When your business is new, figuring out which brand identity elements you need may seem daunting. What exactly do you have to have? Do you need to get branded stationery? What is an alternate logo? Are you going to have to pay for fonts?
You don’t want to get carried away and spend valuable time and money on things your business doesn’t need. But thinking that a logo alone will carry your entire visual brand is also a mistake. So, to make things easy, here are five essential brand identity elements your business should have.
Okay, you probably knew this one already. This is the foundation of your visual identity and will be the most recognisable element. For this reason, it’s well-worth taking the time and effort to get the design of your logo right.
Alternative logos are also a great way to give your visual branding some flexibility. Alternative logos (or secondary logos) are logo variations that you can use in situations where your main logo doesn’t work the best. This is also commonly referred to as having a responsive logo. For example, if your primary logo design contains some small text, you might want a simplified version to use when your logo is shrunk down.
2. Colour palette
The next essential brand identity element is colour. Colour is important because of the way it sets the mood and personality of your brand. Often before anything else, a customer notices colour and begin to form certain associations based on how it’s used. Your visual branding should have one or two main colours, and maybe some tints to use as an alternative background colour to white.
The choice of which colours to use is less important than making sure the colours align with your overall brand. Don’t be too easily swayed by infographics that state things like “yellow means optimism” and “blue means trust”. Colour psychology is more complex than that and design choices rarely fit into such neat boxes. Instead, focus on whether your brand colours are an appropriate reflection of the kind of message your brand is communicating and matches its personality.
Once you have your colours, be sure to get the colour break-down for printing in CMYK, as well as RGB and Hex codes for screen and web uses. It’s a great idea to start with Pantone colours too, as this can be super useful for printing.
Related post: Understanding colour modes and how to use them
As well as the typefaces themselves, you also want to have a guide for how to set out typography to keep a consistent look. Maybe your headings are always written in all-caps, spaced out, and followed by a sub-heading in a different font, always italics. If you have a tagline, it should be set out in a recognisable way every time.
And do you have to pay for fonts? Well, if you want to use a font that requires paying for a licence for commercial use then yes. Paid fonts can be better for giving your brand identity elements a more original look, and are often available with more weights and glyphs in good quality. BUT with the many free fonts available for commercial use, there are obviously other options. A good designer will work within your budget and needs, and be able to find design solutions that stay in the parameters you set up.
Related post: 5 typographic tips to refer to when designing
4. Photographs/illustrations/graphic elements
I’m grouping these together since, while your business might have good reason to use all three, not every business does. Images are a vital way to share ideas and information, and to help your brand stand out. People are highly visual, and images are a vital way to elevate your content.
Like everything else, consistency with your images is key. Whether light and airy fits your brand, or dark and moody, or bright and saturated, keep your photography uniform. Use the same style across any and all illustrations, and graphic elements, like patterns or textures, should follow rules regarding its treatment.
5. Layout treatment
It’s all well and good to have your logo, colours, type and images, but how do you tie it all together? Making sure these brand identity elements fit together in a cohesive way is just as important as the elements themselves, and there should be strong guidelines in place to ensure they are used consistently.
Designers know this and follow rules when creating collateral for your brand. They can also outline the rules for you in a style or brand guide — a document that outlines how you should use the various brand identity elements together. A style guide can be anything from a page or two covering the basics, or comprehensive manuals that go into minute detail.
Having a style guide means that other designs who develop something for your business have a standard to base their work on.
So there you go. These are the things that I believe every brand absolutely requires. Of course, there could be other essential brand identity elements depending on the exact nature of your business. In any case, be sure to cover at least these five things with your graphic designer(s) when developing your visual identity.
What were the first brand identity elements you started with?
Looking for more content? Try these:
- The difference between art and design, and how design solves business problems
- You need to do a brand audit, and here are the great reasons why
- How to stand out with authentic branding
- Should you hire a graphic designer for your small business?
- When it’s time to rebrand – signs your brand needs reviving
- Before you DIY your logo, consider these important points
- How a strong foundation will ensure an engaging, profitable brand