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Brand Identity

Visual Identity For 21st Century Brands


Somewhere along the line, the word “branding” got mixed up with “logo”. While it’s an established fact that brands are far more than logos, it seems that creating visual identities with rich emotional character and authentic connection still eludes many marketers. For many marketers, the discipline of creating visual identity has been reduced to mere decoration.

At the basic level, corporate and brand identity programs are an expression and reflection of the brand’s culture, character, personality, and the products and services offered–inspiring trust with consumers, customers, employees, suppliers and the investment community.  Since the mid 20th century, the development of visual identity systems has been the main course in almost all branding initiatives. It’s easy to find examples of visual identities for iconic brands that have stood the test of time–Coca-Cola, IBM, Mercedes, Ford, Levis and McDonald’s come quickly to mind.

The success of these iconic identities was largely driven by ubiquitous advertising messages that became reflections of the post World War II boom (particularly in western societies) consumer driven economy. Corporations realized their visual identities had to become the single most important emblem of their business through communication that was simple, powerful and easily reproduced and recalled by millions of people. Visibility and stability of industrial glory were the hallmarks of visual expression of the corporate values of the time. Alas, the world has changed.

The New Age Of Visual Identity

The internet revolution and the current age of the social web has altered forever how brands express who they are and why they matter. The shift from the “organization” to the “individual” is now the order of the new age. The internet age has brought a new value system based on the speed of change.

The new generation of digital brands – Google, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and Facebook are immersed in a dramatic world of disruptive innovation and a need for constant change. This generation of digital brands has created its own visual language, culture, and iconography from the unbridled energy of the digital playground they were born into. Speed and a willingness to embrace change are at the essence of these new brands. And so it is for brands in all categories, both consumer and business-to-business.

Branding strategy now has a six-month horizon and brand identities are created in a much more informal structure than how corporate identity legends Paul Rand, Saul Bass and Walter Landor did things 40 years ago. Creating a corporate or product brand identity program today, designers are challenging the status quo of 20th century corporate values and creating customer / consumer centric, flexible, multi-sensory experiences that are flexible to the brand’s individual expressive needs.

In our virtual world, the rules are constantly reinvented, visual identities can no longer be static physical markers. Instead the visual identities and design vocabulary have evolved to reflect the philosophies of the new generation of business leaders. Enlightened business leaders realize that to create an emotionally powerful, highly valued brand, they must represent an emotionally based idea beyond the product. They’re not designing logos, but engaging and compelling experiences!

In order for the visual identity programs for their brands to remain relevant in a sped-up world, requires a real commitment that is visionary, flexible, and visceral reflecting the shared values with consumers.

If the vision for your brand in the 21st century is not centered in a rich emotional connection with customers, and the visual identity of your brand is not well-defined, your brand may be visible, but it will lack personality. And a brand without personality is a brand without a soul. And although a visual identity is a small component of your overall brand expression, it is still the first connection forged in the mind of the consumer.

The Blake Project Can Help: Accelerate Brand Growth Through Powerful Emotional Connections

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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