8 Essential Elements to a Comprehensive Brand Identity

If your company has a logo, that’s great. However, if you think that’s where your brand identity efforts end — you’re dreadfully mistaken. While having a logo is important, building a brand identity is so much more than that.

A logo is a starting point, and by no means the finishing line. With that in mind, you must start building a system for your brand. Having a system in place will enable you to present a cohesive brand identity that meets the endless demands of different media.

Having a logo is just one visual element. The more visual elements you establish, the more recognisable your brand’s visual position will be.

There are eight elements every brand needs to establish in order to have a well-rounded visual identity.


1. A Wordmark or a Logo

While a logo is a graphic symbol, a logotype or a wordmark represents the word of your company (or product) set in a distinguishable, fixed manner. At the very core of your brand identity stands your logotype, or your logo.

Deciding whether you need a traditional logo or a logotype can be difficult.

Some companies only have a wordmark. That is usually the case because wordmarks are simpler to design, and they are cheaper.

However, the price isn’t always the key factor. Sometimes, it isn’t possible to design a memorable symbol that will show just how unique an organisation is.

Luckily, not having a logo doesn’t make you seem any less professional. Some of the most successful brands in the world have no brand visualisation of that sort, but strong wordmarks instead.

Just think of Amazon, Coca-Cola, Samsung, FedEx, CNN, and Mobil.

However, even if you decide against a logo and for a wordmark, the words need to be professionally designed.


2. Logo Variations

While your logo needs to always look the same, you will need several different lockups that will allow different uses and placement.

For instance, you might need black and white and colour versions, or versions for both square and horizontal applications. However, these variations can’t deviate significantly from your original logo, and they all need to remain recognisable as your brand.

Before the digital era, designers created logos with newspaper ads in mind and adjusted them for black and white print. However, nowadays, it’s more important that your logo stands out among social media posts. In general, these images are squared, so you will need a circular or a square logo for best representation. If your designer creates a logo that doesn’t fit that format, make sure that it can be resized or cropped into it.

While you will need a square or a circular design for most uses, there will be situations when you’ll need a horizontal logo version. For instance, you might need it for software, website placement, or promotional items like pens and hats.


3. Foundation Colours

The colours in your logo are what determines your corporate colour palette. Most often, there are one or two colours, but that is not a rule, and there are logos with five colours and more.

So when your designer delivers your logo files, make sure you get the list of CMYK, Pantone, and web or RGB colours for your logo.


4. Secondary Colours

It’s not enough to simply have logo colours; you also need to know which colours complement them.

You can define these colours in your brand book as pastel, cool, or bright and bold colours. However, you can also pick them from a swatch book. These colours can really bring your materials together and make them stand out.

However, as with everything else related to your logo, the secondary colour palette needs to be consistent. To ensure that, pick out a colour core and find their values as CMYK, Pantone, and RGB so that anyone who works with your visuals can make proper choices easily.


5. Brand Fonts

Determine which fonts you want in your printed materials, and don’t go overboard. Choose fonts that complement your logo design. These font styles will appear in all of your marketing materials and will help create a unified brand identity. Whenever you’re working with an outside marketing agency or a designer, make sure to give them access to your corporate typefaces and instruct them to use those on everything they do.

Another thing you must do when it comes to brand fonts is to ensure that they are available on all computers that will be used for content creation. Moreover, bear in mind that certain fonts are unavailable on Macs and other on PCs. That means that if you want to ensure consistency, make sure that employees who will be creating relevant materials have access to the right fonts on their computers.


6. Standardised Brand Formatting

Your brand needs to have a typographic identity as well. That means that you should set rules for handling key text types. That includes your web address and your tagline.

Although this step is outside of a strictly design-oriented area and falls more under editorial standards, it is relevant for your brand identity.

Once you determine a specific yet consistent way of writing and styling headlines and other text, you will also create a specific voice for your brand. Ensure that these are similar in all of your materials, and people will start recognising your brand based on text formatting alone.


7. Standardised Image Style

No, we’re not saying that you should use the same image always and forever. We’re simply saying that you should consider using imagery that sends the same message.

Maybe that will mean that your photos are bright, or that the subject is looking straight into the camera. Or, you could have photos recognisable by a bold colour palette and the fact that the subject is always completely immersed in what they’re doing. On the other hand, you don’t have to use photos; you can turn to other visuals. Consider illustrations, line art, or simple graphs and charts.

Regardless of what you select, ensure that the style is consistent throughout your materials.


8. Brand Graphic Element Library

This might seem irrelevant, but these details can really tie up your branding system. All seven elements listed above will create a distinct brand identity. However, you must always have them at your disposal so that you can create new materials on a moment’s notice. So your brand’s recognisable texture, different logo formats, images aligned with the visual identity, and a colour palette must always be in your brand’s graphics library.


In the End

Once you have all of these graphic identity elements in every material, you can start the process of building a solid brand identity.

However, you need to be ready to test and alter these elements if necessary. For instance, your chosen brand fonts might not be available for every application. Most mobile phones have a limited selection of fonts. So if you want your website to be mobile-friendly, you might have to use different fonts. However, if you aligned other seven branding elements, your website will still be able to successfully promote your brand. But if your other graphic elements are not properly used or well-defined, your brand won’t be recognisable, and every new application will only dilute your brand identity.