In this session, we were joined by Melinda Livsey. Melinda spent over 10 years as a general graphic designer, but then made the decision to transition into brand identity design and then later on to brand strategy, now helping graphic designers get paid to think. Melinda has become an expert in her field and as a result is able to work with her ideal clients.

Melinda's session was designed for any creative who wants to grow beyond simply pushing pixels around their page. If you'd like to become a valued expert in creating brand identity, then stand by as Melinda walks you through the fundamentals of brand design and identity.

Brand Design

A brand design is the perception of a business and the visual language it uses to influence that perception. As Marty Neumeier says, “Branding is the gut feeling that somebody has about your business.” That gut feeling and perception as a brand design is the visual language that is used to influence the perception that we have about a business. A logo and color palette is not merely a brand design or a subjective opinion of the client about the design they want. It’s also not showing three options to your clients and then hoping they pick the right one. A brand is what other people perceive it. So no matter if a business invests in brand design or not, they're still influencing the perception by every single visual thing that they put out into the world. A brand design majorly includes a primary logo, some sub-logos or secondary logos, typography, imagery, patterns, colors, icons, illustrations and textures.

Pro tip: Brand design is the visual alphabet for the language the business “talks”. So if you don’t speak your customer’s language, they might not even connect to your brand. 

Case Study

Brand identity is very similar to picking ingredients for yourself. As the designer, you decide what the logo, the typography, the imagery, the pattern and the color should be. Also, you define how much of each of those ingredients should be used to create a final design. So you're creating this system that is later going to go into final designs.

Ask 3 Questions to Begin 

If you’re working with a business and want to design a brand identity, answer three questions before beginning: 

  • Who is the business?
  • Who needs to know?
  • What visual language connects them?

For this session, we’re working on Melinda’s project as an example, for Verono Homes. 

Who is the Business?

Let’s begin with the first question, who is the business? Learn about the owners, know their purpose, their backstory, their goals and their mission. Understand what kind of change they want to create in the world. What do they envision their business to be like? Dig as deep as you can to understand them. Reach out and see what kind of products they already create. For example, this business builds beautiful homes in L.A. 

Who Needs to Know?

Until you know who the product/service is for, you can't make that connection with your branding. How can you sell to someone you don't even know? So outline who those people might be, what their life is like and what types of things they wear. Where do they go to eat? What products are they already buying so that you can come in and create a brand that looks like it fits their life. You don't want to question or hesitate whether or not this brand is for them. 

What Visual Language Connects Them?

Understand what language they are already speaking. Once you know those two pieces of who the business is and who needs to know, you will be able to figure out the visual language that connects them. Pick inspirational images and create mood boards that connect the brand and its people. 

Create a Brandscape

Create a brandscape by creating visual landscapes about what the brand looks and feels like. Decide how the topography would be used, the color palette and how much of that color would be used throughout the brand and the pattern. Understand the different ways of using the sub-logos and printed material to the imagery that would go on social media. Create an overview of the brand. 

Create Primary and Secondary Logo

The primary logo is what would speak to the ideal customer and the secondary logo is the one with a tagline. Also, create different versions of the logo and how you could potentially use them. 

Create a Brand Guide

Next, pick a color palette, typography and pattern and put all the ingredients together into a brand guide.

This is the direction that the business is going to use to create anything from here on for the brand; from social media posts to marketing, business cards, events etc. These ingredients create any finished design going forward, and you get to plan out how that works. 

Now, as a brand identity designer, you can decide whether this client relationship continues further or not. So if you want to stop here and not work on any of the finished deliverables for the business, that's up to you, or you could decide that you want to develop the deliverables afterwards. 

Finalise the Designs

Finished designs and mockups are shown in the image below. Here’s an example of a magazine that the clients could put out. If you're trying to get a sign off from a client then it is suggested to do mock-ups. Use the brand identity across mockups of platforms that your client might further use to give them a good feeling about the brand. Showing your clients a flat graphic may not be as appealing, so bridge that imagination gap for them. If you only show them the logo on a page with the color palette, the pattern and the typography, they wouldn’t know what it’s going to look like when it's used make that extra effort.