Is There a Difference Between Graphic Design and Brand Strategy?

Graphic Design Sketch of Light bulb for Branding IdeasBranding has become a hot marketing buzzword over the last decade, but despite the amount of attention paid to branding, it’s still a very misunderstood concept. A brand is not just one element. It is an entire compilation of values that make a company stand out among its competitors which is why brand strategy is such an important focus.

How Does Graphic Design Fit Into Branding?

Graphic design is just one element of branding. Your brand will express everything you provide to your customers. It should communicate the customer experience, your products and services, your values, and your unique personality. How your brand is perceived by consumers has a direct impact on your success. Your brand should be communicated clearly at every customer touchpoint in order to create consistency and to establish who you are in the marketplace.

Graphic design uses visual devices – illustrations, packaging, logos, fonts, etc. to create an identity. These devices are usually created with a set of guidelines that dictate how a company’s identity can be applied through different mediums. They outline approved color pallets, fonts, use of taglines, image sizes, and more. These guidelines will ensure that the corporate identity is cohesive, creating a recognizable brand.

How Branding Strategy Influences Your Graphic Design Process

Bringing brand strategy into graphic design is no easy task, but it’s one every business needs to achieve if they want to do branding right.

But first, we need to clear up a few things.

Companies are inundated with so many marketing buzzwords these days, they’re starting to confuse concepts with one another. Take branding, for instance. According to Entrepreneur.com, branding is “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

That seems straightforward enough. But then what’s a brand? This definition says it’s a symbol. So, is it your logo? It also says it’s a design. So, is your brand your overall design?

A brand is not any individual element. It’s the entirety of your perceived corporate image. Sure, it includes your logo. Think of the iconic M for McDonalds. It’s instantly recognizable.

Your brand also includes your design elements, such as which colors represent your company. Think of the red and white motif for Coca Cola. But your brand is much more than that. Your brand also encompasses your company’s values, the emotional connections you have with clients and the services you provide.

Perhaps it’s just easy to confuse graphic design with brand strategy. What many people refer to when they confuse the two is called “brand identity.”

According to Investopedia, “A company’s brand identity is how that business wants to be perceived by consumers. The components of the brand (name, logo, tone, tagline, typeface) are created by the business to reflect the value the company is trying to bring to the market and to appeal to its customers.”

Here’s an easy way to look at it. Your brand is how people see your entire company, i.e. brand image. It encompasses your brand identity, the visual aspects your brand uses to stand out. Your brand identity includes your logo, which is just a single aspect of your brand identity but one that really needs to be memorable.

Now that we’ve cleared all that up, you may still be wondering: Why is it important for my company to understand these things?

You Need Strategic Branding Design

001It’s crucial for you to understand the differences between these concepts because you don’t want to mess up branding. For instance, you don’t want to hire a graphic designer who doesn’t take your brand identity and values into account and doesn’t tell you what they need to know to successfully do so.

You wouldn’t want to hire sales or customer service reps who don’t exemplify your brand values at every customer touchpoint. You don’t want your image to be inconsistent across audiences. You need a solid brand image that communicates your products and/or services, your USPs and your values in an instant.

To make a long story short, it’s crucial for you to understand the differences between these concepts because you’ll be spending a lot of money on branding, and you don’t want to waste the investment.

Let’s take a look at one of the earliest and most important stages of branding: figuring out the brand graphic design from scratch.

Graphic design uses visual devices. Illustrations, packaging, logos, fonts — basically everything visual that allows you to create a profile you can then own for your brand. The goal is that, when people see this color palette or that certain font style, their immediate brand recollection is your company.

Preferably, their emotional connection should be positive. This is more heavily influenced by the products, services and customer experience you provide. But the impressions your graphic design can give also make a difference.

Your brand identity should be developed with a set of design and branding strategy guidelines that dictate how your company’s identity should be used anywhere. For instance, there are guidelines on approved color palettes and fonts to use, when and where to use your company tagline, how big image sizes should be, etc.

The typical graphic design strategy of a brand identity includes:

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Each of these elements contributes to your brand identity. The logo is arguably the most important element. After all, it’s the single symbol people should instantly recognize and connect to your brand. It’s the singular identifiable marker of your business.

Since we’re talking about logos, let’s delve into how such elements play a role in your graphic design branding and identity online.

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