Brand marks are visual images created to identify your company. They make up a big range of solutions to build your company, making your brand more appealing to the customers and stakeholders. We all desire to have our brand interacting with customers on an intimate level.
Usually, the products we choose to buy hold some meaning to us, even if we can not put it in words. For example, when I buy my favourite perfume, the brands I choose normally carry a pack of recollections for me. They bring me certain fragrances that I love or that have been meaningful to me in the past. That memory personalises connections that run through my mind and only I can understand them. But they are essential to my choice.
Your personal brand is what differentiates you from others.
Examples of brand marks include the company’s logo, icon, colouring, tagline, captions and design. In marketing, many people use those terms related to logos virtually as if they were interchangeable. But that is not so. There are small, subtle differences in the way they associate the business name with the visual identity.
Logos are exceptional in the way to identify your company and are versatile enough to when used in a variety of contexts. Their purpose varies according to the company, and they appear in different design structures with the brand mark, types, and icons to transmit your message to the customers. They are crucial and part of your brand identity.
The brand mark is the element of your brand that will connect emotionally with your customers. A good example is Nike. As you can see underneath, the design on the left is the Nike brandmark and the one on the right is the Nike logo. The brand mark has a familiar aspect of Nike’s customers.
Reasons to Invest
Why should consumers choose one brand over another? Brands can show they are different and allow their customers to find this difference easily. There is an abundance of choice of products in the market. It is crucial to value your client, understand them and commit yourself to deliver your product or service with coherence, authenticity and meaning.
How the public perceives your brand affects its success in the market. The main functions of your brand will be:
Navigation – to help your customers choose your products between offerings in the market
Reassurance – transmit the intrinsic quality of your products to reassure customers of their right choice
Engagement – to encourage your customers to become familiar with your brand, building awareness and attracting new customers and extending customer loyalty.
Your brand mark is the best type of visual identifier for your company. It is essential to create a rationale design approach that best serves the needs of your customer. It is the designer’s process to study all the solutions possible for both your aspiration and your functional standards and create a distinct visual solution to each approach.
TOPOLOGY OF MARKS
Brand marks have infinity ways of forms, shapes, personalities. With advances in technology, the world of brand marks is in an expansion phase. With the improvement of technology, new ways are coming to help us find the best way to communicate our messages.
The graphic designer should determine the best approach to serve the needs of the company according to their particular type and then create a distinct, unique visual for the communication of the contact between the company and the customers and vice versa.
Several ways to categorise the future brand mark are to consider the business and communication goals and what the customers should expect from your company. Some brand marks come in one type or the combination of several categories.
One important tip is to start with the basics. From there, you can gain an understanding of other crucial patterns and grow. Brand marks are all about identifying the company and giving visual recognition to their unique products or services. Here we will see the five main types of brand marks with examples:
Word marks are free-standing text-only typography to convey a brand and its identification. It usually is the name of the company or an acronym. There are many examples of famous brands in this category. Most of them you probably can visualise in your mind when you read their names here: Google, Coca-Cola, Samsung, MoMa, FedEx, Walmart, IBM, Pinterest, Netflix, and the list goes on. It is the most commonly used category. In this category, what is essential are the text (readable, clear), a typeface (communication, aesthetics), and the unique typographic behaviours given to the design to precise the brand’s identity.
They apply well to companies whose name describes what they do or if they have a unique name, famous. It is a category that allows new companies to build their name with limited marketing budgets.
LETTERFORMS (or monograms)
Letterforms or monograms are a mnemonic device with one or more letters used to identify a company, a product, or service. It is entirely a text but represents only the initials of your brand (mnemonic). They are easy to apply to an app icon, becoming a distinctive graphic focal point for the brand mark. CNN, meaning Cable News Network, is a monogram of an American company which produces new-based television programmes. FedEx is an anagram lettermark with a few letters of each word of the company’s name, Federal Express. Other examples include Unilever, Tory Burch, HP, IBM, and more.
The best way to find the best letterform is actually to draw the letters in a paper and play with them, trying different colours, styles, techniques until you come to those that are credible to your structure. Sometimes the initials looks great in graphics, or they allow you to create some visual link between the company’s parts or products. They require time and capacity to educate consumers to what they mean and filter recognition.
Pictorial marks use an exact and recognisable image. They identify the iconic part of your brand mark. When Ronald Wayne, in 1976, wanted to represent the law of gravity, he was inspired by an apple. Their first image did not last long. They needed an image that would represent what Isaac Newton did – revolutionise science. So they started looking for something that would be more in harmony with the company, being modern and comfortable to reproduce in a small size. They hired a graphic design named Rob Janoff, who created the now-classic image of the bitten apple.
