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Designing Brand Identity

Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler was assigned material in my Bachelor’s Degree program for Graphic Design, but it wasn’t until years later that I cracked it open again and saw the true value.

The book helps us establish brand identity design that answer four fundamental questions:

Who are you? 

Who needs to know? 

How will they find out? 

Why should they care?

The answers to the question are the foundation of any brand identity design. Divided into five sections, brand basics, brand identity ideals, brand identity elements, brand forces, and before and after, the book covers the span of identity design from inception to results by means of a five step process: Conducting research, Clarifying strategy, Designing identity, Creating touch points, Managing assets. I know, you thought the only step was designing identity, didn’t you?

It’s not the most beautiful or intriguing book, which is likely why I shoved it under my bed through college… I was at an age of starvation for visual stimulation. But the information is superb. It actually helped me see brands in a different way, as a doctor studies to learn the respiratory system down to the organs, the functionality of various parts, external effects, associated diseases, treatment options, and purpose, I began to analyze brand identity in a new way, down to the very architecture: emblems, look and feel, touch points, usability, social impact, messaging, competition, and advertising.

This analysis is brought on through a number of exercises within the book, such as Usability Testing, which walks a branding team through the process of developing a test plan, finding participants, conducting sessions, and reporting findings. A step that is largely bypassed by the solo designer but should most certainly be implemented by teams, and aways, Always, ALWAYS, when establishing an identity for a company of prominence, significance, or great in size. And that’s only one of the exercises.

If you’re not the type to read a book cover to cover, that’s ok too. Designing Brand Identity is laid out in a way that you can hop around sections, open to a random page and not feel disconnected from a running process, and even benefit from reading callouts and captions. At a glance, here are a few I found invaluable:

“Branding is not about checking the box and moving on. Brands are living, and breathing – the need to be embraced, monitored, and adapted.” –  Andrew Welch

“Most processes leave out the stuff that no one wants to talk about: magic, intuition, and leaps of faith.” – Michael Bierut

“Social media is word of mouth on steroids.” – Blake Deutsch

If you’re a designer involved in brand identity design, or you’re a company preparing for launch or considering a rebrand, this book is so fabulously on point, and will rev you up with excitement to pursue your new ventures. For that reason, it is part of my series, 31 Days of Creative Inspiration, and a must-have for any designer’s library.


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