This a question that I get asked all the time. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the two words and they often seem to be used interchangeably. But they are two very different things! A logo is one part of a brand, but branding is so much more than a logo!
So, what is a brand?
A brand is not a “thing”. A brand is what people think of when they hear the name of your business. It’s what they say about your business when you’re not in the room. Every aspect of your business creates your brand. From the visual elements such as your logo and promotional material (these are called brand identity items), to your social media updates, to the copy on your website and the way you interact with your customers. Creating a brand is not easy and it is something that evolves over time.
Have you ever seen an ad and known which company it was for without seeing the logo?
Or even just a photo? Or an icon?
That’s the power of branding.
And what is a logo?
A logo is an identifying element that people use to recognise a business. It nearly always features the business name and may also include an image. A logo can be simple and typographic, icon based or an elaborate illustration. A logo is an essential component of any brand, and it is a powerful brand tool, but it cannot do everything. While a logo is a major part of your brand, there is so much more to branding than just a logo!
And what is a brand identity?
A logo is your primary brand identity item. But there are also lots of other visual elements that contribute to your brand. Firstly there’s the visual components that represent your brand – fonts, colours, patterns, photography style, etc. These are your brand identity items. And then there’s all of the places that these visual components are used – website, signage, advertising, uniforms, etc. These are called brand identity collateral items.
OK great, but I can start with a logo and work on the rest of my branding later right?
Well, you can, but you may run in trouble down the track. You can draw on the elements in your logo, but your logo alone isn’t going to give you all the tools you need to create a consistent and memorable brand. That’s why whenever I create a logo, I always include a brand identity style guide. This outlines guidelines for the visual elements of a brand. I like to describe it as an instruction manual for starting a brand.
Imagine if you bought a desk from Ikea. The picture on the front represents your logo, and all the pieces in the box represent your other brand identity items. You might be able to put the desk together just by looking at the picture on the front, it will give you a good idea of how to desk is going to look, but you’ll probably still struggle right? Because there’s other parts of that go into putting the desk together that you can’t see in the photo. Isn’t it so much easier when you have a set of instructions? That’s what a brand identity style guide is. It’s like a set of instructions that help you to build a strong and consistent brand.
Brand identity style guides can range in size from just one page for small start-ups, to hundreds of pages for big corporations.
So what goes into a style guide? Let me break it down for you.
Take for example this logo design that I created:
This is the primary brand identity item, and it is the first thing to go into the style guide, but it would be very hard to build a brand based on this alone.
So to start with we need to expand on the logo so we have some secondary/supporting logos that we can use in instances where the main logo isn’t going to work.
Have you ever tried to use a horizontal logo as a profile pic? It doesn’t work too well. So I created a square version of the logo to use for social media, and created a reversed-out variation for stronger impact and to really enforce one of her primary brand colours. And Chloe also needed a logo variation that she could use to watermark her photos.
We have a couple of colours in the logo, but it is very hard to build a brand identity with just a couple of colours, so I created a colour palette that included and would compliment the colours in the logo. This colour palette features 5 colours, I recommend 4-6 colours for a brand colour palette.
Other colours can be used in conjunction with these, but your brand colours should dominate your brand identity where possible. But don’t go overboard! One mistake I see is people over-using their brand colour/s in an attempt to maintain brand consistency. In some cases this can work, but if you have a particularly strong colour and use it too much it can be overwhelming for viewers.
When creating a brand colour palette, it is important to think about how the colours will work in all instances. The colour spectrum you can see on screen (RGB) is much wider and different to what can be produced with normal printing methods (CMYK), so it is important to chose colours that translate well across all colour spaces, or be prepared to pay extra for speciality printing. Vibrant/fluorescent and metallic colours in particular can’t be printed with normal printing methods – they are only available at a limited number of speciality printers and can be very expensive.
Next we need fonts. I recommend having 3 different fonts. These are the three that I selected for Chloe:
The first is a display font. This is to be used sparingly for selected headings. It is very important not to over-do cursive fonts!
The second is a serif font. Serif fonts are fonts that have little feet, while san serif don’t (sans feet!). Sans serif fonts are also considered to be more contemporary, so serif fonts can be perceived as old fashioned or formal. For this brand, given their target market, I would use the serif font sparingly.
The third is a san serif font. This one will be used the most, for both headings and body copy. It’s also one of the fonts used in the logo. I think it is important to chose a primary font and then incorporate it into the logo where possible. I’ve seen people do the opposite – using a font because it is in their logo, but this doesn’t always work because not all fonts are going to be suitable for all applications.
I’ve chosen Source Sans Pro, which is an open source font family released by Adobe. It has an open licence which means it is free to use (some fonts can cost thousands of dollars to licence!) and it on Google Fonts which makes it really easy to use on websites. It works well in web and print (this is really important – some web fonts don’t work in print and vice versa!) and it has 12 different font weights (it’s really important to chose a font with lots of weight variations!) It’s my favourite font at the moment!
Not all style guide are going to have patterns, but for this particular brand identity, I developed three patterns:
These are seamless/repeating patterns which means they can be duplicated over and over again and will look like one cohesive image. I created one high-impact pattern and two neutral patterns to use for various purposes. Notice that the floral pattern features colours that compliment the brand colours, but they are different to add contrast. It’s important to use this pattern sparingly as overuse could dilute the brand and it would lose its impact.
Because this is a small business with just one graphic designer working on it (me!) this is sufficient to start building a really solid brand. It’s likely to evolve and expand over time with more pages being added to the brand identity style guide as the business grows.
Now we bring everything together in the styleguide. This is clear way to bring everything together in one place so people that are working on the brand can easily see all of the brand identity components. Because this one is relatively small, I’ve created a one page styleguide (this is also called a stylesheet). As the business and the brand grows and there’s more people working on the brand collateral, the styleguide will likely be expanded into a booklet with multiple pages.
If you’d like to learn some more about styleguides, I’d suggest looking at the styleguides of some big businesses with strong branding. Styleguides can be hard to find, because they’re not designed for the general public to see, but if you Google the name of the company plus “styleguide PDF” they’ll often come up! Pintrest is also a great place to find smaller styleguides, by searching for “stylesheets” or “branding”.
Now that the brand identity and styleguide (ie. the “instruction manual”) has been created, it is so much easier to go ahead and roll out the brand identity across the website, social media, advertising and packaging.
I hope this helps to clear up any confusion you might have about the difference between branding and a logo. If you have any questions please contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
PS. Not sure if you’re on the right track with your branding? For a limited time I’m offering FREE BRANDING ADUITS to small businesses. Simply complete the form below I’ll be in touch to schedule a time when we can have a chat about your business and branding and then I will send you a brand audit report.