Brand Identity Design Process 11 Step Framework
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Diving headfirst into freelance brand design without a plan often leads to floundering results.
How can you ensure every new project sets you up for success? An efficient framework prevents careless mistakes down the road.
This blog shares an 11-step strategic brand design process to help build your freelance business on solid foundations. Equip yourself with the tools to construct brands both efficiently and effectively.
And prepare for a healthy dose of dry British wit along the way!
Documenting Processes: The Bedrock of Efficiency
When first diving into freelance brand design, it’s tempting to immediately jump on creative tasks like crafting logos and brochures. But pause before pixel pushing – efficiency flows from structured processes.
Document every step, from initial brief to final deliverable. Outline your audience analysis, competitor research techniques, mood boarding methods, and review stages. This prevents repeating mistakes and provides an invaluable framework.
Without process documentation, you risk:
- Forgetting crucial early strategic decisions when it comes time for design
- Spending countless hours stuck and unproductive
- Producing lackluster work needing extensive revisions
Documented processes yield focused efficiency through:
- Guiding strategic thinking – Reminding you to review brand characteristics and audience needs first
- Optimizing workflows – Stopping procrastination traps with clear next step paths
- Encouraging iteration – Built-in review stages quickly better work
- Enabling delegation – Onboarding new team members smoothly
Most importantly, documented processes form the bedrock of a sellable business. They provide a clear picture of operations for potential buyers and investors.
So before a single pen stroke, detail exactly how you plan to efficiently build stellar brands. Your future self and team will thank you.
Reviewing Your Strategy and Brief
Before diving into design, revisit your brand strategy and brief. This critical second step refocuses your strategic thinking, ensuring visuals align with core brand characteristics.
- Audience – Reconfirm target demographics, psychographics, needs, and pain points. Design to captivate this audience by addressing uncovered needs.
- Competitors – Study direct and indirect rivals again, identifying gaps in messaging and emotional connections. Seek a distinctive brand identity and voice versus competitors.
- Position – Solidify the niche your brand will occupy and defend. Ensure the design fits positioning goals like professional, innovative, accessible, etc.
- Characteristics – Reemphasize the 3-5 personality traits and values that will attract your audience. Inject these characteristics into all elements including logo shape, color palette, typography, image style, and beyond.
- Brief – Reread the client creative brief, noting requested visual elements and stylistic direction. Design first to satisfy expectations outlined here.
This strategic re-alignment prevents wasting hours on design misaligned with core brand identity. It also uncovers gaps between brief and strategy to address with the client early.
With audience, positioning, personality and visual expectations clarified, you can confidently ideate within strategic guardrails. The result is branding cohesive to strategic goals from first sketch to final pixel.
Research Fuels Strategic Design
With strategy and brief reviewed, the next critical step is design research and brainstorming. This phase uncovers raw creative materials to inject strategic personality and positioning into visual concepts.
First, mine your brand strategy and brief for descriptive keywords and phrases. These become the creative building blocks for visual identity.
- Audience psychographics
- Competitor messaging
- Desired brand values
- Characteristics and personality traits
- Tone of voice qualities
Compile keywords into categorized lists within a spreadsheet. Group related words like “sleek”, “clean”, “polished” under one header.
Expand Keyword Lists
Next, use a thesaurus to expand keyword lists, uncovering additional strategic phrases. Tools like PowerThesaurus reveal unseen synonyms and word associations from initial keywords.
Categorize newfound words and refresh lists. You now hold expanded creative inspiration aligned to strategy.
Mind Map Connections
Finally, mind map keywords. Place central words on a blank page and radially brainstorm visual associations. This connects disparate keywords into a strategic visual network.
With exhaustive keyword lists complete, strategically brainstorm potential visual identities. Rather than thumbnailing logos, envision personality and positioning translated into sensory language.
Describe, don’t draw, the look, feel and emotion of your brand. Let keyword lists guide descriptions with strategic alignment. Envision it first in words, not pictures.
This research fuels strategic branding imperatives with raw creative materials. Resulting designs then communicate differentiated, meaningful brand identities to attract target audiences.
Visualize Brand Identity Through Mood Boards and Thumbnails
Armed with exhaustive keyword lists, it’s time to envision the look and feel of your brand visually. This phase bridges strategy with creative execution through two techniques:
Mood Boards Set the Tone
First, curate mood boards capturing your brand’s visual identity. Create separate boards for:
- Color palette
- Logo style
- Image style
- Human brand persona
Let keywords guide visual selections aligning to strategy. Fuse choices into a final master mood board showcasing the brand’s look and feel.
Thumbnails Bring Ideas To Life
Next, thumbnail brand logo and identity concepts. Grid out paper and rapidly sketch ideas using a timer for efficiency.
Get obvious ideas out fast. Then push uniqueness exploring unfamiliar creative territory outside comfort zones. Quantity breeds quality here.
Resist over-polishing a pet concept. The goal is rapidly expressing the brand visually through volume of ideas. Identify the 2-3 strongest thumbnails to later digitalize.
Let your exhaustive keyword lists guide all creative choices through this entire phase, keeping designs strategically aligned.
Mood boards and thumbnails form a visual springboard to digitally execute differentiated, meaningful brand identities. Just be sure to manage time in this enjoyable creative process.
