8 Brand Identity Elements

In this post, I’ve assembled information that’s scattered across the web to provide an authoritative guide to brand identity design. I’ve boiled it down to 8 elements that you’ll need to include as you create your own brand identity design and work toward the larger goal of building a well-loved brand.

1. Brandmarks



Designed with an almost infinite variety of shapes and personalities, brandmarks can be assigned to a number of general categories. From literal through symbolic, from word-driven to image-driven, the world of brandmarks expands each day. The boundaries among these categories are pliant, and many marks may combine elements of more than one category. Is there a compelling practical reason to categorize them? Although there are no hard-and-fast rules to determine the best type of visual identifier for a particular type of company, the designer’s process is to examine a range of solutions based on both aspirational and functional criteria.

2. Sequence of cognition


Brand awareness and recognition are facilitated by a visual identity that is easy to remember and immediately recognizable. Visual identity triggers perceptions and unlocks associations of the brand. Sight, more than any other sense, provides information about the world. Through repeated exposure, symbols become so recognizable that companies such as Target, Apple, and Nike have actually dropped the logotype from their corporate signatures in national advertising.

3. Wordmarks


A wordmark is a freestanding word or words. It may be a company name or an acronym. The best wordmarks imbue a legible word(s) with distinctive font characteristics and may integrate abstract elements or pictorial elements. The distinctive tilted “E” in “Dell” activates and strengthens the one-syllable name. The IBM acronym has transcended enormous technological change in its industry.

4. Letterform marks


letterform marks

The single letter is frequently used by designers as a distinctive graphic focal point for a brandmark. The letter is always a unique and proprietary design that is infused with significant personality and meaning. The letterform acts as a mnemonic device, e.g., the “M” for Motorola, the “Q” for Quest Diagnostics.

5. Pictorial marks


pictogram marks

A pictorial mark uses a literal and recognizable image. The image itself may allude to the name of the company or its mission, or it may be symbolic of a brand attribute. The eagle of the U.S. Postal Service is both a symbol of America and a symbol of speed and dependability.

6. Abstract marks


abstract mark

An abstract mark uses a visual form to convey a big idea or a brand attribute. These marks, by their nature, can provide strategic ambiguity, and work effectively for large companies with numerous and unrelated divisions. Abstract marks are especially effective for service-based and technology companies; however, they are extremely difficult to design well.

7. Emblems



Emblems are trademarks featuring a shape inextricably connected to the name of the organization. The elements are never isolated. Emblems look terrific on a package, as a sign, or as an embroidered patch on a uniform. As mobile devices continue to shrink and multi-branding ads with one-sixth-inch logos increase, the emblem presents the biggest legibility challenge when miniaturized.

8. Characters



It’s alive! A character trademark embodies brand attributes or values. Characters quickly become central to advertising campaigns, and the best ones become cultural icons cherished by children and customers alike. Along with their distinctive appearance and personality, many characters have recognizable voices and jingles, enabling them to leap off the silent shelf space onto your desktop.

What’s the next big thing? Does it matter? Does it have long legs or is it a fad? What begins as an idea on the outer fringes may quickly snowball and become mainstream, or it may fizzle. Brands are about relevance and permanence. Seismic shift in the culture, in the capital markets, and technology provide brand makers food for thought.

Do you have some good ideas? Do you want make it a reality? Count on us!

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