When I decided to become a graphic designer, there was a lot I did not know. As a self-taught designer, I watched many Youtube videos and digested content from various sources.
I’d see these “popular” designers on Instagram or Behance sharing their work with the caption “brand identity design for XYZ.” The consistency of the designs, the colors, the patterns- they all looked so ‘next level’ to me, and I wanted to do that.
Earlier in my career, I’d be approached by a client to ‘design brand identity’ or “do branding” for them. I’d then design a logo design, some stationery, a unique pattern, choose a font, a color palette along with some other assets. I’d also add some form of documentation for an extra fee. That was the scope of the brand identity design service.
Now that I’ve been doing this for a while now, I can definitively tell you that I got it wrong. You can’t design your brand identity, you can only design your brand’s visual identity. Your brand’s overall identity extends beyond the visual presentation of your brand.
Visual Identity VS Brand Identity
Your visual identity is only one part of your brand’s identity. Your brand’s identity extends beyond just how it looks. It’s the brand’s philosophy, how the brand communicates, how the brand interacts with its community, and so forth. Simply put, your visual identity is the visual presentation of your brand, and your brand identity is the overall experience of your brand.
Other branding terms you should know about
Key visual element
A Key visual refers to graphic elements used repeatedly in all the brand communication materials. Incorporating key visuals into your visual identity will help in making your brand more recognizable among competitors.
Your brand’s visual identity is incomplete without a key visual element. In many cases, a brand’s Key visual is the logo, but sometimes, that might not be the case. A set of colors, specific typography, a unique pattern, or even a mascot can be your key visual element.
Brand style guide
This document explains, in detail, how to use your brand’s visual assets, particularly as it relates to external and internal communications, stationery, and merch. It dictates the rules and conditions for using logos, colors, typography, and other brand assets. The document is usually brief and should not be confused for a brand guidelines document.
This document is the bible, the commandment, or the canon of your brand. It describes everything about your brand, like its positioning, history, culture, vision, mission, visual and verbal styles. It can also serve as a document to help your internal staff understand more about your brand.
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