Santosh R gives an insight into the chaotic but fun process of discovering a brand's identity in a brand's own voice.
Brand identity for start-ups. Hmm, that's a tricky one. For one, there isn't a brand yet. At best, it's almost a brand. So, it may seem logical to ask - does it even make sense for a start-up to have a brand book?
The short answer, of course, is yes. Else there won't be any article to write, would there?
But here's the real crux of the answer. The brand book for start-ups, even for mid-sized brands that haven't been there and done things for decades, is entirely fluid. Especially for start-ups, brand books are as much about discovering for themselves what their voice and identities are as it is about communicating them to the world.
Here's a quick visual proof.
There are very few "swooshes" in the world that were always about just doing it. But even for a brand as consistent in its logo and identity as Nike, it took decades to build its meaning.
And that's also the meta point here - brand identity, no matter how painstakingly or casually defined by the company, is truly burned with meaning only after many things the brand says or does over time. Brand identity is always discovered and never defined out of nothing as design.
But it is surely an interesting journey to know how a brand's identity evolves - where does it begin? What carries it along? What aspects of the brand does it touch? These are indeed engaging questions to ponder over. So, let's do it together, shall we? And what better way than to create a brand together and take it on its identity journey?
Creating a brand identity for - "Untitled" - yep, that's the brand name we have chosen.
So, what should its brand identity be? I know what you're thinking - "but I don't even know what the product is or why it exists?" And that's pretty much where every brand's identity journey begins.
Step 1 - Knowing who you are
In more common speak, you need to know what a brand's vision is. You need this because this pretty much guides everything you will try to do and say with the brand. And while all things around it may change, this cannot. That's because if you alter this, then you don't even have a product or company, let alone a brand.
So what's "untitled"? - Untilted is a clothing brand that is driven by the unshakable belief that a sustainable way of living is not only desirable but inevitable. And when it comes to clothing, Untitled will be a champion of this idea in all ways possible.
As you can see from this - two things are crystal clear regarding the brand - it is a) entirely about sustainability, and b) it is in the clothing business. Let's move on.
Step 2 – Logo and its usage
Taking inspiration from the brand's vision - we have decided to create the logo below.
(Two thin, mud-coloured semi-circles which don't touch each other – with the word Untitled written between them)
Here's the rationale for the design stemming from the brand's vision:
- The circular form is the best and simplest depiction of sustainability.
- It's thin because of our belief in using only what is needed without an excess of any kind.
- The semi-circles don't meet because of the belief that nothing is absolute or complete; instead, all is in transition, and hence we should respond to our changing environment.
- It is mud coloured because it represents mud or earth from which our product's journey begins.
The logo can never be thicker than required to make the shape.
The colour, however, is changeable – but – it must always represent colours and the exact shades found in nature.
Similarly, the colour palette also can only encompass colours and shades naturally found in nature.
Step 3 - Typography
Disclaimer: Many suggest the next step should be "understanding your target audience" - after all, depending on who you are targeting, your brand will need to look and feel a certain way. However, personally, I don't consider this a step in defining a brand's identity. I feel it's the other way around - once you decide to behave a certain way, you'll discover who your target audience is.
If you disagree, then do let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Step 3 for me is defining the Typography.
The curve of the words is equally evocative of a brand's identity. The way the words are depicted paints the meaning of the words as much as what the words mean.
As a best practice, usually, the font of the logo is kept a bit different than for other uses - as it can help create contrast in styles and give the identity a distinct character.
So, what should it be for "Untitled"?
Well, the idea is to create a new font that will take inspiration from cave paintings from different parts of the world. Why? That's because it is a nod to an era where mankind still lived in harmony with nature.
Step 4 - Imagery
This clearly has the largest influence on how a brand comes across to people - it is, after all, the most in-your-face aspect of the brand.
This, in turn, means that the more defined your images are, the better defined your brand's character will be. And while most apparel brands struggle to find a distinct world of images - for the untitled, we spot a clever and authentic opportunity.
The most powerful thing a brand can do is to be counter-intuitive and thereby stand out from the crowd. However, this only works if the counter-intuitiveness stems from the core purpose of the brand.
Thankfully, in Untitled's case, it does. Since the brand's purpose is sustainability, let's look at the most sustainable way of living in nature - especially in the tropics like our country - and it is by NOT wearing clothes whenever and wherever it is not required.
And so follows the visual style of the brand. In no images will the people be wearing our clothes - instead, it will be part of the image either as being hung for drying, lying by the river while someone bathes, used as tools to cover food, etc., with people next to them.
Step 5 - Tone of voice
This, too, follows a similar style of saying only that which is required. In other words, nothing most of the time.
Simple description of the item of clothing, its material, and colour's inspiration.
Step 6 - Putting all together
So, while indeed the steps are indicative in nature and the entire process is a lot more chaotic and iterative in practice, nonetheless, I hope it gives an insight into what it takes to “discover” a brand’s identity and why.
This article is authored by Santosh R, Co-Founder, and CMO, Elever.