design elements.
3. Colour palette
Colour psychology is the study of how colour affects perceptions and behaviour. When we talk about colour psychology within the context of marketing and branding, it’s really about how the use of certain colours influences how consumers respond to a brand.
One study found that people make up their minds about a brand within 90 seconds of their first interaction with it and 62-90% of that judgement is based on colour alone!
There’s a widely shared infographic from The Logo Company that explores which colours are associated with which moods and emotions. Yellow, for example, is optimistic; orange is friendly, cheerful and confident; blue is dependable, trustworthy and strong.
In reality, colour psychology in branding is more complex than this. Consumers’ colour preferences are likely to be shaped by their personal experiences, culture, traditions and associations. Knowing this, it’s essential to research your proposed brand colours with your target audience to see whether their perceptions reflect what you’re trying to communicate.
Most organisations choose a colour palette of three to five complementary colours for their branding. What does your colour palette say about your brand?
Your brand communications, from your website and digital marketing to internal communications, conference materials and print advertising, are all likely to include visual elements such as photographs, illustrations, graphics and icons.
The style of these visual elements should complement one another and reflect your brand identity.
- Do you want your marketing to include brightly coloured images (marketing guru Seth Godin is a great example of this style)?
- Do you want customers to see your products in use (check out Hydro Flask’s vibrant action shots for inspiration)?
- Will your brand favour monochrome images with pops of colour (like Chanel)?
As with all of the elements we’re talking about in this article, the key is for your pictorial brand elements to complement one another so they feel like they’ve come from the same source.
If you use simple but colourful photographs, you might want to use simple but brightly coloured icons, for example, or minimalist graphics.
Bringing in branding specialists to help with your brand design can pay dividends here to create a cohesive visual identity that resonates with your dream customers.
5. Tone of voice
Your business’ tone of voice is absolutely central to creating a cohesive brand. What your business says – and how it says it – can either strengthen the gut response people have to its look and feel or undermine it.
Think about how you want your brand to sound, right down to the vocabulary you might use. Often a strong tone of voice evolves once you become crystal clear about your brand’s personality.
Big name brands such as Oatly, Monzo, Honest Burgers, Nike, Harley Davidson and Ben and Jerry’s embody this – they all have a clear brand voice, be it forthright, confident, inspiration or adventurous. Read through their websites and you quickly get a sense of how each brand sounds and why that fits with its look and feel.
And it’s not just businesses that can benefit from a clear tone of voice. The Scouts is a charitable organisation that knows exactly how to talk to its potential and existing members and volunteers. Indeed, the copy conveys a sense of reassurance, of meeting young people where they are in life and highlighting how joining the Scouts will benefit them. This tone of voice mirrors all of the brand elements to convey trust, adventure and the scope of the organisation.
Other design elements to consider
While the brand design elements above are what most people would consider essentials, you might want to think about the following too:
Although your brand has to translate across different platforms and mediums, the kind of layouts you adopt for your communications should complement one another even if they can’t always be identical.
- Is yours a brand that uses big, bold hero images?
- Do you prefer to use full page/screen rows or columns?
- Do you use graphic elements in your layouts or rely on typography?
- How much space should there be around your logo?
- What line spacing should be used in brochures or on your website?
Essentially, you’ll need to think about how your brand elements are organised and positioned in relation to each other. This is known as your brand layout.
2. Patterns and texture
Some brands cleverly use pattern and texture to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
The fashion-focused, for example, will spend thousands of pounds on a Louis Vuitton item featuring one of its iconic patterns (some of which date back to the 1800s). Equally, the Gucci double G motif is synonymous with luxury and style.
Telecoms provider, O2, is instantly recognisable thanks to its use of water, splashes and bubbles in all of its brand materials. Indeed, you could take all of the other brand elements away and you’d still be able to recognise O2 from the water visuals alone.
Using patterns and texture is a great way to engage people’s senses, even in 2D.
If your business is likely to use ads that feature sound (e.g. digital, radio or TV ads) or you plan to broadcast a podcast or marketing videos, then you’ll want to think about how to use sound as a brand element.
One company that has always done this brilliantly is Intel – its iconic “bong” was first composed and used in 1994 and has become an integral part of the brand identity ever since, although it did get an update in 2020.
While it isn’t essential to have a tagline for your business, it is a brand design element to consider.
Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline and accompanying tick icon is a great example of how a tagline can encapsulate a brand’s core message. Other famous taglines include “Disneyland: The happiest place on Earth”, “Old Spice: The original. If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist” or “Mastercard: There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard”.
As we can see, these taglines sum up what each brand is about, often using humour or promising something to draw people in.
Perhaps we should have included shapes in the imagery you use to convey your brand, but we felt they need a separate mention.
Like the colour palette you choose for your brand, the shapes you use in your visual identity should also appeal to your target audience and reflect your brand identity. Circles, for example, are said to be a sign of unity and commitment and convey softness and approachability. Squares, on the other hand, are seen as strong and dependable but potentially boring. Triangles are less popular but convey energy and innovation. Other shapes are more organic in nature but work well for certain types of brands.
Coca-Cola is such an iconic brand that it has, at times, experimented with removing its logo and text from its products, relying on colour and shape alone. Check out these can designs – there’s still no doubt what brand you’re looking at!
Does your brand have the design elements above? Do all of your brand communications and marketing materials work together and reflect a clear brand identity? If you need help creating a brand that your target audience loves, it would be great to have a chat.< Back to Blog