As the terms ‘Logo’ and ‘Brand’ are used somewhat interchangeably today by many quarters, let’s take a closer look at what A Brand Identity System actually is.
If you have experience in creating a new business (or are in the process now), you have likely searched the term ‘Logo’ and have gotten results with the term ‘Brand’ and vice versa. Depending on how much research you are doing, you may be coming across the terms ‘Brand Identity’ or ‘Brand Identity System’ more and more.
Brand Identity System In a Nutshell
A Brand Identity System, in a nutshell, is the visual representation of a brand. It is a collection of cohesively designed elements that work together to form how you see that brand visually. These elements come together to paint how your brand looks on magazines, websites, business cards, flyers, posters, brochures, banner ads, social posts, packaging and more.
Brand Identity Personified
We like to personify brands today due to our relationships with them so using that theme, let’s identify what a Brand Identity System is in the form of a person.
Successful brands of today tend to have common human characteristics, which start internally, with a Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values. These internal human characteristics translate seamlessly from person to brand.
When it comes to the brand identity, however, we need to get a little creative. If we go back to the ‘nutshell’ summary earlier, we can recall that the brand identity system is a visual representation of the brand. So, how that would translate to a person would be the visual representation of that person (their appearance).
The first thing you tend to see when you look at someone is their face. For a brand, that is the logo (hence, the logo is the face of the brand). After the face, everything you see of that person visually makes up the rest of their visual identity such as their hair, clothes, makeup, style, accessories, shoes, and their colours. Likewise, the brands’ identity after the logo (face) is made up of shapes, typography, colour palette, blends, image style, icons, graphics, characters, and animations.
Identity is more than a face
Although the face is the first thing you see, the visuals don’t end there. By observing everything else you can see of a person, you see their broader visual identity. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as humans, we quickly make decisions based on the broader visual identity or appearance, at least to the point of deciding whether or not we might like to know more about them.
The same is true with brands. If all you have is a logo, it is likely you are not expressing your brand visually in a way that helps your audience to make that decision.
Here are the critical elements using a recent branding and platform project of Iconic fox; Burmudo (www.burmudo.com.au). If you don’t have most of these representing your brand visually, it’s likely you are missing out on opportunities to cement a place in the mind of your audience.
1. Primary Brand Mark
This is the main logo of the brand. It is used as a priority and only replaced by the secondary brand mark when the primary does not suit the environment in which it’s representing. The primary brand mark will become the most recognised visual queue of your brand and, so should have an element of timelessness.
2. Secondary Brand Mark
This is the alternate version of the logo, which at a minimum, represents a variation of the colour palette but may also offer a variation of other brand elements such as shape and typography weight and spacing. The role of the secondary brand mark is to act as a substitute for the primary where the primary doesn’t suit the environment.
3. Lockup Variations
Lockup variations are position variations of each of the Primary and Secondary Brand Marks. The role of these lockup variations is to allow positional flexibility in their environments (notably those with special restrictions). Common examples of these would be ‘Stacked” (Iconic element above the type) and “Horizontal” (Iconic element beside the type). Lockup variations are more prevalent with logos using iconic elements rather than “Wordmark” logos (logo’s made up of styled typography).
4. Image Style
In today’s visual digital environment it is becoming more important to have a distinctive image style to illustrate and represent your brand visually. Image style can vary in colour, tone, filters, content, photography style and graphic application. The representation of images throughout a brand identity system is growing and so its importance is increasing. A focus on a unique and distinctive image style can have a big impact in the mind of the audience when it comes to brand recall.
5. Graphic Library
A comprehensive brand identity includes a library of graphic elements that can be used in the application of the visual brand on various mediums. These graphic elements are tools of brand expression and are often critical in the creation of brand collateral. Having a comprehensive graphic library to call on when constructing any brand collateral means that the brand style is not open to interpretation by new designers which helps establish consistency.
6. Colour Palette
The colour palette is a set of specific colours (with specific colour values) that ensure the colour representation of the brand remains consistent. The colour palette is usually made up of a primary (first choice colour) secondary & complimentary (second choice colour) as well as supporting neutral colours. The colour palette has endless possibilities, which is why designers commonly use it as the key differentiator from the competition.
Here are some examples of colour pallets and the impact they have.
The importance of typography in the design of a brand identity system cannot be understated. Typography can add real character to the brand identity system as each font family has its own unique characteristics. Typography selection is key to achieving the intended style and positioning of the brand identity system. Furthermore, the subtle differences in spacing and weight can completely transform the character of the type, making in a highly sensitive element in the successful design and positioning of the brand visuals.
8. Brand Collateral
Brand collateral is where the brand identity gets to speak visually. All of the elements of the brand identity; logo, image style, colour palette, graphic library, typography, all come together to express the cohesiveness of the brand identity. Whether it is a business card, a brochure, an advertisement or a website, the brand collateral is the brand identity’s stage to perform.
9. Brand Guidelines
Every Brand Identity System must have a set of governing brand guidelines to protect the application of the brand and ensure consistency over time. Throughout businesses, people come and go but the brand must remain constant and not change its expression based on the personnel. In order for a brand to stand the test of time, its identity must be protected from the people within the business to ensure its longevity.
The brand identity system is a true visual expression of the brand. As people, we use more than just our facial features to express our visual identity. Both with brands and with people, however, there is more than meets the eye.
A person’s visual representation gives you a peek at what’s on the inside but it does not define them. What it does, however, is give you an indication as to whether or not you want to know more about them.
Likewise your brands visual representation does not define your brand but is certainly go further than a logo. It should give your audience some insight as to what’s on the inside as well as a reason to want to know more about you.
Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.
He’s also a friendly chap so if there’s something you want to know about brand, he’d be happy to get into it with you