Eight Steps to Creating a Successful Brand Identity

Posted on Jul 17, 2013


In a related post, I discussed what makes a logo or brand identity successful. This time around, I’m going to cover the process or stages involved in getting there.

The process of creating a successful brand identity requires research, gathering information, strategic analysis, creative design and skilled project management. While the amount of time and resources spent on each stage will vary for each client, the process itself should remain the same.

1. Establish criteria and gather information
The designer’s first step is to find out as much as possible about the brand by asking the client a series of questions:

  • Who is the client?
  • Who are their customers?
  • Who is their competition?
  • What is their current perception and do they want to maintain or change it?
  • What are the demographics of their target audience?
  • What are their short-term and long-term goals?
  • What is their key messaging?
  • What positioning, personality or tone do they wish to convey?
  • How long will the identity be used?
  • What applications are required for the identity?

In some cases, additional market research from a third-party firm may be required to fully understand brand perception and strategy.

2. Prepare a creative brief based on the information gathered
A creative brief is a clearly communicated outline of the intentions, expectations, positioning and creative direction the identity will take based on the information gathered in step 1. It is an agreed to collaborative plan between the designer and client that serves as a foundation or reference point for keeping the project on track and measuring the success of any creative concepts presented for approval. This crucial step will narrow the designer’s focus by establishing the ground rules for creative exploration.

3. Explore concepts based on the creative brief
At last comes the fun part! With all the background information at hand, the designer can now begin to brainstorm, mind map and explore creative concepts on paper.

4. Type and colour
Choosing an appropriate typeface and colours that suit the brand personality is critical for success. A short list of type and colour choices is developed.

5. Narrowing down the choices
Rendering creative concepts on the computer in black and white is the next step, as ideas that work well without relying on colour only get stronger when fully rendered. Type and colour are incorporated. Further evaluation against the creative brief narrows the concepts down to about three choices: each being somewhat unique in format or creative direction.

6. Client presentation, refinement and approval
Based on client feedback and my recommendation based on rationale defined by the creative brief, one concept is chosen as the strongest. It may require further refinement or be used as is.

7. Preparing final art files
Art files are prepared in a variety of file formats and divided into three main categories depending on application. Categories include professional print applications in both spot and process colour for items such as business cards, brochures and print advertising; internal applications such as letterhead, memos and invoices; and digital applications such as web sites, slide presentations, social media icons and email signatures. A guide to manage these assets is included to ensure the right file selection for every use.

8. Brand Identity Guidelines or Graphic Standards Manual
This important document is developed by the designer to ensure consistent brand reproduction across all media both internally and with external suppliers. Here again, the amount of time and resources spent on creating this document will vary, but at the bare minimum a manual should cover both proper and unauthorized uses of the logo, its precise colour breakdowns and typeface specifications. More elaborate brand guidelines may also include exact layout specifications for diverse applications such as business cards, uniforms or external signage and provide guidelines for the selection of imagery and secondary colours.

Investing in the creation of a professional brand identity is always a good decision for any business or organization. I hope I’ve given you a better understanding of the process and what to expect and look for when working with an experienced graphic designer.