What is Brand Identity?

If you take a look at some of the most popular and recognizable companies in the world, chances are you can probably name some distinguishing visual characteristics of the company. For example, Coca Cola is known for its script logo and bright red cans and bottle labels. Companies with tremendous popularity like Coca Cola have a few crucial things in common, and one of those things is a strong and consistent brand identity. A brand identity is a set of visual characteristics that represent a brand or company, such as the logo, color usage, and fonts. Brand identity is important because it uses graphic elements to convey the personality, mood, and/or values of a company. For this reason, brand identity should be well designed to appropriately match the values of the company it represents. When a brand identity is developed, a brand guideline is often created as well to give others instructions on how to use elements of the brand identity, such as the logo or color scheme.

The Logo

One of the most important elements of a brand identity is the logo, which is a simple visual representation of a brand or company. A logo can be a symbol and text combination, a standalone symbol, or standalone text (in which case the logo is called a wordmark). Logos are very important because they represent a brand as a whole, and they are the most easily identifiable part of a brand identity. The logo often represents an important aspect of a company, such as its services, values, or personality. However, I’ve learned in my design classes that a logo that is more abstract and unexpected in form can work well, rather than having a more realistic and literal representation of a business or service. A logo should be simple and memorable, and something that can still be recognized at a large or small scale. A great example of a symbolic and memorable logo is the Nike logo, also known as the “swoosh”. The logo is simple, yet recognizable by most, and its meaning is what makes it so unique. The “swoosh” shape represents movement and speed, and the company is named after the winged goddess of victory from Greek mythology.

Other Elements of a Brand Identity

Although the logo is a crucial part of brand identity, brand identity is much more than just the logo. The brand identity is all of the visual characteristics that represent the company. These characteristics include typographic treatment, color schemes, layout formatting, image treatment, and any other important visual treatments. The brand identity should be translated to all extensions of the company, such as the website, packaging, business cards, and any other graphic materials that the company uses. Careful planning should go into deciding on brand identity elements, because one has to consider how these elements will be used in various visual mediums, and if the elements effectively convey the values and personality of the brand. Overall, the purpose of the brand identity is to create a consistent business image that people will remember and associate with a specific business or brand. Alaska Airlines is a good example of a company that has carried its brand identity through to a variety of graphic applications. They’ve used a consistent look on their brochures, catalogs, website, and even their airplanes, establishing a brand look that is easily recognizable.

As I mentioned before, a brand guide is often created for companies as a way to instruct others about the brand identity of a company, and how it should be used. In a 2-dimensional graphic design class that I completed, my peers and I created brand guides for hypothetical companies, which we made into 16-page guides about everything from color schemes to typographic treatments. The guides themselves are formatted to reflect the brand identity of the companies they represent. A brand guide is a great way to establish and maintain a brand identity, and to inform future designers about how they should design for a company within certain restraints.


Establishing a strong brand identity is a great way of building recognition for a company, and catching the eye of potential customers with a unique visual presence that differentiates them from competitors. It’s also a chance for a company to represent their values and brand personality through relevant visual characteristics. Starbucks does a great job of representing their brand personality with their products and other brand extensions through their choice of visual characteristics. Their products are sleek and minimal, but also have a hand-made quality to them that suggest a company that prides itself on being professional as well as friendly and inviting. When going about creating a brand identity, a company should make a list of their core values and how they want to be perceived by their audience, and these things should shape the way the brand identity is developed. If you would like help designing or redesigning your brand identity, feel free to contact us to discuss your design needs.