The Brand Process

Paul Kelley, Art Director
Posted on Nov 30, 2017

A while back I wrote Feed Your Brand, a blog about evolving your brand after its inception. Well, in true George Lucas fashion, I've returned with a prequel: The Brand Process. I’ll try to make my prequel better than Georgie’s.

So, let's dive right into that logo, right? Nope, not so fast. The logo might be the most fun but you can’t start there. Design is like a house; you can build a beautiful mansion that everyone wants to live in but it’s worthless if it’s sitting on a crumbling foundation.

Creative Strategy

Let’s talk about building that sturdy foundation. It starts with education and research. First, you have to learn about the company this brand will represent. How do they want to be perceived? If it’s not a new company, how are they already perceived? Do they need to change that perception?

A card sort is a great way to learn most of what you need to know. Using keywords you've learned during the proposal process, keywords you’ve learned from competitor research, and blank cards the client can fill in on the fly, you sort them into three key buckets: Who We Are, Who We Aren’t, Who Do We Want To Be?

Knowing how the company fits into these three areas sets the direction its brand will take from here on out. Everything created after this point should be referred back to these goals as a litmus test that things are on track.

Find the tone of voice

If the tone of voice doesn’t line up with the visual aspects of the brand then the whole package falls flat. Should it be confident? Should it be bold & trendy or tried & true? Should it sound conversational? The brand’s tone and personality needs to resonate with its target audience. It wouldn’t be wise for a financial institution to take on a risky, fly by the seat of its pants tone of voice.

Create the mark

Time to put that voice you just created in the perfect body, a logo. When you’ve done your homework, staring at a blank sheet of paper you’re about to fill with rough concepts shouldn’t be a scary thought. You’ve been thinking about this for a while, you probably already have ideas you’ve refined in your head throughout the process. Well, it’s time to let it all out. Sketch everything.

Once you’ve sketched all of your concepts find the strong one(s) and refine. Brand marks should be easily identifiable and they should always support all the work you’ve already put in. Does it make the goals of the company? Good! Does it fit the tone & personality of the brand? Great! Iterate, refine, repeat until its perfect. Keep things black & white during this stage. Only work in color when you know everything is solid.

The Typeface

Make sure the typeface you select holds the same values as the rest of the brand. Don’t just randomly select Papyrus like a thoughtless child just wandering by a garden yanking leaves along the way. Will a Sans Serif work, or should it be a Serif? Should it look clean and modern with a plethora of weights at its disposal or should it have some character and be a little funky. Just as with tone & personality you want to make sure you select a typeface that speaks to your audience and is aligned with the mark you’ve created.

A Splash of Color

Now you can create a color system and finalize the logo. Again, choosing colors at this stage shouldn’t be a huge task. You know the emotions this brand should elicit from its audience and you know generally which colors are attributed to those emotions. When creating this color system keep in mind how color will be used across the brand: in printed collateral, on the web, at tradeshows. Try to combine colors into a unique combination. You want to brand to stand out, not fall into the crowd.

Wrap it up

That's what you need to create a brand system. Remember to keep checking all of your work against those goals that were initially created during the creative strategy phase. If they line up, you'll be golden!