The approach to branding digital products.

Look around. How many digital products do you see around you? Every bit of that is designed by a team of artists and strategists. But have they gone a branding process?

To be honest, branding is a very personal process and is usually highly customized to fit the need of the client and their brand.

But when we talk about the difference in approach towards how we brand based on what we are branding, there is a stark contrast between branding services and branding digital products.

This is what branding brings into product design. It contributes a lot to the user experience. But what about digital products? A lot rides on empathy.

The industry of digital product design is still really young, considering the timeline of the dawn of digital intervention. From the interface to the UX, whatever we do in front of the screen has naturally so much more going on behind. Let’s explore the differences and how as brand builders, we need to separate our approach when it comes to digital products.

The branding aspect and the design aspect:

The very apparent and not so fine line between the two has been ignored and these words are often used interchangeably. In an industry as young as digital product designing, branding is considered secondary to the design, forgetting that both are processes that need simultaneous creation and development. Especially when we are talking about digital products since the construction of these products need an understanding of the way a consumer consumes or uses your software.

Most branding studios also provide interface design services for websites and applications too. In fact, the people who were designing the first operating systems, the first bits of software were themselves coming from research backgrounds with specializations in human factors.

Understanding the market:

It is so congested that it doesn’t even have a market, everything is on the App Store™. Dad jokes aside, you do have to consider the fact that there is saturation in whatever app idea you just had. On the app store, there are apps that will just be a virtual switch that won’t do anything to even an entire real-time flight simulation app that gives you a bigger experience. Brand positioning has a very different meaning when it comes to digital products. Here, marketing and advertising strategies might bear a little more than equal weight.

Although, since there is an app for everything, there is an audience too, for everything. Since the internet is hyperconnected, The world is literally your playground and it is easier to find your tribe. Which leads us to-

Target audience:

Your audience can virtually be the entire planet- looking at the number of people today who are dependent on digital products to exist efficiently in fast advancing civilization. Everything we use today is designed. Most things we find a resource in today have come out of a studio with artists, strategists, and writers working behind building the bridge between the end-user and the entrepreneur. Since the user might end up using some digital products their entire day, it involves multiple emotions of the user. They use it more than just functionally.

Branding comes in when we talk about designing the emotional experience before we go towards the visual design of the product itself (since there is usually no packaging when it comes to digital products). These products that people are going to use become such important parts of the user’s lives since we have reached the point where it has become a platform to even mediate and choreograph identities and how we portray them or even create them IRL.

Digital product resourcefulness:

Think of when the relationship between people and machines started. It goes way beyond in the early centuries of civilization, but the boom as we all know started with the industrial revolution. We evolved soon to realize these machines can be smaller and smaller and could now, become extensions of our bodies. This soon gave birth to the digital revolution where we first saw a boom of hardware and soon after that, software.

We are surrounded by digital products and we can’t imagine a future without these products help us not just survive but thrive by adding efficiency in our life and the way we function. Branding will help incorporate the design process in every level of business, creative decision making, product development, and marketing.

The case of Instagram

One can learn a lot from content like Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix. Especially about designing and branding a product as widely used as Instagram. These designers are called product designers because it is not just about the UX. it is equally about the product strategy. Instagram is not just a digital app with pixels on the screen, it is an experience. That is why it is a product.

The Instagram update was drastically different from what it was before. To someone not from the industry, a flat icon is not so much of an update. The news created an internet frenzy and a lot of people seemed to have objected it too. But if you look at the process that the designer went through, You would agree with the CEO of Instagram today:

A still from “Abstract: The Art of Design”

The Instagram update was not just a flat icon gradient, it was a lot more. Every design decision that was made was to make the photo, the center of the user experience. The designer Ian Spalter is also responsible for designing the Nike+ Fuelband, which could be the premiere of the entire wearable technology industry.

All in all, as much difference there is in branding digital products, the core of what branding is stays the same. Apple’s statements like “Apple reinvents the phone” and “Let’s make some history today” in their presentations are a part of their brand strategy.

Digital tools, devices, and products are transforming us and we are yet to figure out where they are taking us. Branding can give us some control over the direction.

Look around once again. Now, do you see digital products a wee bit differently? These are works of designers- graphic and media, brand directors, strategists, even behavioral psychologists, and information architects. Catch ’em all at Slangbusters Studio.

— by Manas, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio

Originally published on the Slangbusters Blog