Understanding the Power of Design and Branding Brand messages must be complemented by powerful design elements. Both must be consistently applied across all marketing channels in order to be effective.

By Jessica Wong

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It is a common misconception that a company's logo is the same as its brand. Unfortunately, branding and marketing are not that simple. Design encompasses more than a company logo, and branding stretches beyond design elements.

However, without design, it is highly doubtful that leading brands would have the power they currently wield among consumers. The same is true when you change the equation. Left without other critical elements of branding, design alone would struggle to fill a vacuum. Together, design and branding are powerful allies that can help brands soar above their competition.

From branding to design

Branding is the process of building a brand for a company or an organization. A brand comprises the physical characteristics of a product or service as well as the expectations and beliefs that surround the brand. It is therefore a combination of material elements and the emotional reaction those elements cause in an audience.

Design is an essential element of brands and branding. Branding Mag has called design "the most obvious manifestation of branding." Whilst this description is a few years old, it has not lost any of its accuracy. Other key elements of branding include a brand's values, its vision, and the brand personality.

Without design, it would be much harder to distinguish one brand from another. Imagine all cars looked like the classic Ford Model T: simple, functional, and — above all — black. Cars might have different engines and vary in their performance. But without clear, external distinguishing characteristics, consumers would struggle to identify them.

Design facilitates that distinction and makes brands recognizable at first sight.

Related: Great Design and Branding Can Give Your Business an Edge

Branding design is more than a logo

A brand's logo is only one manifestation of its design. Arguably, it is the most important one because it is seen most frequently by the highest number of people. Other design elements that contribute to branding include:

  • Illustrations
  • Typography
  • Colors
  • Shapes

Incidentally, in the case of Ford Model T cars, black was chosen for efficient production rather than design or marketing-related reasons. The cars were manufactured for 19 years, and for seven of those years, other colors were available.

Design elements make it easy to identify a brand. In addition, they contribute to the brand's image. One much-quoted example of outstanding brand design is Nike's simple swoosh. Despite its simplicity, it conveys dynamism and energy both of which support Nike's positioning as a performance sportswear manufacturer.

The intertwined Cs of the Chanel brand are another example of a strong logo. Whether the logo adorns the packaging or makeup, the clasp of a handbag or a magazine advert, the design identifies the brand without the need for its name to be mentioned.

Related: How to Make Your Clients Love Working With You

Why logos matter

Although company logos are only one part of the branding design, their importance should not be underestimated. Logos generally appear at every touchpoint between a brand and potential or existing customers. They are an essential part of the brand identity and can build a bridge between brand and audience.

Logos make it easy to identify your brand, recall it, and distinguish it from its competitors. At the same time, they can also contribute to consistency across different channels of communication. As your brand grows and uses ever more ways to reach customers, design in general and logos specifically create connections.

Successful branding triggers an emotional reaction in the audience, and a well-designed logo can be enough to generate that reaction. If the reaction is favorable, the logo reinforces those positive feelings toward a brand. Because of this strong connection, many brands hesitate to change their logo. They may update it when it starts looking tired but essentially retain a similar design.

Integration is key

Despite this emphasis on logos, it would be wrong to neglect other design elements or other elements of branding. As with everything related to marketing, integration is key. Design elements can only benefit your brand fully when they work well together and complement each other.

Take typography, for example. Nike's simple, streamlined logo would not work well with a fussy, frilly font. Not only would the logo and the font clash, but the font and the product would also be at odds with one another.

Color is another major component of brand identity. Coca-Cola trademarked its vibrant shade of red to prevent competitors or unassociated businesses from using it. Fast-food chain McDonald's had made successful use of yellow and red for decades, whilst leading chocolate maker Cadbury favors purple combined with white or gold. All of these brands have one thing in common: Seeing the color is enough to invoke the product in the audience's mind.

Most brands choose a color palette rather than one single color. Whilst still distinct and recognizable, having access to several color choices makes it easier to integrate logos and other elements in different contexts.

Related: 3 Reasons Your Audience Isn't Buying From You (Even If They Love You)

Power needs rules

Both design and branding are crucial to a company's economic success. Both also need rules in order to achieve their full potential.

When it comes to branding, those rules include consistent brand messages, for example. Without this kind of consistency, it would be hard to know what a brand stands for. Branding design also works best when there is some uniformity to how design elements like logos and colors can be used. This is why most brands insist on developing a brand manual at the same time as they develop their branding design.

Establishing clear brand guidelines is essential to retain a professional look for your brand. The same guidelines ensure that the brand remains recognizable, even if design elements are used in different contexts.

Without clear branding and design, it is almost impossible for a business to distinguish itself in its marketplace. Powerful design elements need to complement brand messages. Only when both are applied consistently across all marketing channels can they reach their full potential.

Wavy Line
Jessica Wong

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & CEO of both Valux Digital and uPro Digital

Jessica is the Founder and CEO of nationally recognized marketing and PR firms, Valux Digital and uPro Digital. She is a digital marketing and PR expert with more than 20 years of success driving bottom-line results for clients through innovative marketing programs aligned with emerging strategies.

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