Brand Architecture for Maintaining Identity

Jille Natalino
Aug 24 · 6 min read
Collection of Glassdoor branded swag

Glassdoor didn’t have a brand design team for the first 8 years of the company, so once it caught on that there were dedicated people with design skills sitting inside our office walls, obscure requests for T-shirts, logos, and swag with all sorts of expressions came pouring in. All of them contained the subject line: “Can we get a logo for [enter project here]?” Things like a team offsite T-shirt, an event logo, branding for a company initiative all are needed and have value, but took away dedicated time from other important projects. This left the small design team scrambling for solutions and a little confused about how to create a variety of unique graphics that would still feel like part of the Glassdoor brand.

“Can we get a logo for [enter project here]?”

Enter the brand architecture system. Brand architecture is the visual system that lays out the optimal relationship of our corporate entities to the corporate brand. But what about internal teams and workgroups? How do those relate to larger initiatives like events and awards or even bigger things like Glassdoor product offerings? How can we give each project a unique identity, but keep Glassdoor as the main parent brand and keep our stakeholders happy? How can we put appropriate guard rails around the projects that designers take on so that they’re not overwhelmed? We needed to put in place a system that would help us make these decisions quickly and consistently.

A variety of Glassdoor logos created over the years prior to our brand architecture system.

Doing the Research

Our first step was to determine how other companies tackle this problem. Most companies don’t publicly discuss their structure for this, so our research was based purely on how companies represent themselves and their teams across events, swag, campaigns and on their team-specific Medium and Dribbble pages. Given that, our research methodology wasn’t foolproof, but it still gave us some key insights.

For example, some companies, like Airbnb, are very consistent and lead with the corporate brand at every turn. This is to be expected — as a design-led company, Airbnb has a very tightly structured design system. On the other hand, Facebook, a company known for rapid growth — its informal motto, in fact, is “move fast and break things” — seemed to have very few guidelines around their ancillary brand usages. Each team, event, and project depicted only the visual expression for that particular need — the only continued thread was that they all used the signature Facebook blue. Our takeaway here was that there is no one solution for every organization, and, overall, the brand architecture should reflect the unique company, culture, and needs.

The ambiguity of tackling this problem left us to determine for ourselves how rigid we wanted to be in getting to a solution that would delight our stakeholders. Additionally, since we aren’t quite yet on the scale of Facebook or Airbnb, we needed to consider how the consistency would continue to play a part in brand recognition.

Establishing a Solution for Glassdoor

Glassdoor has one mission: to help people everywhere find a job and company they love. All company offices, teams, events and products support this mission. Glassdoor is growing rapidly, with new offices opening in Brazil, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. As we grow, the requests that flow in multiply, and these guidelines have been instrumental in maintaining the integrity of our brand, keeping a logo for an event in Brazil consistent to what is being created for sales decks in Dublin.

The system we came up with is a way for the design team to field requests and determine whether a project gets a new logo, and guidelines for how to create it. For us, it was important to know what has room to flex and what doesn’t; what needs the Glassdoor logo and what doesn’t. By using this hierarchy, we could easily see how a new logo fits in amongst other existing logos and what types of assets would need to be created with it. We kept these ideas in mind when creating the system:

  • Glassdoor, first
    Every entity needs to primarily reflect the Glassdoor corporate brand. Entities wishing to express a local presence or project should express their secondary identity in a controlled, consistent manner.
  • Flexibility
    The more campaign-specific or time-bound an entity may be, the greater the flexibility the entity should have to establish a more distinct identity, but always in a manner that still supports the global Glassdoor brand.
  • Consistency
    Our brand, and thus our brand architecture, needs to be consistent across both external and internal applications.
  • All touchpoints matter
    Every touchpoint, whether internal or external (where the line can be blurry anyway), is an opportunity to build our brand.

The Glassdoor Brand Architecture Hierarchy

Our next step was to determine a hierarchy so that when stakeholders come to us with a logo request, we can clearly communicate what kind of logo they should expect for their project and what level of customization.

Category 1: Our master brand

This only includes the main Glassdoor logo, and alternate versions of stacked, logotype and icon.

Category 2: Products

This category includes logos for products we offer such as Glassdoor for Employers, Glassdoor Open Company and Know Your Worth. They are created consistently.

Category 3: Events & Campaigns

This is the fun category. It is important to still include the Glassdoor logo here because these events and campaigns are created for brand recognition, but the additional graphics should speak directly to the event or campaign and be distinct from one another.

Category 4: Company-Wide Initiatives

This includes social clubs, internal programs, and cross-functional initiatives — for example, our Women in Glassdoor employee resource group. These individual programs and initiatives need to be able to express themselves, but there needs to be consistency around the “logos” created so they all feel like Glassdoor.

Category 5: Internal Events

These are one time or annual events, internal speaker series and celebrations. They each have radically different tones and should have unique branding. These are mostly internal, so they don’t need to drive brand recognition. They’re not a product, and they are not trying to sell something; therefore, the Glassdoor logo can be dropped, creating more design freedom.

Category 6: Work Group Programs

These cross-functional workgroups, like Design at Glassdoor or Engineering Excellence, are brought together for the purpose of thought leadership. These units still represent Glassdoor, so the Glassdoor brand should lead — the additional type is necessary for adding subject distinction. The additional key art is for internal and swag purposes to give teams something to rally around.

Category 7: Teams & Locations

Teams and locations are all consistent pieces of the Glassdoor brand. Therefore, we must lead with the logo as the primary function. These are distinct pieces of the corporate brand but exist to give employees pride in their location or team.

Since we’ve put this framework in place, we’re still getting just as many requests, if not more, but all of our stakeholders have bought into the structure, understand where they fall within it and are proud of the design assets that they receive for their projects. Our event branding has gotten a little more fun (hey there, “wood font”) and the designers have a starting place for new logos. Best of all, we’ve found the perfect level of flexibility while still maintaining our brand consistency.

Glassdoor Design

Perspectives from the Glassdoor Design team.

Jille Natalino

Written by

Glassdoor Design

Perspectives from the Glassdoor Design team.

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