This post is the third of a four part Spark Series on branding.

Branding design Matt Wilson

Brand design is what most people think of when they hear the word “branding”. In truth, design is the physical manifestation of the brand that helps consumers further understand it.

Your brand design is your first impression, and as we all know, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That is why it is essential to invest time and energy into designing your brand in a way that portrays the message you want the consumers to internalize when they encounter it. What do you want them to know about your brand at a glance?

To get a deeper understanding of brand design, I spoke with Matt Wilson, Creative Design Director at Animus Creative. Wilson believes branding is important for any business, big or small. “Your brand should define who you are, what you do and more importantly why you’re doing it,” he said. “If you can’t communicate these three things clearly and concisely, how is your audience expected to know what it is that you stand for?”

According to Wilson, a clearly defined target audience should be the starting point for design, as different groups of people respond in different ways. For this you need to have a deep understanding of who you are addressing and what motivates them. On that basis, you can instill triggers in your design that will elicit that motivation. Is your audience seeking credibility and trust when they search for a law firm to work with? If so, having a funky and colorful brand design may not be the way to go.

Brand design should look good but also be purposeful. Choose your visual cues and colors with intention and not only because of aesthetics. The intention can be as simple as to stand out in a sea of competitors, but there must be an intention. When briefing a designer on a brand refresh for my business a few years ago, she questioned me about the use of a certain symbol in the original logo. I fumbled with a made up answer. The truth was that there was no meaning and she could tell. She gently gave me a lesson about the importance of design meaning and it has stuck with me ever since.

The arrow in the Amazon logo extends from the A to the Z to symbolize that the website can provide you with almost anything.

The arrow in the Amazon logo extends from the A to the Z to symbolize that the website can provide you with almost anything. Image credit:

Wilson stressed that while design makes an impression, it is not enough to persuade your consumers and will not truly impact them until they experience the full brand. If the experience is positive, the consumers will project those emotions onto the brand design when they encounter it again. If the experience is negative, the opposite will be true.

When discussing practicalities, he focused on simplicity, clarity, and consistency as key objectives when designing your brand’s identity. “Whilst going through the design process remember that your brand identity won’t often be seen presented as you see it: clearly in a perfectly lit meeting room or on a shiny 27” Mac screen. It’s more than likely going to be seen from a distance, at strange angles, and in less than optimal lighting conditions. This is why you should keep it simple and clear,” he said.

Wilson also recommends developing a brand book “to serve as a guide to how to conduct yourself as a brand, strategically and visually.” This tool will help you maintain consistency as it becomes a quick reference when you need to ask “is this on-brand for us?” in reference to decisions about everything from advertising to your responses to consumers on social media.

When asked about considerations for choosing an agency to work with, he suggests getting first hand recommendations and checking portfolios to get a feeling for an agency’s work and design style. The next step would be to ask for guide prices to gauge if your budget is a match. Meeting with the team is the final important step. “Get a feel for who the people are that will be working on your project. Do they understand your business? Do they seem passionate about helping you and your ideas grow? Do they see branding as a while lot more than just a logo and business card?”

Image matters, and your brand’s design is a vital part of its image. Working with professionals to translate your brand’s positioning into a physical design can be a drawn out process, but it is a rewarding one that is essential to bringing your brand to life.