Usually, the image alludes to the name of the company or the mission symbolising an attribute to the brand. They are challenging to draw as they will need to translate and simplify and balance with positive and negative spaces to produce the main brand attribute the company wants to communicate to the consumers.
In many circumstances, the pictorial mark can exist without the wordmark to identify the company. It restricts only this use to more prominent famous companies that already have equity in the market. In most cases, especially for startups and small businesses with a tight budget, we can use the pictorial mark with the name of the company until they become recognised in the market.
Some examples include Apple, NBC, CBS, Polo, Greyhound, Lacoste, Twitter, et cetera.
ABSTRACT / SYMBOLIC MARKS
Like the old sentence defines, a symbol that conveys a big idea is an abstract or symbolic mark in your brand mark design. Traditionally they have been used by companies for service-based and technology areas. They are difficult to design, as they need to highlight different fundamentals relevant to the company.
We saw in a previous logo, how Chase Manhattan Bank has used the octagon as their symbol for many years to represent the message of renewal to its customers. Other examples include the Nike swoosh, the HSBC hexagon icon, the blue Merck lettering logo and the Sprint new logo when they acquired Nextel with black text and yellow wing symbol, reflecting a sense of motion and flight, evoking their dynamic new company.
This category is not instantly identifiable, so it is good to mark a hint of intrigue in the viewer with a challenge to find the feeling, attribute, and value the graphic offers. Gareth Hardy suggests that the simplicity of the graphics improves the possibility of an abstract and symbolic mark remaining genuinely timeless.
Emblems category is a brand mark when the name of the company connects to a pictorial element or shape. The emblem is a design that represents the abstract in visual terms, and it is specific for that company. It means that if used without the text, it still describes the company. They usually create an enduring impression to give your company a unique and prestigious touch, juxtaposing modern direction with traditional values and binding your consumers into a community (or a “tribe”). I am sure you will feel some ‘belong’ when you read the examples of companies that use emblems in their brand marks: IKEA, Stella Artois, Starbucks, DC Comics (Superman), University of Queensland UQ and Kilkenny Irish Beer.
INNOVATIONS ON VISUAL APPROACHES
As the market transforms itself, it is vital to innovate continuously. Making a difference has become essential when building a brand. Think people, planet, profit. People: Be authentic. Planet: maintain ecological balance, sustainability. Profit: the financial benefit gained from a business that cares for the environment and values the customers. Recently, digital technology has brought us two new types of brand marks that are growing in the market.
Traditionally brand equity has been based on the rate and global reach of their image, but in our digital times, other forms have been invented by graphic designers to express ideas. A high tendency now is to use other stockholders in the creation of brand marks.
The static identity that we know remains the same as we use it in a variety of different applications. On the other side, the dynamic mark, or dynamic identities, may appear differently in distinct venues depending on many factors. Maybe the company could release a free tool to let guests interact with the brand (Airbnb), or perhaps they could create a software to unite visual, aesthetics and impressions from different pieces to one bigger unit (Spotify) creating a look of vibrant and lively music culture. Lenovo, for instance, uses their brand identity with a new typeface and endlessly customisable templates with different graphics, photos, and backdrops.
When dynamic brand marks are well done, they provide a significant interaction of the company with the customer positioning the company for excellent engagement and long-term growth.
A character trademark represents brand attributes and values. Frequently, they become the stars of the campaigns or cultural icons. Think of the Michelin Man (created 1898), or Uncle Sam (created 1838), or Ronald McDonald (created 1963), or going to the movies, Columbia Goddess (created 1961), or going to the future, the Gecko (created 2002).
While their ideas are universal and timeless, in our digital era, they are receiving a good facelift and being dragged into our contemporary society. They are part of our reality. Do you want to buy insurance? Talk to the Gecko!
SUCCESSFUL BRAND MARKS
Remember, your brand mark will live both digitally and physically. They will scale it to diverse sizes, printed on paper, uploaded as a profile picture, and on and on. That’s why brands create designs with and without a symbol and your company should have a sound library of them available for any different use. Especially now in our age of social media, a brand mark needs to be used across digital channels.
Whatever brand mark you choose, your design should leave an impression of your brand to the audience. If it stands out distinct from similar companies on the market, it will be easier to differentiate your product and reach proper recognition with your target audience.
Wheeler, A. (2018). Designing Brand Identity. Wiley Products
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