The Process of Creating a Brand Identity, Part 1

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WHY NOT JUST A LOGO?

Creating a brand’s identity design is about so much more than its logo.

The logo is incredibly important, of course. But a logo in isolation doesn’t do a whole lot if the rest of the brand doesn’t look strong and consistent.

That’s why, when someone comes to us wanting just a logo, I turn them down. First of all, a logo by itself is lonely. It needs secondary logos, supporting fonts, colors, maybe icons and patterns and more. And even more importantly, digging in deep to figure out a brand’s story, mission, aesthetic, and values is a critical part of creating a brand identity design. Doing this can help the brand create a strong foundation for everything it does afterwards—products, website, social media, packaging, catalogs, videos, photos, advertisements, etc. Without a clear, in-depth understanding of the brand in its entirety, it can easily feel inconsistent and half baked. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of creating an entire brand and business, why do it halfway? Why not set yourself up for success by creating the strongest foundation possible?

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DIGGING DEEP FOR A STRONG FOUNDATION

So, how do you create this strong foundation? How do you create a brand identity design that is reflective of the brand’s values, story, goals… that evokes the feeling you want your customers to feel when they think about your brand? Well… it’s a lot of work, ha! But it’s worth it! And—at least to me—it’s a fascinating and rewarding experience.

At Sycamore Co., when we sign on to a new brand identity project, we start with the In-Depth Brand Consultation. This means we meet with the client in person to dig deep into understanding the brand. (Or if we can’t meet in person, this process can work over Skype or even email.) We ask the client a series of questions that come at the brand and its story, market, goals, etc. from a variety of angles. These are an insightful set of questions I’ve honed over going through this process many times over the years. There are roughly 30 questions total, and it usually takes from 2-5 hours to go through them thoroughly. Of course, we don’t just read off the questions, wait for the client’s response, and then type up the notes like a robot. We are there to help them brainstorm, see their own strengths, show examples of other brands that may be inspiring to them, ask them unique follow up questions , and act as a sounding board. (If you’re looking to do this process in a more DIY way, download our free PDF (10 Critical Questions When Creating Your Brand) and ask a trusted friend or partner to go through this process with you.)

I’ve found this process to be super helpful—taking the time to actually answer all these soul-searching questions, but also having someone knowledgeable and objective there to walk you through it all. Every single time, the client has some sort of an epiphany about one aspect of their business or another (sometimes about the entire business!) After the meeting, we clean up our typed notes and put together a summary of our findings. It’s important to take some time to think over the entire questionnaire, to let it all sink in and ask follow up questions if necessary.

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CREATE SOME MOOD BOARDS

From there, we take our findings and begin work on some brand mood boards. We normally create 3 initial mood boards—all of which fit with the brand feeling and aesthetic, but each of which shows a different direction the brand could take within that overall brand feeling and aesthetic.

For example, in this post you can see the brand mood boards I created for Judy’s, a donut bakery and coffee shop. After going through the In-Depth Brand Consultation process with the owner of Judy’s, I created Brand Mood Boards A, B, and C for her based on our findings. You can see that they are all similar and yet each feel distinctive from each other. Mood Board A has more color and pattern and feels more romantic. Mood Board B is more monochromatic, simpler, and a little scrappy. Mood Board C is also monochromatic and simple, but in a more refined way. All of them have some vintage inspiration with a modern twist. All of them feel beautiful, stylish, and welcoming. (And I have to say, all of them feel like a donut/coffee shop I’d love to visit!)

When I showed the boards to the owner, she took her time to think about it (so important the client has time to really consider the options) and then decided that she basically wanted a combination of all 3. She loved the more monochromatic look from boards B and C, but still wanted some pops of green like in A. She wanted the patina and super relaxed feeling of B but with touches of refinement from C (like the floral wallpaper, which is something she found).

With this feedback, we went back to work and created the Final Mood Board, which combines those traits the owner was looking for. She was thrilled with the result, and it looks timeless, relaxed, and stylish, which is exactly what she hoped for the Judy’s brand.

(To DIY the mood board process for budget reasons, one simple option is to create a private Pinterest board with a separate section for each direction.)

Once the Final Mood Board is finished, it’s time to move on to the process of creating the brand logo, along with the rest of the brand’s core visual identity: secondary logos, colors, accompanying fonts, possibly icons or patterns… I’ll share more about that process (along with more visual examples from the Judy’s brand) in my next post!

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FREE RESOURCE: 10 CRITICAL QUESTIONS FOR BUILDING A STRONG CREATIVE BRAND

In the mean time, I’ve created a free resource to help you in building a strong creative brand! You can find the free PDF: 10 Questions for Building a Strong Creative Brand here. This is a short and to the point resource that I’ve packed with so much value for you—the 10 most critical questions to ask yourself when creating (or updating) a creative brand.

And of course, if you’d like more hands-on help, feel free to reach out and ask about our services: info@sycamoreco.com. We’d love to hear from you!