The Designer’s Guide To

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A guide to help new designers develop effective brand identity solutions. Advice provided by international industry professionals, edited and curated by Richard Baird.

Your logo is not your brand

It is important to remember that your logo is not your brand, nor is it your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a business or product.

Read more:

What is brand?

What is identity?

What is a logo?

Provided by @justcreative


Before starting any brand identity project it’s important to spend time looking at the propositions and values you need to convey and the most appropriate ways of doing so. If a brand is made up of a number of complex propositions don’t try compound everything into a logo-mark. Try to understand the most effective ways of conveying each value and spread these across multiple touch points, this might be through stationary, packaging, on-line communication or environmental design. The aim is to create something that is communicatively multidimensional, rich and cohesive.

Provided by @richbaird


As a minimum, make sure that each of the components you design or select (typography, colour, tone of voice, photography, layout) are unified under a consistent concept and aesthetic. Consider how the brand is presented beyond just a logo.

If you are a new designer working on small jobs this my only extend to stationery but this a good opportunity to establish a corporate typeface, layout style, material choice or print finish for future collaterals.

Provided by @richbaird

Cohesive Diversity

Where consistency provides a professional foundation, it is cohesive diversity that delivers an engaging experience. One big idea is often seen as the ideal but, in my mind, a bunch of cohesive little ideas that exist across multiple touch points can have more of a communicative effectiveness and establish a more unusual and interesting brand personality.

Provided by @richbaird

Brand personality

Talk to the client and make sure you really understand their brand personality before you tackle their visual identity. They’re the ones that live and breathe their brand, and asking them lots of questions and picking their brains upfront will save you a lot of time and post client review headaches.

Provided by @BradleyRogerson

Brand guidelines

If you’re new to freelancing or rely on small jobs brand guidelines might seem like unnecessary work but they are a very useful tool to guarantee your solution is utilised as it was intended. This might simply be an A4 sheet of do’s and don’ts but offering this as part of a project fee will show a potential client you have a greater understanding and experience of the brand world.

A single and more comprehensive four page identity guideline template is available on Graham Smith’s website.

Provided by @richbaird

Understand your client

Understand your client inside-out i.e. complete all due diligence/research brilliantly before starting any creative work. A strong and descriptive (ideally one page) brief will help too, you may even need to establish this yourself. Try and keep all correspondence with your client clear and precise and avoid piecemeal communication. (i.e. don’t be afraid to ask questions but try to these all at once). Demystify the brand design process where you can so they can understand your position and this way they appreciate your workload and talent!

Always make things easy and very positive experience for your client.

Provided by @curvecorp

Corporate colours

When it comes to effective branding colour really is key. Colours affect people’s state of mind psychologically whether you like it or not! As a designer you have to research and really consider who your target audience is and how the chosen colours will relate to them.

Personally I have seen some pretty average looking logos (especially in rural Australia), however the ‘brand’ is still often memorable to me because of a unique colour combination. I always try to work with only two – three colours as a base and work from there.

Provided by @designabot


Experience the product or service you’re designing for

If possible, visit your client’s location and take a lot of pictures of the environment, product or service. Reference these for inspiration while designing.

Provided by @tadfry

Keep it manageable

When your developing a brand identity and related assets consider the end-user and their experience and abilities to execute the brand. If you’re designing for a small business with a limited print budget consider producing stamps and stickers as a brand tool that can easily be applied to off-the-shelf boxes.

Provided by @richbaird

Consider the brand’s custodians

Establish the full picture for the brand so you know every type of media it will go on and create guidelines in case it gets passed on – this way it’s less likely to get violated by other designers or indeed non-designers, so your branding result remains consistent.

Provided by @curvecorp


Keep your brand strategy clear and simple, refer back to it as you develop each asset and make sure you’re on-brand.

Limit your typefaces to a maximum of 2 if possible and consider establishing a corporate typeface for literature.

Try to avoid overused generic stock imagery and consider how each works in communicating brand values, make sure that the composition, colours and content remain consistent even if sourced from multiple photographers.

Always try to think ahead and envisage each asset in their individual forms and as a complete experience. Evaluate their functionality within the architecture of the brand and whether they justify their place.

Create logo variations that allow it to be easily placed within a variety of situations ie. Left Aligned, Right Aligned and Central.

Provided by @anilamrit

Identity design doesn’t need to begin with the logo

Always consider the bigger picture, brand design doesn’t always need to begin with the logo. Look at the most appropriate ways of communicating the propositions, this might be with photography, patterns (check out this project), developing packaging or a retail environment. This will often lead to a better understanding of how to distil the brand experience down into a simple logo.

Provided by @richbaird

Negative space

It can be said that effective design happens between the blank parts. It’s easy to over-design things (perhaps for the sake of making it look like you spent a lot of time on it), but the real beauty in is the white space. If you’re designing a brand mark, the deck of a snowboard or an interstate billboard, think simply. That’s where the impact is.

Provided by @parlory

Brand planning

Effective branding projects rely on a creative brief to keep everyone focused as a project progresses. Include sections for a situation analysis, objectives, target markets, budget and resources, time frame, point person, known parameters, approval structure, stake-holders and metrics for assessing results.

Provided by @brandnatter

Understanding the brand’s audience

Research who the brand is trying to reach. Not just demographically (gender, age, location, income), but also psychographically (interests, activities, opinions).

Create a user persona that includes a name, job, fashion choices, etc. and try to align the brand with this user persona always asking the question “would the brand resonate with user persona X?”

Find areas of common ground and overlap between the brand and the target audience’s aspirations, and highlight them wherever possible. Visually, verbally, texturally, etc.

By referring back to this research you can stay on track to make an impact with who you are trying to reach.

Provided by @IanVadas

Communicating brand values

Designers typically think about branding visually. But look what happens when you broaden your design methodology using the other senses.

For example, if a brand is Loud, Quiet, Discordant or Melodic, what might that look like iconographically? If it could be tasted, what typography would suggest Spicy, Bitter-Sweet, or Salty? Or, what would the colour ways for a Pungent, Musky or Citrus identity look like?

Good designers make such decisions almost intuitively. Being deliberate about it in this way can open up a flood of creative inspiration & make ideation that much more fun.

Provided by @copywrighting


Originality is the preoccupation of designers, not those in the business of selling to specific or large groups of people. In order to be an effective brand identity designer it’s important that you understand the familiar and established, and that you can understand and leverage the preconceived ideas and associations people have attribute to particular materials, typefaces and print finishes across different product categories. It is the remixing and cross pollination of these that ultimate leads to a distinctive solution that is also communicative.

Provided by @richbaird

Branding Components

Branding practice today involves five components. These components are, positioning, storytelling, design, price and customer relationships. All of these together, working in harmony give the brand value. Get these right and you will reinforce the good reputation of a company or product and promote loyalty. It also allows you to convey a sense of greater worth that allows your product or service to be priced higher. It could be said that good brands never change. The core values of the brand might not change, but it is imperative that the manifestation of the brand such as advertising, package design and web experiences must change. There needs to be a constant evolution of these touch points to keep with changes in customers expectations and perceptions.

Provided by @deniscarroll



If you are a designer and have any advice you would like to add to this article, please submit your contribution as a comment below and remember to include your Twitter ID so I can credit your tip.


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