Branding 101: How Design Can Make your Brand from “Good” to “Great”

Karl Marx might have been right in railing against modern industrialization, but there’s one thing he probably didn’t bank on: the “workers”, like their bosses, now own the means of production. So while we might now use the same tools and software that would enable us to… err, “spread” our message, some of still end up with… this:

Err… yes. [Photo via Flicker.]

Or… this:

Our Creative Director is having seizure attacks right now.

Yes, we all had a laugh. But think about it for a moment: the above logo and website all come from legitimate brands. If this is the first time you’ve encountered any of them, who among you reading here will take them seriously at first glance? 

If you want to make sure that any potential customers won’t be thinking twice about patronizing what you’ve created, then your brand should look more than just a business with a logo and fancy graphics laid on top it. Your brand should be convincing customers that you have what they’re looking for, that you can provide them with a specific experience, and that they have all the reason in the world to trust you. 

Design, when done right, makes your brand memorable. 

The cool thing about it all? You don’t even need to be the visually-inclined type to appreciate good design. Design might seem imperceptible to many, but just like eating good food or hearing a good song, you’ll know good design when you see one! 

Before we tackle why design matters for making your brand, here are some things you need to know about contemporary design first:

Pen, meet bulb

Design as the Building Block to Your Brand 

Graphic design is commonly associated with the use of graphics, typeface, or any visual element. However, when applied to a brand, they can help in creating a unified entity that people can identify with more easily. 

If you want a more concrete example of why many brands invest so much in making themselves look presentable, you don’t have to look further than this study by Adobe: the past 10 years showed that companies who have put a premium on design have outperformed their competitors on the Standards & Poor Index by about 219%. 

In the digital space, a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group in 2011 found out the reason a first-time visitor stays on a website for more than 10 – 20 seconds is also because of good design. When you factor in widespread smartphone use into that equation, then the impetus to create a beautiful—and, more importantly, intuitive—website increases exponentially.

These two aforementioned studies should be a pretty good indication of how customers perceive the importance of design today, though it may also be argued that many of them might not even be aware why they like what they’re looking at.

If your design proves to be consistent with your brand’s overall presentation—and by that, it may also extend to your web design, marketing collaterals, logo, the works— you may even have an opportunity to build yours into the next ‘Nike’ or ‘Apple’ of your industry. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?

So, now that you have an inkling of what “design” is, how can you implement it for your brand?

So, What Are You Designing For?

Beats us.

As it currently stands, design is almost always associated with “solving a problem”, whatever that may be for your brand. This trend can be credited to the emergent “design thinking” movement, which argues that any problem in an organization can be solved by approaching it from a design-first mentality. That’s why we’re now getting publications calling for that philosophy to be implemented in very different industries like education and legal work

However, brands—particularly start-ups—commonly have one, pressing problem: how can they stand out? How can they communicate to potential customers that what they are offering is something that is not just different, but even better, than their competition?

This is where good and consistent design comes in to help one’s brand. Design can tell a story, present a statement, or shape a feeling. More importantly, having good design tells customers, “Hey, look at us! We’re a brand worth trusting!”

The most common example of design being implemented today is in the rise of two terminologies commonly associated in tech circles today: User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). While UI and UX have been frequently interchanged with each other (and, might we add, wrongly so), experts agree that one can’t exist without the other.

So, in effect, design is more than just aesthetics; it’s about presenting an experience to your customers. It might be in your brand identity in the form of your logos or marketing collaterals; in your digital design through your websites or social media pages; and even in your product or service design.

In case all of these might sound confusing (and really, we don’t blame you), then this is the TL;DR version: good design good overall experience good brand. Do that right, and everything else will follow!