Bring Brand Strategy To Life Through Strategic Typography
You’ve digitized your best logo and identity thumbnail concepts. Now it’s time to choose complementary typography completing your visual brand design.
This calls for more than grabbing fonts from your usual library. That route risks misalignment with brand strategy.
Instead, typography selection should:
- Communicate Defined Brand Characteristics – Study typography like you would human personality. Certain fonts project qualities like trust, innovation, strength, approachability, luxury, dependability etc. Identify target characteristics from your brand strategy to communicate visually.
- Align Font Psychology With Brand Strategy – Research font backgrounds uncovering key traits designed into each typeface. Select 1-2 potential fonts that align well to your brand’s desired emotional impact and personality.
- Test Pairings With Logo Concepts – Mix and match shortlisted fonts against your logo thumbnails judging fit. Fine tune kerning, weight, capitalization and other factors ensuring typography smooths and strengthens logo design rather than fights it.
- Lock Pairing & Format For Design Comps – Land on a strategic font pairing that works seamlessly with your logo concept, communicating on-brand personality and emotions. Prepare formatted headline, subhead and body copy treatments to demonstrate in upcoming client comps.
Thoughtful typography bolsters brand strategy, directly influencing audience perceptions and feelings about your client’s business. Spending focused creative effort here pays dividends in differentiated, authentic branding.
Strategically Select Colors Aligned To Brand Personality
You’ve landed on a logo, typography and other visual brand elements. Now it’s time to pick a strategic color palette completing your visual identity.
This step goes beyond grabbing colors you simply like aesthetically. That risks misalignment with brand strategy and desired emotional impact.
Instead, color selection should:
- Understand Color Psychology – Study how colors influence emotions and perceptions. Certain hues project qualities like trust, stability, friendliness, luxury, dependability, energy etc. Identify target characteristics from brand strategy to communicate visually.
- Align Palette To Strategy – Research symbolic meanings and psychological influence behind shortlisted colors. Select 1-3 hues that strongly reinforce your brand’s desired personality, tone and emotional response.
- Test Palette With Other Elements – Mix and match potential colors against logo, typography and other visuals assessing fit. Fine tune tints, shades and tones ensuring hues smooth and strengthen overall design rather than fight it.
- Finalize Aligned Scheme – Land on a strategic color palette that works seamlessly with all other elements, communicating defined brand characteristics and emotions.
Psychology-led color selection directly sways feelings and perceptions around your client’s business. Investing thought and strategic intent here versus aesthetic preference pays real dividends through differentiated, authentic branding.
Final Review Aligns Strategy To Creative
You’ve invested significant time strategizing, researching, conceptualizing, refining and finalizing your client’s visual brand identity.
Before presenting creative to the client, it’s critical to review the full strategic foundation underpinning the project one last time.
This final strategy check ensures:
- The visual identity strongly reflects defined brand characteristics and desired emotional impact
- Creative executions align fully to the documented brief
- Any deviations from early strategic direction are justified and value-adding
- Brand persona – Do visuals capture and emote intended personality dimensions?
- Positioning – Will the branding clearly signal your client’s desired market placement?
- Messaging – Is their brand narrative and USP communicated creatively?
- Audience – Will target customers connect with and be compelled by the branding?
- Competitors – Does it create clear, differentiated positioning from key rivals?
Should there be gaps between strategy and creative, you have the opportunity to adjust prior to client presentation.
This avoids showing creative not grounded in an aligned brand platform. It also prevents strategic u-turns late in the process should foundational work need revisiting.
Spending time reconciling strategy and creative keeps both directionally aligned through final execution. This ensures your work remains strategically grounded rather than just visually appealing.
Strategic Process Builds Effective Brand Identities
You now have a comprehensive 11-step strategic brand design framework. It guides you methodically from research and strategy through conceptual ideation to final creative execution.
This process ensures you inject key brand strategy elements throughout. The result is visual identities aligned to characteristics that strongly resonate with target audiences.
Specifically, the framework enables you to:
- Work efficiently by following a clear, repeatable creative process
- Communicate strategically by embedding brand personality, messaging and emotional impact into design
- Build creative credibility by grounding ideas in thorough upfront research
Embrace this strategic approach in your next branding project. Be rigorous applying the 11 methodology steps from start to finish.
The payoff is a design asset that expertly translates strategy into visuals. One that tells your client’s brand story in a differentiated way that forges lasting customer connections.
So go on, put this process to work. Follow it diligently and unveil the game changing brand identity that unlocks your client’s full potential.
Greetings! I’m Jack, founder of Scythos – where I’ve helped over 50 brands transform into unforgettable identities and stunning digital presences. As a brand strategist and creative consultant, I have over a decade of experience taking brands from wallflowers to the centre of attention.
Looking to get your branding noticed and your business thriving? Reach out anytime to brainstorm creative strategies for making your brand impossible to ignore. I love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs to conceptualize innovative ways to connect with their audiences.
Whether you need help with a logo, website, content or entire rebrand – let’s chat! I’m always eager to share my ideas, creative concepts and expertise to help brands reach the next level. Together, we can make sure your business gets seen and heard. Follow along on social or send me a message to get the conversation started!