In today’s economy, competition is fierce across the business spectrum. As a graphic designer, offering brand identity design services that really make an impact is one of the most critical things you can do to stay ahead of your own competition. Essentially, by meeting one of retail and business design’s most critical needs, you’re helping your customers gain the attention they deserve while building strong credentials of your own.
This article will give you a step-by-step process that you can follow to perform your best work branding a product or a company by doing the right research before your creativity ever begins to flow.
What a Strong Brand Identity Does
First, let’s be clear about what a successful brand identity is: When the average person immediately associates a particular graphic, logo or set of graphics with a company or product, you’ve designed a successful brand.
This simple definition is crucial for the companies you design for. Businesses that come to you for branding services need this immediate identification, and they are relying on you – the design professional – to invest your time into the research and building of a brand that their own customers can come to recognize and trust.
Long story short is that branding is a foundation for your customers’ marketing campaigns. If done right, it is the foundation that will bring your customers back to you for marketing materials, for signage, and all the other services that you offer.
Questions to Ask When Building a Customer’s Brand
Many graphic designers have shied away from building brand identities until recently. Why? Simply because this building process does require a lot of time and research; you will perform more “labor” at the start of the branding process than any creativity. Your graphic approach and the creativity that goes into the final design will be determined entirely by the research you perform.
To make things easy, it’s important to perform your research in two parts. First, there are a series of questions to ask your customer. Then, there is the actual nitty-gritty research that will require you looking through books, searching the Internet and going back to the basics of design.
Begin your research by asking your customer the following questions. Be aware that some of the questions you may think you already know the answer to – but never assume that you do. Even the basics are important.
Business Branding Questions to Ask the Customer:
1. What is your business name, and do you have a slogan that you want associated with it?
2. What type of products and/or services do you provide?
3. If you had to describe the “feel” of your business in 3 words or less, what would they be?
4. Who are your current clients? (a general “type)
5. Do you want to continue to target these clients, or are you trying to break into a different target market?
Product Branding Questions to Ask the Customer:
1. What is your product name, and do you have a slogan that you want associated with it?
2. What does your product do, and what sort of category would it fall in?
3. Is your product targeted toward children, men, women, or a combination?
4. If applicable, what age group does your product target?
5. How does your product tie in to your company overall?
With these questions answered, you can analyze the information you’ve collected so far to identify a target audience. Your ultimate goal, as the designer of the brand, is to speak directly to that target audience and motivate them to act – in other words, to prompt them to purchase.
Essential Research for Designing a Strong Brand
It is especially difficult for graphic designers new to building brand identities to really understand that it is more than creativity – it’s a matter of performing the right research. You’ve gotten a start by asking the right questions. Now it’s time to perform the right research so that you can identify your customer’s specific audience and address it graphically.
This step will require individual research in every format you think appropriate. This might mean locating high-class calligraphy fonts or digging through books on logo and branding design to gain both insight and inspiration. Where you perform your research will depend completely on you, the answers your customer has given, and what you’re most comfortable with.
The following questions apply to both business and product brand identity design.
1. Who is the direct competition of my customer’s business or product?
2. What key elements are included in the presentation (colors, graphics, typography) of these competitor’s products, services, marketing materials, websites, etc.?
3. Who are these competitors targeting?
4. What 3 things (look carefully – it could be anything from a “feel” to the product labels to slogans) do at least 5 of these competitors have in common?
5. What is the most common emotion or reaction that these competitors’ brands evoke, and how do they compare to the way your customer’s business or product should be defined?
A large amount of your research can be performed on the Internet. The only important thing here is that you can paint for yourself an accurate portrayal of your customer’s target market, and identify how the competition is addressing that market’s needs.
Remember, your customer has given you the push on who their target market is. Your job in the research phase of building a brand identity is to assess their target market with pinpoint accuracy. By taking the time to do this properly, you’ll find that you have in front of you a perfect blueprint to direct your creativity during the actual design process.