Business magazines and websites are full of terms like branding, brand identity, logo design, identity design, corporate identity, and brand strategy. Sometimes different terms are used to describe the same thing. Sometimes the same term is used to describe different things.
As an identity designer, I want to be clear with my clients about what I do (and also what no designer can do for you!)
A brand is the perception of a company.
Your brand is what people think of when they think about you. It’s your reputation. Your values, your products, your marketing, your customer service. Magazine articles about you, how your stores smell inside, and what your neighbor’s mom said about you at her bridge party. And yes, it’s your logo and website and business cards. Everything people encounter when they interact with your company adds to their perception of you: your brand.
Branding is an effort to influence this perception. You can’t literally control what your neighbor’s mom might think, of course. But you can do your best to get on her radar and make a great impression.
An identity is a brand’s set of visual elements.
A subset of a brand is the brand identity (also called corporate identity or identity system). The keyword is identity. Just like with people, checking an ID proves you’re you and not somebody else. The tangible elements you can see when a company communicates with you comprise its identity design:
Logo, colors, fonts, icons, letterheads, business cards, envelopes, websites, packaging, uniforms, office aesthetics, promotional swag, social media, email blasts, signage, messaging.
A brand style guide documents a brand’s evolving identity.
Example brand style guide by
Example brand style guide for a client
A logo is a mark that represents a company.
Of all the visual parts that make up your identity, your logo is the strongest point of recognition. It doesn’t have to tell the world everything you do. It’s a quick tag or identifier. A red bullseye doesn’t reveal all the clothing, housewares, and food you can buy at Target. But it works as a stand-in for everything you know about Target. And if you knew nothing about Target, you could still make some guesses about the personality of the company by looking at the logo.