Olga Deribo
Nov 11, 2018 · 9 min read

In order to understand what is a brand identity, we have to glimpse across various types of corporate identity, as they stand out rather arbitrarily. Very rarely, a specific example of an identity can be unambiguously attributed to a particular category. But even abstract division will help to better understand what is being done and why, during the brand identity creation process.

Among all types of brand identity, you can distinguish two huge layers: the traditional corporate identity and unconventional. The second type can be divided with a large degree of conditionality into several more categories.

Traditional Identity

Otherwise — the corporate identity. All of us, who have heard something about a brand design somewhere around our ears, associate corporate identity with this type of a brand identity. This traditional set contains a number of standard basic elements.

First of all, it is quite a clear logo with some badge symbolising the company. A quick analogy: Apple has a bitten apple, Nike has the most recognisable “squiggle bird”, Pepsi has a red-blue circle, Instagram has a camera.

Instagram logo

The logo is accompanied by other elements: a specific color palette, a distinctive font and other style-forming elements from which, for example, a corporate pattern can be formed.

As a rule, when developing a classic corporate identity, the rules for using a style for all possible situations are prescribed. Need to draw a flyer? We open the guideline: “alright, here we have a logo in this corner, photos in this style here, a text there (with such typeface and sycamore size) — everything is made upon a modular grid, just take it and do it.”

And it’s not just the relative ease of implementation. With this approach, corporate identity on any media will look as solid as possible, the audience will easily identify these media with a specific brand.

But the traditional identity has one drawback. It is very difficult to think in advance about the use of corporate identity for all possible brand communications with the audience.

Suppose you have thought out and painted in a guideline design option for packing different shapes: a cylinder, a cube, a parallelepiped, a cone, and even a ball. For a while, the client uses your style and does not know grief. But suddenly they begin to produce new products, which require packaging in the form of a truncated pyramid, then problems begin.

But this does not mean that the traditional identity is bad. Here is our example of a classic identity — Myrmic. This is a construction company, and visually the brand reflects the best qualities of the company as a construction service provider. They can expand the list of offered services, but they will still be a construction company. That is, we can clearly define the scope of the company and with great accuracy to predict all possible communication with the audience (mostly through standard communication channels).

Myrmic corporate letterhead and business cards

That is, the classic identity fits brands with easily predictable points of contact with the consumer and a limited number of carriers that need to scale the corporate style.

In addition, most often the traditional identity is the best solution for a franchise. The owner of the style can be difficult to trace its practical implementation by the franchise, so it is better to have a strict guideline with ready-made recipes for all occasions.

Dynamic Identity

There is a trend: the number of channels of communication with the consumer is constantly increasing, and the time of each individual contact is reduced. The behaviour of corporate identity elements and their perception by the audience is becoming less and less predictable.

In this situation, the traditional approach becomes less effective. One of the ways out is to reduce the number of corporate identity elements so that you can quickly adapt your identity to changing conditions. But it is often better to turn to unconventional types of corporate identity, in particular, to a dynamic identity.

Dynamic identity, as its name implies, is very variable and can vary according to the situation. This allows you to go beyond certain limits and replicate your style on a variety of communication formats while maintaining a single visual language.

In the case of the classic corporate identity, every time a new packaging is used, the designer needs to develop a new layout. But here, the designer designs a dynamic set of elements that can adapt to unpredictable tasks.

That is, you are no longer tied, say, to an A4 sheet or a package of certain sizes. Dynamic identity should fit harmoniously on any carrier. An example is a logo that we developed for Zeus. It can be placed on any small carrier, simply choosing between a full logo or a branded logo sign.

Zeus dynamic corporate identity

Another situation — a very large range of end customers and its rapid expansion. For example, a platform that connects sports fans with their favourite sportsmen: new types of sports are constantly being added on the platform. For Sportsky, we have developed a brand identity that uses a metaphorical sign applicable to various verticals through common shapes. The style is designed so that new images, which will certainly appear with the release of new sports, can easily be harmoniously integrated into the identity.

Sportsky dynamic corporate identity

The traditional roles of the elements are changing. In a classic identity, a logo is an anchor element that sets the tone for the rest of the style. In the dynamic, he may no longer be the center of the style or even go to the background.

