8 Questions That Can Help You Anchor Your Brand
Read This Before You Start The Logo Design Process
Misalignment is your brand’s biggest enemy.
Have you ever run across an organization that just confuses you? Industry identification is totally unclear by the logo and its visual presence unsettles your eyes. Touchpoints (any point of contact between a buyer and a seller) are styled independent of any solid structure. A shaky approach to design compromises the integrity of your brand and confuses the marketplace. When planning and thought isn’t involved in the design strategy, the brand suffers.
Perhaps you’re not a designer. Or you’re unsure how to start.
As your self-appointed branding professor, I‘m assigning you homework so you can identity an impeccable logo/brand identity designer.
Put in the time at the front end and you’ll brand will surely be anchored and ready to launch.
A worthy design partner will ask a bunch of questions. This is called the Discovery Process.
Imagine having a million dollar idea. This is an idea you’re passionate about. You miss meals researching it. If it’s truly a good one, you must welcome a myriad of questions coming from your identity design partner.
Now there’s no reason to drop a vague job posting in a contest-driven design site that appeals to the lowest-skilled designer. It might cost you $100 and take a week, but these pixel-pushers are the kind that have one style, a backlog of cookie cutter logos and templates, and probably not much drive for thoughtfulness. They value quantity over quality. We’re all striving to be better than this.
By contrast, seek out a professional brand identity specialist that will
deep-dive into your brand’s goals, target market, look and feel, strategic offering, uniqueness, understanding of the market.
The Five Guys Model
Sidebar: I went to Five Guys today. It was a tasty lunch, but a better experience. Among the many attributes of the brand, I noticed really interesting touches like large bags of potatoes, a board that noted where today’s french fries came from (Mr. Hanks: Parker, Idaho), and wall quotes praising their burgers.
Why did I tell you about my lunch? To demonstrate the importance of alignment questions, I’m answering the following questions acting as Five Guys’ Brand Strategist. This is an exercise any company must go through before rebranding or starting out in the marketplace. Have these on-hand when you start your discovery process:
And Now, The Homework
What is your offering?
Burgers, fries, a quick and tasty meal with friendly service and no compromise on quality
Why is it important to the world?
Five Guys offers food in a speedy and quality fashion. In a fast-food world, the market was missing a rapid quality option until Five Guys.
What is your solution and what problem is it addressing?
The pain-point of fast food offerings skimping on taste. Five Guys is committed to taste.
What sets you apart?
Five Guys grill their burgers cooked to perfection and fries in pure peanut oil. Five Guys sources ingredients that align with the quality of the brand.
Who is your ideal customer?
A person on the run that needs a tasty burger and fries but doesn’t want to skimp on quality
What’s your primary message?
Handcrafted burgers and fries: the best in any location
What’s your brand’s top keywords?
burgers, fries, handcrafted, tasty, ready-to-order, diner, friendly, energetic, quality, service
What are your brand’s abstract keywords? (Look and feel words. Words that aren’t necessarily found on your site but apply to your brand)
original, simplicity, casual, high-quality
I’m not privy to the design strategy of Five Guys, but with the above information, let’s now critique the logo’s alignment of the brand.
Does a passionate red thick sans serif capped type paired with some variation of Tekton mixed-case embody brand message? Does it align well with the goals of the organization and how they want to be perceived?
These questions measure the effectiveness of a lasting mark on a brand.
Good job! You’re more aligned with your brand than ever before and can start searching for a great branding partner. During the search, look for designers that demonstrate a knowledge of design principles and elements. If you’re not sure what those are, look for those who have good reviews from reputable and established organizations.
For more on Five Guys, I went down a wormhole and found a seriously anchored brand. Check it out.
Bonus Section! Examples of Great Designers
Maybe you don’t know what to look for in a good designer.
The following is a list of top-of-the-line and rising talent designers* and their design chops:
is a brand strategist at Blind and a founder of TheFutur (which I view as my post-college business of design education). Do is an excellent example of expertise in branding. This thorough design and strategy work is a standard to measure other identities.
Counterpoint is an identity system made by Blind. The creative brief for Counterpoint included the
embodiment of harmony and balance between diametrically opposed ideas — being innovative, tactical yet conservative.
The genius of a good designer/strategist is aligning the goals with the mark. Blind integrated the “O1” of binary code into the mark in a very clever way. The color makes sense, the subtle message is there, the digital motif is used in other collateral.
Jacob Cass for JUST Creative
created this awesome logo design for Jerry Seinfeld’s new series. It’s quite possible I’m predisposed to love anything to do with Seinfeld, but Cass (founder of platform and company JUSTCreative) flawlessly executed the identity of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. He created a custom font which is displayed in the logo, throughout the site and on banners. The type treatment emits a casual meetup show where we get a behind-the-scenes look at Seinfeld and his pals diner-chatting.
The brilliance of Airbnb’s redesign and brand refresh strategy is dissected in my article on Compass of Design. According to Design Studio’s case study on the rebranding effort, the Studio conducted an
in-depth immersion process that involved 4 DesignStudio members visiting 13 cities, across 4 continents. They stayed with 18 hosts and recorded every aspect of their stay.
This background discovery is imperative and example of the value given by an established studio.
Aaron Draplin for DDC
Aaron Draplin is the founder of Draplin Design Company and the co-founder of Field Notes, an iconic sketchbook company. He’s worked with many top companies as well as the Obama Administration. The tracking (space between characters) and thickness of strokes are beautiful and striking. This brand is synonymous with sketching, note-taking, idea generating.
The MIT Media Lab is explained by Bierut himself in this very inspirational video. Watch him explain his process and the value places on research and iterations. This forward-thinking approach to an identity goes well beyond a logo but rather an entire system that is unified by one motif. Bierut’s wonderful story at Design Indaba of how he started to love design really inspires me.
cliche feel of medical clinics, while keeping the logo professional and within reach of the industry
And so, a perfectly balanced logo mixes two industries to create one mark that serves as a strong foundation. So Magnetic is focused on a thorough planning and execution of an identity.
craftsmanship, playfulness, but above all bringing pleasure and putting a smile on the customer’s face.
So he created a hand-lettered playful font paired with a firmer font. This type of excellency in typography and hand-lettered quality is one hallmark of a strategic design partner.
Ian Paget for Logo Geek
is a wonderful resource for designers and a high level identity designer. From Ian’s case study, Pleasant Purchase is an online antique store that needed a
very stylized, beautiful icon which is very classy in appearance, and has a luxury feel to it
The owl mark shows a luxury icon for the site as well as a tangible stamp for products and packaging.
*Certainly not an exhaustive list, but a list nonetheless to give you an idea of what constitutes a great brand designer.
If you didn’t before, I imagine you now see why it’s necessary to obtain context and information to begin logo design and development of the brand as a whole.