Santosh R provides insight into the chaotic yet fun process of discovering a brand’s identity in his own voice.
Brand identity for start-ups. Hmm, that’s tricky. For one thing, there is no brand yet. At best, it’s almost a brand. So it might 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. Otherwise, there will be no article to write, will there?
But here is the real crux of the answer. The brand book for start-ups, even for mid-sized brands that haven’t been around for decades and haven’t done things for decades, is entirely fluid. Especially for start-ups, brand books are as much about discovering for themselves what their voice and identity 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 have ever been about doing this. 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, however carefully or casually defined by the company, is only truly burned with meaning after many things the mark said or done over time. Brand identity is always discovered and never defined from scratch as design.
But it’s surely an interesting journey to find out how brand identity evolves – where does it start? What wins? What aspects of the brand does it touch? These are indeed interesting questions to ponder. So, let’s do it together, okay? And what could be better than creating a brand together and supporting it in its identity journey?
Creating a brand identity for – “Untitled” – yes, that’s the brand name we chose.
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 each brand’s identity journey begins.
Step 1 – Know who you are
In more common terms, you need to know what a brand’s vision is. You need it because it pretty much guides everything you’ll try to do and say with the brand. And while everything around it can change, it can’t. It’s because if you change that, you don’t even have a product or a company, let alone a brand.
So what is “untitled”? – Untilted is a clothing brand driven by the unwavering belief that a sustainable lifestyle is not only desirable but inevitable. And when it comes to clothing, Untitled will champion that idea in every way possible.
As you can see – two things are clear about the brand – it’s a) entirely about sustainability, and b) it’s in the apparel business. Let’s move on.
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Step 2 – Logo and its use
Inspired by the vision of the brand, we decided to create the logo below.
(Two thin earth-colored half-circles not touching – with the word Untitled written between them)
Here is the logic of the design resulting from the vision of the brand:
- The circular shape is the best and simplest representation of sustainability.
- It’s slim because of our belief in using only what is necessary without excess of any kind.
- Semicircles do not meet because of the belief that nothing is absolute or complete; instead, everything is in transition, and so we must react to our changing environment.
- It is mud colored because it represents the mud or earth from which our product’s journey begins.
Use of logo
The logo can never be thicker than necessary to create the shape.
Color, however, is changeable – but – it should always represent the exact colors and shades found in nature.
Likewise, the color palette can also only encompass the colors and shades that occur naturally in nature.
Step 3 – Typography
Disclaimer: Many suggest that the next step should be to “understand your target audience” – after all, depending on who you are targeting, your brand will have to look a certain way. However, personally, I don’t see this as a step in defining a brand’s identity. I think it’s the other way around – once you decide to behave in a certain way, you’ll find out who your target audience is.
If you disagree, let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Step 3 for me is setting the typography.
The curve of the words is also evocative of a brand’s identity. The way words are represented paints the meaning of the words as much as what the words mean.
As a best practice, the logo font is usually kept a little different than 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 be inspired by cave paintings from different parts of the world. Why? That’s because it’s a nod to a time when humanity still lived in harmony with nature.
Step 4 – Imaging
This clearly has the biggest influence on how a brand is perceived by people – it is, after all, the most visible aspect of the brand.
This, in turn, means that the more your images are defined, the more your brand character will be defined. And while most clothing brands struggle to find a distinct world of imagery – for the untitled, we spot a smart, authentic opportunity.
The most powerful thing a brand can do is be counter-intuitive and stand out from the crowd. However, this only works if the counter-intuitiveness stems from the primary branding purpose.
Fortunately, in the case of Untitled, it is. Since the brand’s focus is sustainability, let’s look at the most sustainable way to live in nature – especially in the tropics like our home – and that is by NOT wearing clothes when and where it doesn’t. is not necessary.
Thus follows the visual style of the brand. In no picture will people be wearing our clothes – instead they will be part of the picture either as being hung up to dry, lying by the river while someone bathes, used as tools to cover the food, etc., with people next to them.
Step 5 – Tone of voice
This too follows a similar style of saying only what is necessary. In other words, nothing most of the time.
Simple description of the garment, its material and the color inspiration.
Step 6 – Assemble Everything
So while the steps are indicative in nature and the whole process is much more chaotic and iterative in practice, I still hope this provides some insight into what it takes to “discover” the identity of a brand and why.
This article is written by Santosh R, Co-Founder and CMO, Elever.