Today we want to talk vocabulary and in particular, the difference between
branding and visual identity.


We often get people coming to us and telling us that they “need branding” but when we delve deeper, we find out that they actually mean “visual identity”. In design, the term branding is often used to talk about all the elements that have to do with creating an identity. And even though it can be used to reference anything like logos or colour palettes, it is in fact not branding that is required.  

So what is the difference between branding and visual identity?

Branding is the set of quality, ideas and attributes that define your company/brand. It's the positioning and the messaging you send to your audience. Branding is the promise that you deliver through the communications your customers/user/audience have with your company, service or product. Branding is not objective - it's to do with feelings, philosophy, and that gut feelings that customers get when they think of you. Branding is a personality. It’s the who you are as a brand.

As summarised nicely by Marty Neumeier, The brand gap: "A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company".

The identity or visual identity is what’s visual to represent your brand. It’s a trademarked logo, symbol, monogram, emblem, or other graphical element. It's a visual expression of the brand through the symbolism, typography, colour and layout. When we talk about a brand we don’t talk about identity - we’re saying “who we are”. When we talk about an identity, it's the graphics - logo, colours, typos etc.


Now, what do we mean by Brand Guidelines and why are they important?

The Brand Guidelines is a document that, as it is named, is a guide about both the branding and the identity. It's the guide for the whole usage of the brand and how it should be communicated to its audience. To sum up: it’s a guide for both the branding and the visual identity of a company/brand.

It includes themes such as:
-the brand's history, personality and vision
-the brand's messaging or mission statement
-usage of the logo: how to use the logo, what you are allowed to do with it, and what you are not
-colour palette(s), typographic palette and how to use them
-image style: sample of type of pictures used by the brand vs what to not use
-basic layout samples (letterheads, business cards...)

Brand guidelines should be flexible enough for designers to be creative, but rigid enough to keep your brand easily recognisable. Consistency is key, especially if you need the brand to extend across multiple media platforms.

Thanks for reading!

We hope this has helped you better understand what is what? If you have further questions please comment and we’ll do our best to come back with an answer that helps you!
Feel free to share this articles with you friends and/or people you know that might be interested to learn more about the subject!

We will introduce the first article of a serie of "Fundamentals",
Next week: Fundamentals of (almost any) Composition - Part 1
Stay Tuned!