The 6-step guide to classic, clean graphic design for brand identity

6 steps to design your new brand identity


What is branding, exactly?

From a Storyneedle post on ‘Sincerity in Marketing’:

Don’t confuse your brand with branding the customer. Individual people have their own identities, which are rarely identical to any company’s or nonprofit’s.  Even religious organizations can’t push too hard telling people who they are and how they should feel.  Those that try to do this are considered cults.  Companies have also been accused of doing this as well. Brands should talk about their values, and what they are doing to make those values a reality.  Very few customers know what a firm’s corporate mission is, because it is vague and hidden.  A mission doesn’t need to be original, but it needs to matter to consumers.  And it needs to be simple, stressing one key idea, such as value, access, quality, or helpfulness.  Avoid the “we are going to change the world” nonsense of some branding. Sincere content avoids phony self-deprecation.  It doesn’t say: “Because of you, we’re committed to…” or “You make what we do possible.”  Sincere content articulates the organization’s own identity.  It reveals the firm’s goals, and actions.  Let customers choose if your values are their values.




Step 1
Clarify your intention:
What do you want your design to mean?

‘Let customers choose if your values are their values.’ Well. If you have zero experience so far with your customers-to-be, it will be impossible to be able to name that straight off the bat. Even if you’re experienced, sometimes in the early days we take on lots of projects for lots of people and haven’t learned to focus on where we’re delivering the best and enjoying ourselves the most. Justin Gammill writes at this post:

‘In the end, the choice is yours, and yours alone, to do whatever you want to do. Life is way too short to spend it in a thankless, unfulfilling job. Life is also too short to spend it worrying about how you can pay your bills. If I can offer any advice for someone looking to break out of the cycle and get into a creative career, it would be this: Take your time. It’s not a transition that is going to happen over night, so be smart about it. Being creative is so often tied to being compulsive, so try to go about making the transition intelligently. There are always going to be people that question your choices, but I promise you: there is a whole world of people who will support your decision, and look forward to what it is that you have to share with us.’




Step 2

Time and exploration can help you discover it. Also: experiencing what you don’t want your design to mean, because you will know the exact people whom you don’t want to work for. For example, there are lots of articles you can read about how to qualify prospects. They’ll tell you what to listen for in the initial meetings, but that’s general information. Maybe you know better by the time you’ve had some years’ experience under your belt. Who you resonate with. Who cares about your values, too. Who wants you to work with them, and who will value your efforts as much as you value theirs. It needs to be a mutually satisfying reciprocal relationship, after all, because as you know, time is our most valuable asset. We can’t get it back. Work on finding ways to stay creative and open doors. There are a few tools I think will be helpful, for setting up the right mindset to do that. Here’s that page, ‘What are the tools of design?’



Step 3
Isolate core competencies

Not sure what the things you are best at are? Ask a few people. Or ask Design Kompany to ask them for you (See Services link at the end.) But what are core competencies, anyways? Wikipedia talks about Core Competencies as follows. Core competencies fulfill three criteria:

  1. Provides potential access to a wide variety of markets.
  2. Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product.
  3. Difficult to imitate by competitors.

What do you do to start to identify these things? Know your thing. Do your thing. Master the thing that you are good at. (Then, hire out for everything else.)

From: ‘The Core Competency of  the Corporation’ by C. K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel:


Step 4

What do you want your design to mean, for me, means, who do you want to connect to, most? And then, what do they care about? Do you know? The design should stand for something that matters to those people. This is where this video about niching yourself is handy.

Maya Elious does a fantastic job summing up this important step, in her video. Here it is:


Here is Lisa Hagg on how you can’t see the label if you’re inside the bottle.



Step 5
Think outside the box

Below are a few quotes from the story ‘The Dangers of American Complacency.’ Read the full article at: Knowledge.Wharton.UPenn 

Knowledge: You have a chapter in the book titled, “Why Americans Stopped Creating.” When you look at it from a historical perspective, what happened?

Cowen: America of the 20th century was built on the idea of powerful machines and factories and fossil fuels and manufacturing. We created every possible innovation based on the combination of those ideas with electricity. You get the radio, the car, the plane. We do phenomenally well with those. But we’ve somewhat exhausted those technologies. Each decade they get a little better, but cars are still basically cars. If you took the Tyler Cowen of 1979, when I learned to drive, and put him in a car today, I could work the whole thing without even having to think about it. That’s a little discouraging. It’s not what our ancestors would have expected or what you read about in science fiction. I think slowly but surely we’ll create a new technological paradigm in this country — how to do things that are not just machines and fossil fuels, how to make health care and education extremely productive again. But we’re certainly not there now.

Knowledge: People have busier lives than we’ve had at any point in the last 20, 30 years, especially people with kids. Maybe they don’t want to take the time to do the searching, or they feel more reliant on some of the newer tools that we have.

Cowen: I draw a distinction in the book between physical space and information space. We’re much, much busier in information space — managing our e-mail, being on Facebook, dealing with what our smartphone sends our way. Again, that can be useful, but we’re so over-specializing in this one part of life and so stagnant in terms of the other parts, like building a better and brighter nation, improving our infrastructure, having some grand project for the future. I think there’s a very dangerous imbalance.

Knowledge: Getting back to technology, I’m guessing that’s part of the reason why we [like so many of the same things] rather than seeking out unique things and finding our own paths.

Cowen: That’s right. It’s very easy to ignore the world when the internet is fun and, at the margin, it’s cheap. You can protest politically on your Facebook page or write a tweet and just put it aside, get to the next thing. I think that’s the world we have right now, and I don’t think it’s done very well by our politics. Our governance, in my view, is increasingly dysfunctional.


Step 6

Something that may be useful for visually oriented people would be to create a ‘mood board’. It’s way to start to envision the mood of the thing you want to design. In the instance of ‘who am I,’ for example, a collage might include favorite images from magazines (we used those before, to keep it very tactile), or pieces of material you hold dear. A bit of cloth, a favorite item, something meaningful to you personally. Assemble the images and items then take a picture. Many people on Pinterest make mood boards all the time, see what you can find out from other people’s examples. Try it.

Nice post about branding at this page: Here is part of it, that I like in particular: ‘If you pay attention to what your new, satisfied customers say about you, you can learn a lot about your brand’s ability to connect with your customer base. What you want to know is, how do you make your customers feel… If a preponderance of customers say that they feel relevant, that’s critical information that will help you build a brand identity. Your brand might produce any one of the following emotions:

  • Comfort
  • Security
  • Wellbeing
  • Creativity
  • Solace
  • Benevolence
  • Inspiration
  • Relevant’

‘What 5 Words Describe You?… Here’s an exercise that will help you define your brand identity, and it won’t take you very much time. Sit down (preferably with a group of five or six people) and come up with a list of five adjectives that describe your brand’s personality the most. It’s important to keep the list to just six adjectives, otherwise, you won’t be narrow-focused on your personality. A good way to get started is to think about what drove the CEO or founder of your company in the first place? Those are the things that drive your business.’



Work with Design Kompany

For guidance along the way of your branding and brand message design project, we can help. Check out Design Kompany’s toolkits.


[Last Updated: November 2023]