I came across many discussions about the definition of a brand designer, and what constitutes the process of designing a brand, rather than designing a visual identity. Simply put, I think a brand designer should influence the brief and help redefine the brand.
This is my interpretation of what a brand designer is, and what are the steps of the brand design process. These steps can act as a guide, and raise questions that can redefine the outcome. But it is not always the case, depending on the flexibility of the client and the willingness to participate. In other words, collaboration is key for the success of this exercise.
The process is inspired from the Design Council’s double diamond design process model, starting with discovery, definition, development and finally delivery.
The discovery phase is all about research, to help understand the business and gain insights. A comprehensive understanding of the industry, the competitors and the company itself will influence a more strategic approach to benefit the success of the brand, while also highlighting the potentials for brand stretching to leverage and strengthen its own equity and awareness.
As an example, Harley Davidson’s brand expansion to sell accessories resulted in almost 25% increase in profits, while also benefiting the brand awareness and reach.
I should note that research has many forms and uses many design research tools like ethnography, customer journey, service blueprint and many others can be applied in this phase, depending on the needs of the project.
The definition phase is to bring focus to the process, while setting a clear direction for where the brand is heading. Identifying the target audience is vital to understand how to approach them and how to construct the brand to fit them. Upon those bases, the brand big idea should be generated, a single spark that would drive the brand. From the defined brand attributes emerge in the form of ideas, services, products, channels or many other unique propositions. Finally, the last step is mapping the touchpoints, where potential interactions with the audience may occur, taking advantage to engage with them.
A good example of a packaging that can act as a creatively-used interaction point is the bottom of the Innocent juice bottle, which has a little message that engage the audience in an unexpected manner.
Many tools are available to define and focus a research. Scenarios, for instance, can help better define needs. Mind mapping can help arrange and clarify ideas.
The development phase is the consequence of the previous phases, shaping the brand personality and how it behaves, while characterizing the language and unified message that is unique to the brand. Then the design of the visual language starts, choosing shapes, typefaces, colour and photographic or illustration style that fits the brand, while testing along the way. As a result the strategy for the brand is formulated, taking into account all the previous tactics and making sure they work in sync together. One vital part of the strategy is internally communication the brand to the employees, suppliers, shareholders and any other stakeholder that might be involved.
For example, Google invests fortunes to communicate the brand internally, reflected in their offices, facilities and the structure of the organization.
Prototyping and co-creation can be used in this phase to influence a better outcome, collaboration and working side by side with the client, the suppliers, the employees and the audience can result in unexpected and innovative solutions.
The combined result of the previous phase would lead to a coherent brand over all platforms, and to all stakeholders. The brand would have a functional form that compliments the business, while also having a creative and innovative edge represented in the design, the offer or the conduct of the business to bring in a competitive advantage.
These steps can be expanded and implemented in various ways depending on the brand, but they represent a foundation to start from, and they set the destination to aim for.