Brand identity: tips for designing and creating your brand

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

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.

Brand identity prism

Before you get stuck into creating your own brand identity, you might find some inspiration from the brand identity prism. This is a theory developed to help you better understand your business as a brand – as well as how you can represent it.

Think of your brand as a person and then break it down into the following six categories:

  1. Physique: This is the visual side of your brand including your logo, fonts, and colours – even your choice of packaging. How do you want your brand to look to the outside world?
  2. Personality: While you created your business, it’s helpful to remember that your brand is a separate entity and should have its own personality. It can be the same as yours – or be the complete opposite. Is your business serious and professional? Is it quirky, funny, or welcoming? Imagine your brand as a person and see what feels right.
  3. Culture: These are your business’s values and beliefs – the things that sit at the core of what you do. Defining your brand’s vision and mission statements could help you identify this.
  4. Relationship: More specifically, the relationship with your customers. Think about the kind of experience you want customers to have when they engage with your business. This could be warm, efficient, informal – the list goes on.
  5. Reflection: Your brand’s reflection is made up of the previous four sides of the prism, culminating in how your customers see your brand. This is the overall opinion your customers have of your business.
  6. Self-image: Lastly, this is how your customers see themselves when they interact with your business. Do they feel proud or confident? Traditional or progressive? Your brand identity should reflect how you want them to feel.

By identifying each side of the prism, you should be able to look at your brand from a different perspective to discover your brand identity. This, in turn, will help your marketing and branding efforts feel stronger and more consistent.

Why is brand identity important?

It comes down to how brand identity is linked to your values. A strong brand identity can create customer loyalty and even boost positive reviews on sites like Trustpilot.

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 business 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.

5 steps to brand identity design

From how to choose brand colours to learning how your logo, typeface, and imagery represent your brand identity, follow these five steps to get started.

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.

Brand colour psychology suggests colours can make people feel strong emotions and influence how they feel about a brand. 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 is often rooted in different experiences and 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. Create your brand colour palette

When you’ve settled on a colour, you can choose a combination of shades and supporting colours that become your brand’s colour palette.

How many colours you choose is up to you, but as a general rule you’ll want between five and ten colours in your colour palette. You won’t use them all at once so it’s important to put together clear guidelines on how and when to use them. For example, your logo might just include one colour but you may use several colours for your business website.

Choosing colours is a tricky process so using a brand colour palette generator can help you decide on colours that work well together.

3. Design your logo colours

Logo colours can be a selection from a brand’s colour palette. Or they might be just one colour combined with neutral white or black.

Your logo colours should help you stand out from your competitors and show your brand identity. Creating a mood board of company brands in your industry as part of your competitor analysis can help you identify popular colours (and opportunities to differentiate your brand).

Blue used to be a popular brand colour choice for tech brands like IBM, HP and Intel as it’s said to show trust and authenticity.

Now brands are starting to be more disruptive with their colour palette. For example, Monzo uses bright colours like hot coral, while Slack uses the four main colours in a colour wheel (blue, green, red and yellow).

4. 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.

5. 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, which 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).

Your brand’s look and feel should follow through to your YouTube channel too (if you have one).

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.

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

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Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

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