Branding, visual identity, and logo design: what’s the difference?

The start of the new year is a great moment to reflect and ask, “What can I do to make my business better?” Your answer about how to bring in business, may not be what you think. Oftentimes, the internal process of how to do sales is less important than how your clients perceive what you do. Niccolo Machiavelli famously said, more articulately than I can, “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

Branding, identity design, and logos play a huge role in the perception of your company. They send signals to potential clients and help guide their decision-making process. In this blog, we break down those keywords to jumpstart your brand identity process and create a shared language to make your business blossom in the new year. 

The three functions of Brands: Navigate, Reassure and Engage to Stand Out

Branding is what people say about your product or service when you are not in the room, it’s a feeling or an emotion. Marty Neumeier tells us in The Brand Gap, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” We can’t say what they will say, but we can help you shape expectations, memories, stories, or behaviors that inform a client’s decision to choose your product. 

Brands have three main functions: navigation, reassurance, and engagement. 

1. Brands help your customer choose 

Brands help navigate consumers to choose one option from a paralyzing array of choices. 

2. Brands reassure

They communicate the intrinsic quality of the product or service and reassure customers that they made the right choice.

3. Brands engage your customers

Brands engage with customers using images, language, and associations to identify with the brand. Branding is the most strategic tool to build a stronger bond and stand out in a crowded marketplace. People fall in love with brands, trust them, and believe they are better than the rest. 

The perception and reputation your brand has, affects its success, no matter if it’s a startup, nonprofit, or product. The more competition you have, the more choices that a potential client has. This means you need to build an emotional connection to create a loyal customer. 

Identity Design: Appeal to Senses and Unify Your Message

One major role in designing the brand is its identity design. Identity design dictates how the brand appears to your audience and includes the visual aspects that form part of the overall brand. Identity design answers, “Who are you? Who needs to know? How will they find out? Why should they care?” in a sensory and visual way. 

Visual Identity appeals to user senses

When you design for branding, everything your company does should reflect the values and aims of the business as a whole. The designer forms the foundation of the brand and will develop the logo, fonts, color scheme, and brand style guide. They can also create your stationery, presentation templates, and marketing collateral (brochures, websites, postcards, etc).

Using your senses, the identity design invites potential clients to see, touch, hold, watch, and move the product with consistency. This fuels recognition and makes big ideas and meaning accessible by unifying them into whole systems. 

Visual Identity unifies your message across platforms

There’s no shying away from the fact we live in a branded world. It’s important that we build a consistent brand identity to communicate a strong brand idea over and over. When you invest in brand identity, you make it easier for a client to buy and build brand equity. 

The Logo: Simplify Your Mark

"Keep It Simple Stupid," great advice, hurts my feelings every time.
Michael always says “K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid.” Great advice. Hurts my feelings every time.” — Dwight from The Office.

The brand and identity of your business need to be simplified into a recognizable mark. Are pictures worth a thousand words? When people see your logo, they will think of your brand’s tone of voice and the competitive advantages you offer. A logo identity system and a strong branding system are both crucial for marketing and promoting a consistent image and voice. 

The word, ‘logo,’ comes from the Greek word, logotype. Logos means word and typos means imprint. Logo design is used for identification. A logo does not sell the company directly or even describe your business. The color, shape, symbol, and form of a logo serve to promote instant public recognition when you look at it, and sometimes it is a wordmark, like Aetna or IBM. The logo is the mark to identify, not explain. 

  • Most brands use both words and symbols in their logo, like Adidas
  • Other brands have a logo that’s a wordmark, without a symbol, like Google.
  • Lastly, some brands are so well known, they have no typos (words) and just a symbol, like Apple.

Customers don’t experience your company in the form of a logo without context usually. Logos are seen through your website, menu, or product packaging. The logo design does not usually foster a strong emotional reaction by itself. 

A logo should not literally describe what a business does, but rather identify the business in a way that is recognized and memorable. That’s why investing in smart branding and a strong brand identity design is crucial. 

Need help with your logo?

We can work together to develop a solid foundation for your brand and cue the customer to think of past experiences they had with your brand through a well-designed logo and trigger that emotional or intellectual response.  Let’s talk.

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