Here’s a thought experiment: The movers you’ve hired to help you relocate lose all of the boxes containing your clothing. Every sweater. Every shoe. Even the underwear. Gone. The owner of the moving company makes you an offer. He will buy you a new wardrobe, but there’s a catch. He gets to pick it out, and you have to wear whatever he picks for the next 10 years. Do you accept the offer? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking, “Absolutely not!” That’s because the clothes we wear aren’t simply functional; they say something about us. They communicate subtle but important information about our values, our preferences, and our attitude. And just because an item is the right size doesn’t mean it fits. Our clothing, along with our haircuts, tattoos, and makeup, expresses a set of deeply personal choices. And those choices have consequences. Because the self we present to the world not only reflects who we are, it shapes who we are.
It’s the same thing with brand identities. Your company’s identity — typically defined as your logo, your color palette, your typography, and foundational design assets like business cards and websites — is the clothing your brand wears when it interacts with consumers. Your identity needs to accurately reflect your values, otherwise it threatens to send an incomplete or inaccurate message to the world. A great brand identity is unique. It sets you apart from a crowd of competitors and helps your customers understand what they can expect from you. But at the end of the day your identity needs to fit your brand. Here are some recent examples of strong brand identity work that looks rights, fits right, and feels right.
And if you need help re-imagining your own brand’s wardrobe, the Emergent Order team is ready to help.
Marshall Walker Lee
Think of your favorite brand. Could you draw their brand identity from memory? Logo Design Love asked hundreds of people to do just that and the results are hilarious.
Behold the genius of Paul Rand, the mid-century designer who created dozens of iconic brand identities for the likes of IBM, PBS, and ABC. Rand would often present only ONE design to clients — take it or leave it — even in the early stages of the design process. Today, only the most high-powered designers could get away with such a feat, but this case study of Rand’s design pitches is a powerful lesson in concision and clarity.
Typography is an odd duck. Designers will spend hours geeking out over the binocular tail of a “g”, while clients generally only care about legibility. But type is the bedrock of communications design, and if you’re not thinking carefully about your brand’s fonts, then you’re missing opportunities to build value for your customers. This case study by Airbnb is an elegant example of how sophisticated type design can help a brand achieve its business goals.
Back when IBM actually made “business machines”, brand identity designs could last 10, 20, even 50 years. But now we live in an age of constant updates. And as the technology supporting a brand changes, the brand’s identity needs to keep pace. In this exercise hosted by Dribble, designers reimagined the websites of 9 popular brands. Take a look and think about how these designs change your perceptions of the brands.
Our clients often ask us, “So what exactly is a brand?” Sometimes we tell them that a brand is your company’s reputation, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Other times we tell them that the product is the brand, fullstop. The real answer? Brand is everything. It’s what you do, how you do it, how you describe, and how you plan to do it better in the future. This classic article from Harvard Business Review is a great introduction to our holistic view of branding.