Your logo is not your brand.

Casey Shagena
Nov 6, 2019 · 5 min read

But these 4 Pillars of Branding definitely are.

A frequent request to many designers is “Can you design my logo?”

When we get this question, the short answer is — Yes! But, let’s be honest here, your company is so much more than just a logo. Focusing solely on logo design will leave a lot of opportunities to connect on the table.

Let me explain.

When developing your brand concept, the FIRST and best step is to consider the 4 “V’s” as your fundamental strategy pillars, before ever designing a logo.

The 4 “V”s of Branding

  1. Vision
  2. Voice
  3. Visuals
  4. Values

I am not the first to point out these pillars of branding, but many brand designers stop at the first 3, and I think that’s a shame. Don’t skip over the important 4th V.

Here’s why.

Values-driven businesses = Special sauce

According to Forbes… “in a recent Deloitte Millennials survey, almost 40% of respondents stated that the goal of business should be to ‘improve society’ (second only to ‘generate jobs’ in terms of priorities)… In short, people increasingly want to work for, buy from and invest in companies that have mission and impact at their heart of their model.”

A growing number of entrepreneurs are deciding to pursue social or environmental impact alongside profits. A multitude of companies with strong value systems are popping up: Allbirds, Outdoor Voices, Beyond Meat, AeroFarms, Tech Town here in Detroit, and many more. These businesses are making waves in their industries and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Furthermore, considering your company’s value systems as part of your overall brand purpose is just the right thing to do.

Photo by Karla Vidal on Unsplash


Your vision is your big idea. It’s the lightbulb that went off — probably while you were in the shower or trying to get some sleep — that got you to this point.

A vision statement illustrates where you want your company to be upon reaching its mission. It not only says where you want your company to be, but where you want your community or the world to be once your vision is realized. Your vision statement should be inspiring and speak to the bigger goals of your endeavor.

Photo by Rita Vicari on Unsplash


Witty, gentle, empowering, or graceful. These are all examples of brand characteristics and tone of voice.

A company’s tone of voice refers to how you express your vision and values through verbal and written communication using distinct characteristics unique to your brand. Consider your customer and who you are trying to reach and connect with when shaping your company’s tone of voice to be sure you are meeting your audience where they are.

But don’t forget about the people behind the brand. Your tone of voice should be a reflection of the team you have built or will build (even if it’s just you!) and their collective knowledge and personality. Just like a real person with a unique flair, your tone of voice will help your business stand out from the crowd with a strong sense of purpose, point of view, value system, and way of expressing those perspectives.

Photo by Aliado Studio


Of course, this is everyone’s favorite pillar. And for good reason!

Humans are hardwired to consider visual cues first before text or message. With color being the strongest influencer and shape next in line. Developing visuals that align with your other 3 pillars is a crucial factor in setting up your brand to be successful.

Your brand visuals and tone of voice should closely relate in characteristics and it’s a great idea to always have the end user in mind.

It is tempting to gather inspiration that suits your personal preference — this is only natural. But building a solid foundation for a brand requires you to step outside your personal likes and dislikes and think about it from your customer’s point of view and how your brand would “act” and essentially, what it would wear if it were a person.

Photo by Aliado Studio


As mentioned above, value-based businesses are on the rise, and it’s about time.

It’s likely that your values and purpose were the catalyst for you starting your business in the first place!

When exploring your company values, the stronger your viewpoint, the more influence you are likely to have AND the more likely you are to dissuade a general audience. If your company is strictly vegan, for instance, you will likely have a very strong following and perhaps lifelong brand loyalty among the tribe of people with similar values — vegans. But your brand might not be perfectly suited for a very wide range of customers that only shop in the mass market (Wal-Mart, Costco, etc)… although times are slowly changing. Ask yourself if that matters to you? Is it more important for you to reach everyone, or is it more important to create deep relationships and strong brand advocacy with your target audience?

Or take it one step further — could you change the hearts and minds of those customers not perfectly suited for your brand in the first place?

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Stick true to the values you hold high and your brand will be better for it.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Um, what about my logo?

Did you notice, I didn’t once mention your logo in the 4 V’s? That’s because your logo is just a tiny piece in your overall brand strategy, and it really only fits squarely into one category — your Visuals.

Companies that try to tell their entire brand story within their logo typically end up with a bit of a chaotic mess — a logo that dates quickly and ends up needing a redesign in a few years.

No one wants that.

A great logo fits seamlessly alongside your brand characteristics, which are driven by your 4 V’s. A logo that is working for you is timeless, scalable, and can let your 4 V’s take center stage.

Think of it this way–A logo is a support piece, not a showpiece.

A bad logo on the other hand, is the awkward star of the show, is visually cluttered, or is trying to say too much.

Foundation First

So, when you are itching to design or redesign your logo, ask yourself — “Have I considered my 4 V’s of branding first?” Once your main pillars are in place, you will find that creating a lasting brand connection, and designing a logo, will be a breeze.

⇢ If your impact-driven business needs help establishing your 4 V’s, brand storytelling, marketing, or even logo design, find us over at Aliado Studio.

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Casey Shagena

Written by

Brand Cultivator & Co-Founder at Aliado. A design & marketing studio serving ethical + human-centric brands. ⇢Design thinkers for #changemakers

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

Casey Shagena

Written by

Brand Cultivator & Co-Founder at Aliado. A design & marketing studio serving ethical + human-centric brands. ⇢Design thinkers for #changemakers

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

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