What’s a Brand Identity?

Your brand is more than just a logo or the name of your company. It delivers a message about who you are and determines how they feel about you.

What’s in a brand? For some, it’s just a simple logo, like the mark on a farm animal. Right?

“I have a brand. It’s right here on my shirt.”

But Nike has their iconic swoosh. They also have their tagline: “Just Do It.” In their mission statement, they say, “…we strive to expand human potential…” When they describe their vision for their company, they talk about “…bringing innovation and inspiration to athletes around the world…” and their commitment to building a diverse workforce, making a positive impact in the communities that they touch, and building a more sustainable company for the good of the planet.

That’s their brand.

Your brand is more than just a logo or the name of your company. Your “brand” is your identity, a mixture of design and color and font and words that embraces the hearts and minds of your clients. It delivers a message about who you are and determines how they feel about you.

So, how do you determine your brand?

Start with defining what sort of business or organization you are. Are you a rock-climbing gym? A financial firm? A non-profit? An Irish pub? Nailing this part helps to determine whether your design is playful or forceful, whether your color choices should be warm and inviting or solid and reassuring, and what sort of fonts should be employed. Defining your business also defines your target audience. Your choices should talk to the clients that you want to attract.

Street signage at The PennyWhen we created the brand identity for The Penny at Jackson Ward (an SNP Property) we began by looking at their target market, and then their neighborhood.

Potential tenants at The Penny were young professionals, experienced enough to want high-quality luxury apartments and amenities, but still young enough to embrace an active urban lifestyle. Jackson Ward is filled with history, but two things stood out: It was once known as “The Harlem of the South” for the lively jazz clubs lining the streets, and it was home to Maggie Walker’s “Penny Savings Bank,” the first bank in America owned by a Black person, and the first to be owned by a woman.

For design and font choices, Emily looked back to the Jazz Age. Some of the verbiage in their marketing materials – and indeed the names of their different floor plans – use words and names from the Jazz Age and jazz legends. The color palette centers around black and copper, signifying the importance of Walker’s bank. “The Penny” is a direct homage to her institution. The tagline for the property is “Modern Living in the Heart of History.”Sandwich Board at The Penny

If you want to live well with an authentic Richmond experience, The Penny is for you.

To get started on your brand identity, here are some rules:

It should be strong, but not immovable. Your brand identity is a solid foundation for your message, but as your company evolves, it should be able to evolve with you. Your core services may have changed over the years. The cartoon man with a shovel may no longer be relevant. The Coca-Cola logo is still representative of their brand but has undergone countless modifications over the years.

Be Bold, but not Obnoxious. When Apple computers first started out, it was the “Apple Computer Company”, and the logo was a highly stylized image of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Today, few would mistake their minimalist logo for anything but a highly successful company. Your identity is an introduction, and until you’re the size of Apple, you want to inspire confidence – not confusion.

Original Apple Logo Current Apple Logo

 It should be Flexible and Versatile. As we’ve said, your brand identity is more than just your logo, and it will live in more places than just your business card or website. The colors, fonts, and design should be easily adaptable to different mediums, and your words should flow from website to brochure to email template.

Your brand identity is your personality. It’s your value proposition – what sets you apart. It’s also the first introduction people will have to you, so you want it to have a firm handshake and leave a lasting impression.

We can make certain that it does.

  • Words by Chris, ideas and suggestions from Caroline Onder, Brand Strategist and Designer Extraordinaire.

Share this post