What are brand and identity? These two terms are connected but represent very distinctive attributes. Identity is possibly the most intuitive one since it’s a commonality between companies and people. We can define identity as a set of traits that differentiate people or companies from one another. It’s the combination of personality, context, values, and culture.
A brand, on the other hand, is a much more complex structure. It’s not only something that a person or company defines, but also the view that others have on it. It’s a combination of tangible and intangible assets. That’s why it’s so hard to create a solid brand and to keep it that way.
In the 21st century, brands aren’t the same. They face new challenges and have to act accordingly. They are not only fundamental because of their attributes, but also how they chose to show their personality, standing against brutality and injustice.
Therefore, we will focus on brand and identity by providing a set of posts that will analyze both technical and moral brand changes.
So, if you would like to know more about one of the following subjects, please check the links on each section.
The beginning of Brands
Like everything in History, there are several claims on when did the first brand appear.
Some authors claim that it started as personal branding, with Egyptian pharaohs and their distinctive signature mark.
The second claim is that Romans learn from the Etruscans how to mass-produce clay objects from molds and start branding them according to each manufacturer.
Another possibility is that in old Scandinavia, the Norse branded animals with hot irons so they could know to whom they belonged.
However, contemporarily speaking, the branding concept as we apply today, started in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution and the mass market development.
Newspapers and posters begin to advertise products that were strategically communicated by corporations. Naming and packaging also started to play an indisputable roll in successfully selling goods and creating brands that are still around.
What a brand is not
We’ve seen, broadly, what the terms brand and identity represent and what they are. However, there are still a lot of people – including professionals – that make incorrect claims.
A brand is not a logo, a name, or a trademark. So to be clear, when designers say that they do branding (which I do as well), they’re saying that they can help out with the visual assets of such a brand. We do not do branding and it will magically sell millions. Both brand and identity require time, dedication, and much more than the work of a designer.
To quote Marty Neumeier on “The Brand Gap” book: A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s a gut feeling.
A brand is not what you say it is. Is what THEY say it is.
The design process
Commonly, each designer has a different methodology, even when developing the same sort of work. It’s true for branding as well.
Different agencies, freelancers and studios may approach brand and identity differently, according to each customer, to different procedures and with the client’s size or budget in mind.
Nonetheless, one characteristic which I think should be mandatory in all cases is the client’s involvement in the design process.
Sure, no one likes clients that micromanage or who want to become our best friends all of a sudden, but it’s important to keep sharing the process, asking for feedback, and making sure everything is on track.
Besides that, more or less, everyone is following these four steps in order: Research -> Design -> Implementation -> Deliver. Why? Because it ensures that every decision is backed up by solid knowledge and previous validation.
It’s also a way to ensure clients understand what it takes to design a brand and why it is not such a quick-fix magical solution.
As you can see, it’s a good procedure for more than one reason.
Why everyone wants to get on the brand and identity wagon
Last year and this year also, lots of large corporations like Kellogg’s, Staples, Warner Bros., and GoDaddy decided to rebrand.
The first asset that tends to stand out and be scrutinized by the public and design professionals is the logo. And usually, it is not for the best reasons.
Especially older brands are trying to keep up with new trends, different platforms, or even new strong competitors that tend to make them nervous. That way, they rush into these decisions which are often unnecessary.
They want to be cool, want to attract new generations of consumers, and for some reason, they decided that design was the right tool for that.
In a time were clients are much more aware and informed about design and design-related subjects, they tend to shift the market demands. Branding has become one of those demands and, unfortunately, a buzz word.
And even when companies should prioritize assets such as communication, community, and logistics, they opt for investing in design.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to help brands creating their assets, but most importantly, I enjoy seeing them thrive. And most of the times, in the long run, design will not make or break the company’s success.