The Hidden Power of Creative
As a creative, I’m happy to say that, what was once an afterthought, is now considered critical for in-market success—design. Growth of online and mobile tools have enabled the consumer to seize control of the brand relationship, telling brands when, where, and how they want to engage. Because of this, more brands have realized the value of investing in carefully considered, well-crafted branding.
Data shows a distinct correlation between successful brands and thoughtful design. The obvious example here is Apple, which, fueled by the genius of Steve Jobs, initiated a drastic cross-industry shift towards a more design-conscious approach to branding. From the early 2000s, Apple has given special consideration to the customer, inherent to and apparent in every business decision. Through investing in great creative (and strategy), they have developed a culturally-pervasive and distinctively clear idea of who they are and the quality of experience their consumers can expect. And, recently having been the first U.S. company to hit the $2 trillion market cap—it has certainly paid off.
While an astoundingly successful example, it is one of many brands that has proven customer experience requires more attention than ever. The time to invest in creative is not now but yesterday. It is here that design, particularly good design, is crucial.
The question is, how do you define good?
Branding Beyond the Logo
Though to the chagrin of creatives everywhere, I still think it’s important to emphasize: a brand is more than a logo. While a necessary visual tool of recognition and touchpoint for any business, the logo is only one part of the branding system. For a brand to flourish, it needs an authentic identity, and a logo does not a brand identity make. A company’s identity, like each of our own identities, is more complex and far-reaching. It has breadth and depth. It’s the essence of who they are, what they stand for, what they do, and how they do it. At its most impactful, it becomes something to which consumers swear loyalty. Even the most beautiful logo in the world alone is just a mark. The renowned graphic designer, Michael Bierut, says it best,
“When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time. As a result, people forget that a brand-new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience.”
Brands should not expect their creative agency partners to design a logo and be done with it. Instead, to get the results you’re hoping for, take the opportunity to engage them in creating a complete brand identity and authentic strategy. The development process should be collaborative to achieve the best results: an authentic, robust, scalable, and future-proof brand identity. Yes, a logo is important, but it’s not the end. It’s the combination of a logo, color, imagery, and typography that make for a visual brand identity that can carry a company’s message and “fill the vessel” with meaning. When it all works together to express the brand essence, that is good design. When it evokes loyalty from its audience, that is great creative.
When you know the extent of effort that goes into the identity development process, it’s easier to see just how important it really is for your business.
One area often overlooked and under-valued is typography. With social media platforms, messaging apps, email marketing, responsive digital ads, and company website—consistency, especially in text and type, is integral to a cohesive identity in an ever-connected world. A modern brand typeface not only needs to embody the brand but work across different mediums, sizes, and purposes.
Achieving this level of versatility can require further investment, but again, it’s worth it. Typefaces convey personality and help define the traits you want your customers to associate with your brand—modernity, sophistication, humor, speed, calmness—the right type can get the point across.
There are, of course, now many free, professional resources out there like Google Fonts or Adobe Fonts that offer a wide variety of curated typefaces built for both the traditional and digital space. However, the potential downside is that when they’re more readily available for you to use, they’re more readily available for anyone to use—and your goal is not to blend in.
Imagery is another brand component that many businesses tend not to put much (forgive this pun) stock in. While stock photography, if used with intention, is useful to a point (and sometimes unavoidable), it can quickly become repetitive and, sadly, bland.
Custom photography, video, or illustration can make a world of difference and add the polish needed to elevate your brand. Find out at the beginning of an agency engagement whether custom imagery is something they can facilitate—taking care to consider the timeline and bottom line it could affect. Again, this is a cost-relevant aspect of identity that may require deeper investment.
Color carries weight. It can influence emotions and forge consumer bonds to products. There is a psychology of color, that when paired with color theory (the study of how colors relate to one another), can evoke powerful feelings of connection or repulsion. Practiced creatives use it to their advantage when developing a brand identity, considering the target audience demographics and the tone/energy the brand should reflect to best resonate with them.
As always, the deeper your understanding of the rules, the more prepared you are to push past them. So, working with creatives who are well versed in color and its many facets can help to make your brand stand out and achieve unexpected design.
In short, brand identity has a monumental impact on company perception, and many components can contribute to its success or failure. At that, I’ll leave you with this quote from Jaguar CEO, Ralf Speth,
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”
Of course, should you need an agency partner to embark on a brand refresh, develop a new identity, or extend your identity into a creative marketing campaign, our team is prepared to help you see it through. See how we’ve delivered great creativefor our clients and what we can do for you.