3 Fundamentals of Corporate Identity Design

Whether you’re re-tooling your brand or starting from scratch, the process of developing a great corporate identity system isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but it does take some effort, insight and experience to employ it appropriately. It’s my belief that there are three fundamentals to designing an effective identity system: (1) creativity, (2) consistency and (3) clear communication. Use all three of these fundamentals and you’ll have a great identity system that will serve your company for years to come.

One: Creativity

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simpleawesomely simple, that’s creativity.,” (Charles Mingus)

It’s no surprise that carefully constructed, visually appealing designs get our attention. It should also come as no surprise that the way your company is represented visually speaks a lot about the quality of your organization. In addition to giving your organization a professional look and feel, a thoughtfully designed, creative identity system will serve as a strong brand-building tool for years to come.

Omaha Metro Identity Package

This identity package for Omaha Metro shows that a little creativity can go a long way. (Oxide Design Co.)

Two: Consistency

“Once a brand is established, maintaining its integrity is absolutely essential… [the] erosion of brand equity can have powerful and devastating effects.” (Ken Roberts)

Think of consistency as the glue that holds all components (envelopes, letterheads, business cards and other collateral) of an identity system together.  To promote consistency in an identity system, use a set of guidelines or standards (an identity manual) that governs how a logo, colors, typefaces, layouts and any other components of your corporate identity system must be used for visual continuity and brand recognition. Many large, global companies like 3M use a strict identity manual to retain consistency across a wide range of media. While your company may not be anywhere near as large as this industry giant, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t stand to benefit from employing one yourself.

Sample of 3M's Identity Standards

Large organizations like 3M use a strict identity manual to retain consistency & brand recognition across a wide range of media.

Three: Clear Communication

Design is communication. Great design is rational. Rational design is filtered communication,” (Thierry Loa)

Because communication is a key component of design, it is also integral to any identity system. If the success of a design depends on its ability to communicate a message to an audience, the design choices you make should come with good reason. Even the most well-designed identity system can cause more harm than good if it does nothing to communicate the right message or increase recognition of your brand. Use the less is more approach to clearly communicate with your audience and ensure that every second they take soaking up your brand is well-spent.

PLP Architecture Identity Package

This identity package for an architecture firm demonstrates that a simple design has an ability to clearly communicate a message. (Pentagram NY)

A word to the wise:

whether you’re working on a re-design of your current identity system or starting with a clean slate, these three fundamentals can serve as a guide – but not a replacement for the professional services an experienced graphic designer can provide.

Additional Links & Media

Brand Identity Essentials: 100 Principles for Designing Logos and Building Brands
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
Nice To Meet You Too: Visual Greetings from Business Cards to Identity Packages