For example, in the Poble Espanyol identity (district of Barcelona and its cultural center), the logo is simply a typeface spelling of the name. It is usually very small and is located somewhere in the corner so as not to interfere. In the center of the identity — illustrations collected from various style-forming elements.

Poble Espanyol identity

Or, here’s the Eurasian School of Design brand, which has almost nothing in addition to typography, but it solves all the tasks set for the project.

Eurasian School of Design

And another example is the American Apparel brand. Their logo is simply the name of the company written using Helvetica font. The style is formed by characteristic provocative photos.

American Apparel

Polymorphic logo

A special case of a dynamic identity. This is a logo that not only has many variations but can also change its shape, adapting to a changing situation.

Such a logo can be used, for example, in a company where there is a need to brand different departments. If restructuring occurs, departments merge or new ones appear, a new logo can be easily developed and it will remain within a single graphical solution.

This category includes the brand logo of the online store DEDE. Detail of the brand name — the red dot — is transformed for each department.

Dede’s polymorphic logo design

Verbal Identity

Strictly speaking, a slogan, a descriptor, and even a text that a call center employee pronounces can be attributed to a verbal identity. But here we have in mind an identity in which communication takes place not so much through graphic elements, as through verbal ones.

For example, the “Something” brand, whose logo is a simple rectangle. The rectangle is placed in the text as if there is just one word painted over there. And the meaning instead of this rectangle fits exactly this word — Something.

A message from Something

Another example is the Australian Opera. The letters “O” and “A” disperse as if opening the scene.

Australian Opera

Identity of meaning

The opposite of the previous view. This corporate style uses a minimum of text, the emphasis is on visual images. Such an identity can tell whole stories, like, for example, with our brand — Logotect.

We come from a character — Logotect, which is in the middle of an identity. Actually, he is an identity.

Logotect

Usually, it turns out to be a very unusual and spectacular work. But there is a drawback: the audience does not immediately understand “the thing”. You need a certain number of acts of communication with the brand so that the consumer understands the essence of your game of meanings in such an identity.

Common symbol

This type of corporate identity is also called the identity of postmodernism because here the designer “quotes” what has been used thousands and millions of times before. That is, they use ready-made symbols that are initially extremely familiar and understandable to the audience.

But here there is a danger of making a corporate style too similar to others in which the same symbol is used. Therefore, you need to attach a maximum of creativity, so that the sign remains recognizable, but at the same time, it is associated with your brand.

Exclamation point, for example. Recently, this sign was pretty well beaten in the style of the festival LoudHead headphone manufacturer DoctorHead. The text is built in the form of an exclamation mark, which when imposing on photos of people forms the image of headphones.

LoudHead’s exclamation point

No identity identity

This happens infrequently, but sometimes the brand is limited to only the most basic things, in fact, giving up the corporate identity.

One of these is the Japanese furniture brand Muji. They, of course, have a corporate style of the name, but they promote it only where they cannot do without it (on the website, for example).

They do not put any logo or any other element of identity on their products. This is the policy of the company, which believes that the audience should recognise not the logo, but the product itself.

Muji is not a brand

So which identity to choose

Reflecting on the types of corporate identity, it is important to remember that any attempt at classification is not a theoretical development, but an analysis of the experience already gained. Surely you now like some particular type of identity, you may even want to make yourself such a project. But this is the wrong approach. The type of identity is selected based on the objectives of the project, and not vice versa.

When we look at good releases of dynamic identity, most often it seems to us very cool, progressive and diverse. But it will not suit everyone.

There may be purely technical limitations. For example, printing a wide variety of logos can be unnecessarily complex and costly.

The dynamic identity is suitable for companies that have an extensive brand architecture, a rapid expansion of the range, or simply assume the use of a large number of different carriers. If you have a business card and an avatar on Instagram from carriers, you probably don’t need a dynamic identity.

Well, the audience. Progressive youth will pay attention to the creatives and appreciate it. But if you are targeting an age or simply conservative audience, perhaps the best solution would be to turn to something more classical.

In general, it is, of course, useful to navigate in the diversity of identities. But only as a development of a professional outlook and some systematisation of knowledge. When developing an identity, you need to look at specific tasks and project conditions.

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Logotect

We create logos, corporate identity design, 3D visualization, UI&UX, and we specialize in startups.

Olga Deribo

Written by

Logotect

Logotect

We create logos, corporate identity design, 3D visualization, UI&UX, and we specialize in startups.

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