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Brand identity: tips for designing and creating your brand

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

20 April 2022

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Your business’s brand identity includes all the elements that makes your business’s name unique, including your logo, typography, and the colours you use.

  • Tips for an award-winning brand refresh

What is brand identity?

Your brand identity shapes how your customers (and potential customers) see your business. It also influences your marketing and advertising decisions.

It’s linked with why you want your customers to choose you in the first place. For example, if you know you’re more qualified than your competitors, you might want to highlight trust through your brand identity.

You can use colours that are associated with trust, plus the language you use when talking to customers should be responsive and attentive to their needs.

Brand identity commonly refers to the way your business looks. But it’s also important to consider the way your business communicates (for example, whether you’re formal or casual), as well as how your brand aligns with your business’s values.

If you’re considering your brand identity for the first time, your values are a great place to start.

Why is brand identity important?

It comes down to how brand identity is linked to your values.

Values inform how businesses interact with people. But values aren’t just for huge corporations. If you’re a small business or sole trader, you’ll have values too, even if they’re not written down.

If you’re thinking about brand identity for the first time, go back to the reasons you started your business. If you’re not sure, read through your business plan or SWOT analysis to work out what’s motivating you to make a success of your business. It could be:

  • introducing choice in your area (for example, a new vegan takeaway in a town that doesn’t have many existing options)
  • offering a more flexible option for customers (for example, a convenience store that’s open more hours than the nearest supermarket)
  • giving a better experience for customers (for example, an independent cinema that’s more intimate and community-minded than bigger brands)

This mission statement can then form a set of values that sit at the heart of your business. For example, if choice and flexibility are your goals, what values will help you meet them? They could include:

  • simplicity (making options clear to customers without using jargon)
  • trust (you’re transparent and show customers all their options)
  • speed (customers can make their choices quickly with minimum fuss)

If you have employees, be sure to work with them on defining your business’s values. They’ll be living the culture you’ve created, so you’ll get important feedback.

You can start to create a brand identity from your values.

At Simply Business our values are simplicity, authenticity, pioneering, learning and empowerment. Read more about them.

Brand identity design: three steps

1. Choose brand colours

Whether it’s Coca-Cola, Google, or Apple, the world’s biggest brands all use colours that are immediately recognisable.

What’s more, their use of colour is consistent. Google will make sure the right shades of its colours are used across all touchpoints. And if another business wants to use the Google brand, they have to follow Google’s guidelines.

Colours make people feel strong emotions. Think of red compared to blue. Red is passionate and energetic but also suggests danger. Blue is open and trustworthy and implies consistency.

The symbolism can be different in difficult cultures though, so bear your target market in mind when choosing your colours.

You should develop your mission statement and values before thinking about the visual part of your brand identity.

For example, the energetic combination of red and yellow suggests speed and efficiency.

When you’ve settled on a colour, you can choose a combination of shades that become your brand’s colour palette. Read more about colour symbolism and colour palettes at Canva.

2. Choose a typeface

A typeface is a set of characters (made up of letters, numbers and symbols) that all have a particular overarching design.

It became more common to talk about typefaces when computers started to be used widely, as word processors have a set of typefaces installed. You might recognise these:

  • Times New Roman
  • Helvetica
  • Arial

You can use multiple typefaces in your brand identity. But as with colour, the key point is consistency.

For instance, your logo and headings on your website might be made up of a particularly expressive typeface to capture people’s attention. Then the rest of the copy on your website (like blog posts) might use a typeface that’s more readable rather than attention-grabbing.

But be sure to stick with them after you’ve chosen and use the same typeface across all touchpoints. It means that if you use Helvetica for your blog posts, you should consider using Helvetica in any printed materials you post through people’s doors.

3. Choose imagery that represents your brand

Whether you have a website, use print marketing, or even want to wrap vehicles with your own branding, the images you use should represent your brand (and be consistent).

If you use illustration in printed leaflets but the same fun, cartoon-like drawings don’t appear on your website, customers will be confused about your brand identity.

One way to work out which imagery best suits your brand is to create a mood board. A mood board is a collection of images that help define your brand.

You can refer back to the mood board when you want to choose new images to represent your brand in the future. You don’t need fancy software to create a mood board, as Google Slides or PowerPoint will do just fine.

You simply find images that suit your brand’s direction. If you like, you can write about what the images represent and how they fit with your business.

Pinterest is a useful social media tool that can help define your brand’s look. And if you’re looking for free images to download, try Unsplash (it’s always important to make sure you have the rights to use imagery in any marketing materials you produce).

Words define your brand identity, too

The words you use to talk to customers form part of your brand identity. This is true both verbally and in writing.

If one of your values is simplicity, but you find yourself using jargon in front of confused-looking customers, it’s time to work out rules for your business’s language.

It’s useful to look at how other businesses' words contribute to their brand identity. Grammarly has a great summary of brand voice examples, explaining how brands can be friendly, confident or inspiring just through the words they use.

As more and more people interact on the internet, the language that businesses use has trended towards being conversational, informal and easy-to-read. When writing, keep in mind that the Office for National Statistics suggests that the average reading age for the UK is nine.

When you’ve settled on the type of language you want to use, review any existing words you use on your website and elsewhere to make changes that reflect your brand identity.

Be sure to write it all down (including some examples). This is commonly known as a tone of voice document and will help your employees write about your brand effectively.

More on creating a brand identity

There’s much more to talk about on brand identity. Resources mentioned throughout this guide (including Canva and Grammarly) can help you explore the topic further.

For more on writing and language, check out The Writer and Copyblogger.

There are also specific theories you can use to develop your brand identity, including the brand identity prism.

What would you like to learn about next? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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