Logo. Identity. Brand. Three words that are used interchangeably and oftentimes, incorrectly. Talking with business owners I’m typically presented with inquiries such as: “I need to refresh my branding, can you design me a new logo?” or “We need a logo, but we’re not sure what we want”. The potential issues here are that one, people think a logo and a brand are the same thing and two, designing a logo will define your brand.
The reality is a logo, identity and brand must work together symbiotically to be successful. One without the other would be like building a car with no steering wheel, or baking a cake without a main ingredient. Below is a simple breakdown of the difference between these key terms and how they are put into practise.
Let’s start with the more abstract tier – your brand. A brand includes your logo and identity but it is more than that. A brand is how you want your customers to feel after interacting with your product. A brand is what people say about you once you’ve left the room. It is based on your company’s core values, and is evident in everyday experiences such as the way your staff speak to customers, to your tone of voice when writing blog posts, and even how you structure your business model. Largely put, if your brand was an actual person what kind of personality traits would you like them to have? What is their tone of voice when speaking to customers? Laid back? Energized? Powerful? Deciding your voice and personality early on will define your brand goals and act as a reference during the identity and logo design phases.
Identity is as simple as it sounds; it’s how you communicate your brand visually. Things like the custom photography used in your social media campaigns, or a unique pattern element to accompany your brochure and website are evidence of your brand’s identity. It is also found in your colour palette and use of typography across creative and corporate materials. Consistency here is key. If your brand personality is a hip 30-something year old male who’s a sports fanatic, you better be sure you aren’t using a pastel colour palette with whimsical script fonts. It seems obvious but these details matter. Having a proper marriage between your brand personality and visual identity is how customers connect the dots to recognize they are being spoken to. It is also what makes you different from your competitors and memorable to your audience.
At the very basic level under the brand umbrella we have your logo, which is also a component of your identity. It differs in that a logo is your visual identity in its simplest form – an icon that is recognizable across various media. Logos can be typography-based or accompanied by a symbol to present a concept. Nike for example, uses the infamous swoosh for its logo as a standalone element, while J.CREW clothing presents itself using just typography. Oftentimes your logo is a first impression with customers, so it’s important to make a good one.
Having a plan in place for how these pieces will work together is imperative to successful marketing for businesses of all sizes. Starting with the brand is key. If you’re not sure how to get your ideas out on paper there are tons of high-level brand exercises available online. Defining your brand will help lay out the groundwork for when you’re ready to sit down with a design professional, and will ensure your brand goals are being achieved.