What Brand Design Really Is

Maybe it’s just the corner of the web that I spend time on, but I’m seeing a shift in buzzwords as of late. And one of them, I’m actually happy to say, is “brand design.” See designers and businesses are focusing more on branding than ever before. The old way of thought about a brand design was pretty cut and dry.

Maybe it’s just the corner of the web that I spend time on, but I’m seeing a shift in buzzwords as of late. And one of them, I’m actually happy to say, is “brand design.” See designers and businesses are focusing more on branding than ever before. The old way of thought about a brand design was pretty cut and dry.

You got your logo, your newsletter design, business card, and whatever other collateral you needed and you kind of just experimented until you found something that attracted clients. But with the shift from brand design being about what you see to what you connect with, is making more meaningful brands that don’t have to shoot in the dark for marketing because the people that they want to work with will be attracted to them.

What A Brand Really Is

As I touched on before, when I say, “Brand” you may think logo, website, newsletter design and all the visuals you see associated with brands. And the thing is, you’re not wrong. All of those things are part of what a brand is, but they aren’t the bones of it.

If you look at your brand like a person, it becomes so much more clear.

On the surface, you have your logo and other visuals. This is the skin. This is what we see as the “pretty” bits.

A layer below that, you have the “how” of your brand. How you speak, how you use your voice, how you use your tone. This is the muscles of your brand. The more they are worked, the more healthy overall your brand is.

A brand is a multi layered system that is working toward a singular goal.

Next up, the organs. The things that make the body work to it’s fullest potential. The system that keeps everything else going. This is the “what” of your brand. This is what you do, who you do it for, how you do it, and how it benefits others. This is the ticking inside of your brand that keeps it alive. Another way to look at this piece is your business model.

And at the center of it all, the soul. This is where the connection is made. This is where the magic happens. This is your “why.” Why you do what you do, what moves you forward, how you want to continue to do these things, what you can give away to the people you want to work with.

So you see, a brand is a multi layered system that is working toward a singular goal; Keep you doing what you want to be doing and paying your bills in the process.

What Makes A Really Strong Brand

Cohesion: The obvious working together off all brand elements to create one connected and understandable being. This is where the visual, emotional, and psychological parts of your brand come together.

Curation: The effort of maintaining the integrity of the brand as a whole. Making decisions through a single lens that keeps focus on end goals of the brand.

Consistency: The backbone of the brand. “Consistency breeds legitimacy.” - Emily Thompson, Being Boss

Positioning: The way that what you do is communicated to the people you want to work with. This is how a brand communicates how it can be hired, what it does, and who it does it for. This, if done properly, should leave no room for error.

Experience: A unique and identifiable experience for customers enhances the positioning of a brand to make it stand out even in the most “saturated” markets. The experience of a customer is a make or break factor in a brand.

How Visuals Tie In

Cohesion: Familiar with the phrase “similar but not the same?” That’s what cohesion is. When you lay images side by side (or line them up in your instagram feed) do they look like they go together? Are you using the same color scheme throughout your brand? Are you making change slowly but surely instead of all at once? If so, you’ve got cohesion.

Curation: The selective process of which you choose images, color, words, and everything else that goes into content that is associated with your brand.

Consistency: Is that content going live consistently? This will benefit your brand in three ways just off the top of my head. The first is trust. By being consistent, you build a trust with your audience. Second, Google likes relevant, valuable, consistent content. Hello, rankings. Third, it creates a system within your business. If every Tuesday you are writing three blog posts or on the 20th of every month, you are taking, editing, writing, and uploading Instagram posts for the following month, you are systemizing. Systems = easier.

Positioning: You can have the best product or service but if you look like you slipped and fell right out of 1995 with your website, you’re not positioning yourself to be an expert today.

Experience: Humans are visual critters. We like things to look like they go together and we like them to fit into what we think they should look like. The same style image posted over and over again ties that image style to you, your brand, and the overall experience that your audience gets.

How A Designer Fits In

As you can see, a brand is so much more than a pallet of pastels and pretty mark. And above all, a brand designer understands the depth of a brand. She will ask questions, provide exercises, and dig into overall brand goals to discover what elements need what.

Brand design is 15% art and 85% problem solving.

Here are my best quick tips for a designer and hiring.

The qualities of a good designer.

  1. Has a portfolio they are willing to share.
  2. Will give references upon request.
  3. Willing to answer questions (and research if they don’t know the answer.)

The three general types of designers.

  1. Methodical designers. These are the designers who are calculating, inquisitive, and methodical.
  2. Intuitive designers. Design based on the feel of a brand and have a “natural” knack for nailing it.
  3. The Hybrid designer. The perfect middle ground. Curious, understanding, intuitive and methodical enough to have a set process that they can create in, these designers trust their instincts but have a purpose to their decisions.

Three things to be weary of.

  1. “I can do anything you want.” What’s that about jacks of all trades? Master of none?
  2. “I don’t have a portfolio.” Just no.
  3. “We don’t need a contract.” Nope. Move along.

Final Thoughts

Brand design is so much more than a mark, as you can tell, even if you just skimmed this post. There is a system to constructing a brand that is not only timeless (think red lips) but sustainable (think overall effort required to keep it going.)

Did you find this helpful? Awesome!


Have more questions? That’s cool, too. See I’m hosting this webinar as not just a business owner, but as a brand designer. I’m calling it a Work With Me AMA. I will be live, for free, for one hour on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm CST (7:00 pm EST) and for those who can’t make it live, because you know, life happens, there will be a replay sent out to the people who register.

Until then, we can hang on Instagram...