What is an Identity?
I’ll admit for anyone unfamiliar with design and branding, some of the lingo can all start to sound the same. It’s a little intimidating, as well. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to understand what an identity is. And for that matter, how to get it just right.
An identity can span across your logo, brand, social media handles (@yourusername), packaging, domain name, and more. In other words, it’s everything that represents you and your idea.
Even something that seems small–the type of photos you post on Instagram–makes a big statement about who you are. All of the touch points for your brand add up to create a perception of who’s behind the brand. It’s like telling your story a little bit at a time in different ways.
The Difference Between a Brand and a Logo
When thinking about your identity, it’s easy to confuse your logo with your brand. The reality is, these are two very separate ideas.
Your identity is made up of your brand and logo.
In short, the best way to think about identity is to imagine a large box and inside that box actually sits your brand and logo.
Your logo is is a mark, icon, or some sort of visual representation of your identity. And your brand is what drives the way your logo looks, your voice, your messaging, your color palette, the style of the bar stools in your restaurant, and even down to how your packaging looks.
For example, think about Apple. The Apple logo, store, website, products, and packages share a common style. It’s all very polished and techy. The logo is iconic because of the brand.
So, as you further develop your brand and choose a logo, the two will work together to establish your identity. This is the north star of your company, and should represent the feeling your customers get when they interact with your products.
Defining Your Brand
Start with your brand. You want your brand to communicate who you are and what you want to accomplish. Like Southwest Airlines. Their longest running CEO, Herb Kelleher defined Southwest as “THE low fare airline.”
Everything else follows from that. Think about how simple and direct that is. It’s something any employee can understand, throughout the company.
Let’s say you have a strategy, which you can communicate in 100 words or less (as discussed in the last episode of #theprep).
Now, take that strategy and start molding it into an identity that your customers can understand. Remember, your customers don’t need to know about your competitive analysis. They need to know who you are, and identify with the story you’re telling.
Imagine what you want your customers to experience and start throwing ideas on the whiteboard. Here are some initial questions to answer:
- What makes you unique?
- Who are your customers?
- What kind of experience do you want to create?
- What adjectives would you use to describe your company?
- Imagine your company as a place. How would it look, feel, and sound?
- At the end of the day, what’s your goal?
Answering these questions should get you to a point where you can make what’s known as a creative brief. This is a document that communicates what you want to accomplish as a brand. It distills that idea into a game plan for designers and creatives to execute your vision.
You can download our creative brief template here, and get started on your branding.
Designing a Logo
A logo is a lot like a name. It’s the visual representation of your brand. Think about the most iconic logos: McDonald’s, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, etc. Those logos are fairly simple, but because of the brand, they’ve become iconic.
Here are some simple targets that you must hit with your logo design.
- Recognition – The logo should be something people can understand. A complex diagram is the wrong way to go. A symbol people can recognize that is related to your name is the right way to go.
- Simple – Remember that your logo will have multiple uses–site icons, app icons, hats, clothing, stickers, websites, billboards, videos etc. It should be fairly simple–a bold icon with little or no text, or simply a stylized version of your company name.
- On Brand – If your branding is all about being colorful and loud, your logo shouldn’t be black. In other words, make sure the style of your logo will fit into the vision you’ve created for your brand overall.
- Powerful – Your logo should make a statement and grab your customers’ eyes right away. Don’t copy other iconic logos if you want to be unique.
These principles should help you bring something to the table. Also check out this article about more of the visual aspects of designing a logo.
Securing a Domain Name
Domain names are fairly straightforward, but can be tricky. But still, I’ve seen domain names gone wrong and wondered how it happened. Like your logo, the domain should be easy to understand and communicate the essential idea behind your brand.
First things first, get a basic idea of your brand down so you know what the key takeaway is for your customers. Think about it. Your customers are searching for something online. What do they type into the search bar that takes them to your site? It doesn’t have to be related to that, but it’s something to consider.
Above all, make sure that your customers can remember and spell your domain. And that it communicates the feeling you want your brand to represent.
Sometimes you will have to compromise if your domain is already in use. Check to see if your domain is available on domain.com and use the availability as a brainstorming tool.
Follow the Process
Before you jump into logo design and buy a domain name, remember that this is a process. Between taking the idea you came up with walking down the street and turning it into a brand there are a lot of challenging steps you have to take.