Branding 101: How Brand Identity Is Defined

What is a brand identity? Is it your logo? Your color palette? Your infographic style? It’s all that—and more. 

Branding pro Marty Neumeier defines a brand identity as “the outward expression of a brand, including its trademark, name, communications, and visual appearance.” To us, a brand identity is the sum total of how your brand looks, feels, and speaks to people. (Sometimes that even includes how it sounds, tastes, feels, and even smells.)

Ultimately, a brand identity is a way to communicate with the world, differentiate yourself from your competition, and create a brand experience that encourages people to engage with you.

Brand identity should be a consistent message received by its audience. If a portion of the identity is a particular shade, consistency of the color is imperative in maintaining the product identity. The identity must match the image projected to the public.

Understand What a Brand Identity Is and What Makes It Great

A logo and a color palette alone do not make a brand identity. When designing your identity, you need to create a comprehensive visual language that can be applied to everything from your website to your packaging. Depending on your brand, your needs may be more expansive, but a basic brand identity includes:

  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Design System
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Iconography
  • Web design


Your logo is the cornerstone in your brand identity. When working with your designer, you want to aim for your logo to tick off the following boxes:

  • Clearly communicates who you are and what you value as a brand;
  • Is visually appealing: simple, clean and uncluttered goes a long way;
  • Is classic, not trendy: the last thing you want is for your logo to go out of style in 6 months;
  • Plays along with your industry’s standards—and if you veer off, do so deliberately;
  • Makes a lasting impression on your audience.

Color Palette

Next up is color. People—your potential customers included—have psychological ties to different colors, and using colors strategically in your brand color palette can have a serious impact on how your brand is perceived by your audience.

Here are what the colors of the rainbow (plus a few extras) can do to help your brand identity:

  • Red: Red is the color of passion and excitement. It’s the perfect choice if your brand identity is loud, youthful, and exciting.
  • Orange: Orange is another high-energy color and is great if you want to appear friendly and playful. It’s used less commonly than red, so will also make you stand out.
  • Yellow: Yellow, the color of sunshine, is all about happiness. The cheerful vibe makes it a good choice if you want to feel fun, accessible and affordable.
  • Green: An incredibly versatile color, green can be used for just about any brand. Culturally, though, when people see green, they think two things: money or nature. If your brand is tied to either of those things, green is an especially good choice.
  • Blue: The most universally appealing color in the spectrum, blue can help your branding to appear more stable and trustworthy, so if you’re looking to appeal to a wide demographic—and get them to trust you in the process—go with blue.
  • Purple: Purple is the color of royalty, so if you’re going for a luxurious feel in your branding, this a safe bet.
  • Pink: Right or wrong, pink is culturally tied to femininity, so if your brand is targeted towards women, pink should be a definite contender for your brand color. It’s also a great color for brands with a soft or luxurious identity.
  • Brown: Brown is perhaps the least use color in all of branding, but that could actually work to your advantage! Any time you do something different, it helps you stand out. Brown can also help people to view your brand as rugged or masculine.
  • Black: If you want to be viewed as modern or sophisticated, there’s nothing as classic and effective as black.

Design System

This is often a weak point in visual languages. Brands think that because they have their logo, color, and fonts they can slap them together any which way. Since brand identity is all about introducing yourself to people, it’s important to make it an enjoyable experience. In information design, that means providing a truly consistent and cohesive presentation.

The goal is to design an intuitive hierarchy and layout that makes it easy to navigate visual communication. Consider the proper order of content, including headers, subheaders, body copy, images, blurbs, etc.


Consider the type of imagery you’ll use, as well as the visual treatments. Include guidance on filters, treatments, sizing, etc.


When it comes to illustration, you need a cohesive and uniform language. Don’t over-illustrate or use clashing styles. Instead, think of how your illustration will be used in conjunction with other visual elements.


Good iconography is influenced not just by the creative visual language but by the applications for the work. It depends on what your product or service is, the industry, and the medium (e.g., web-only vs. UI vs. sales brochures).

Website Design

Your website is one of the most representative aspects of your brand identity. Especially if you’re running an online business or a digital product, your customers will definitely check your website out before deciding to do business with you. Your website is where your brand identity should come through in full force.

The Purpose of Brand Identity

Setting guidelines and consistency. Whether the product is a person, image, or an item, consistency exhibits, product leadership, marketing, support, and operation. Consistency in identity projects the corporate culture that surrounds the product.

The Key Items in Branding

The essential thing in branding is clarity of what is being offered, whether it is a product, service or person. Image and consistency play a huge role in branding. Branding is the big plan. It describes the expected results of a product or individual. The reputation of the product or person is essential to the branding results. As seen with many “celebrities,” their branding starts off great, but the product, the “celebrity,” couldn’t maintain the image painted for success. Stardom has often been short-lived for the “celebrity” when they are unable to maintain the standards promoted in their branding.

When it comes to a physical item or service offered, the quality is quite often the branding technique referenced. If the quality decreases, branding results in a false image and the reputation diminished.

Rebuild and Repair

Another item projected on a regular basis is “reputation rebuilding.” When a product, service offered or person’s image is damaged by a defective product, poor quality or reckless activity, a reputation management company may be to reconstruct and repair the damage. Repair is not always advisable, and often re-branding is advised.

Today’s fast-paced, image building and branding use videos for a quick and instant visual tool. Image repair is often achieved in the same manner with short, quick, videos lasting just a few seconds, leaving a picture image of the expected result. Establishing and building a brand is simple compared to repairing and replacing a damaged brand or image. Establish clean, clear, and crisp branding that displays and projects the desired message does not have to be complicated, but concise and consistent.

Common Mistakes When It Comes to Branding

When it comes to branding, it’s not uncommon for companies to make mistakes that weaken their branding efforts. A few common mistakes include:

  • Inconsistency
    • Consistency in messaging is key when it comes to building your brand, but companies will often work to brand certain components really well, while forgetting other components such as their telephone messaging, website, business cards, etc. You get the idea.
  • Lack of Internal Training
    • You’d be surprised at the number of companies that launch a new brand, but fail to train their employees and get them onboard. Your employees are your walking billboards; they have to understand not only the brand but what the brand stands for so that they can strongly reflect the messaging you want to share.
  • Lack of Updating Your Marketing Materials.
    • Don’t forget to do a marketing material refresh and make sure that your materials are all on message, throw out the old so that your brand is front and center. You don’t have to redo all of your marketing materials, but it’s vital that you create updated materials that share your core services and offerings.


Your brand identity is what sets you apart from the endless sea of competitors and shows your customers who you are and what they can expect from working with you. And if you want your brand to be perceived in a positive light, it’s crucial that you nail your brand identity and create designs that accurately portray who you are to your customers. And now that you know how to nail that identity, it’s time to start designing.

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