Top Branding Agencies
Digital Product Brand Identity Agencies for Startups, B2B, Enterprise, Small business, SMB, SaaS. In San Francisco (SF), New York, London, Portland, Los Angeles (LA)
UPDATED: August 2, 2020
These days the title Branding Agency has such a broad meaning. It can be a marketing agency who does all types of ads campaigns, or a logo design firm with no experience in outdoor ads or communication strategy. This list is mostly designed to feature the agencies with the most experience in digital branding for products like Uber, AirBnb, Firefox, etc. These all are some of the best digital-first branding companies.
Make sure to check their portfolio, contact them and decide which one would be the best fit for your next product visual identity.
What people say about this list:
FAQ to choose a branding agency for a startup or an established business.
Some of the common questions people ask while looking for an agency
Q: How much does branding cost?
A: The price depends on a few factors like a scope of work, the size of the company or a product that’s being rebranded and the size of the agency. For example, some agencies provide communication strategy, set the tone of voice, etc. Others expect to get that from an ad agency that the client will hire prior to visual brand identity design. Also, a brand identity for 10 people startup and 5000 employees enterprise can’t cost the same price. The number of mediums, use cases and the overall legacy of the brand should be considered. Depending on these factors, a brand identity may cost from $20k to $200k+.
Q: What’s included in a branding package?
A: The scope can be different, but here are all the key deliverables of a full-stack branding or rebranding project:
1) Company name development
2) Brand story/positioning/messaging
3) Logo / Visual Identity
4) Marketing Website
Some companies provide just a few of these services and it is totally fine. In our opinion, for digital products, the bare minimum would be a visual identity and marketing website.
Q: What are the main geographical locations of the best agencies?
A: The tech world today is getting more and more globalized, and lots of key players are becoming remote-friendly. It is related to both their employees, contractors and external agencies they hire. Location makes a much smaller difference now. However, lots of brand identity design agencies gathered in the main tech hubs and big developed cities of North America (San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Portland, Boston), UK (London, Manchester), Canada (Vancouver, Toronto), Australia (Sydney, Melbourne) and Western European cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris.
Q: How long a rebranding or a brand identity design usually take?
A: It all depends on the scope, but a professionally design visual identity in a brand-book with different rules, colors, typefaces will take anywhere from 2 to 12+ months.
Q: How does the brand identity design process look?
A: Whether you are brand new to running brand identity projects or looking for help in managing your clients and work, structure is the answer. Implementing a simple process for your brand identity projects, as with any project, helps manage expectations and keep things on track. A little upfront planning goes a long way toward positive client interactions and reduced stress on you as a designer.
Establish Scope and Deliverables
Before any work is started, make sure that you and your client are crystal clear on expectations. This should include a timeline complete with check-ins and reviews. Perhaps more importantly though, it should establish a list of deliverables that are in-scope and what is out of scope. The list will vary by client depending on their budget, needs, and your skillset. For example, you don’t want to start the project expecting to deliver a basic set of graphics and halfway find out they want their entire website redesigned as well.
Small clients may only need a basic set of assets like a logo design, web assets, and stationary. Bigger organizations may need much more for print and online documents, social media, and other mediums. Once you’ve established a basic scope, here are some of the elements you will want to discuss including/excluding.
- Logo — remember to think about variations like black and white, vertical and horizontal, simplified and detailed.
- Color Palette — agree with your client on what this includes, primary, secondary, and accent colors.
- Type/Font — include logo characters, headlines, body text, and any other variations needed for the type and scope of styles needed.
- Imagery — does the client need standards for things like photography, illustration, and iconography?
- Style Guide — is a style guide needed? What should it include? Consider things like data visualization, hierarchy guidelines, and usage of logos and fonts.
- Design System — does the client need reusable assets for app, web, and product design? Do they need or want interactive elements, video, and motion?
Gather Background and Requirements
Now that you’ve established what you are delivering and when it’s time to get to know the organization you’re branding. Ask for copies of any marketing and branding strategy materials they’ve already developed. You’ll need everything from their mission and values to target market demographics. If your client doesn’t have much of this you can conduct interviews and surveys to suss out what makes them unique. Find out what they like and don’t like. Go beyond simple answers by asking why.
- What brands (inside or outside their sector) do they admire? Which are they opposed to?
- Where does their brand personality land on various personality dimensions like humor, formality, emotion, and reverence? Check out The Four Dimensions of Tone of Voice for an example. You can customize the dimensions to suit your style.
- What adjectives describe them? Are they friendly, approachable, and earthy? Or are they more serious, sensible, and professional?
- What drives them? What are they passionate about?
Research Competitors and Target Market
Building on the previous step, do your own research on the client’s competition and market. They may have provided you with demographic information but the target market may have other important psychographic or geographic treats that will help you with your ideation. Psychographic traits dig deeper into what drives people, rather than basic demographic features. You can find out more in this Shopify video. In this step, you are looking for what’s working in your client’s market, and what’s not working, so you can identify traits you want to mimic, avoid, or use to differentiate the brand.
You may want to start developing parts of a creative brief to present to your client in the later steps. This should summarize your findings and present them with tools like personas and mood boards or idea boards. You’ve got a feel for your client, their company, and their potential customers. These tools help to pull together imagery, typefaces, and words that represent what you’ve learned.
Sketch and Ideate
Finally, the fun part starts. All your research and planning have probably got your mind buzzing with ideas. Sketch everything, this is the brainstorming part. Once you, and your team if you have one, get everything out there on paper or whiteboard you can select a handful to play with and develop further.
This is a good time to touch base with your client for a direction check. Complete and share your creative brief along with your selected handful of early sketches. It’s a good idea to stick to black and white with early options to avoid distractions for your client.
Create Several Concepts
From the several options you’ve selected, narrow it down further to about 3 options and flesh them out. Each concept should be packaged professionally and include refined graphics, typography, and color palettes. These concepts should be unique, impactful, consistent, and scalable.
Your primary client checkpoint happens now. Present each concept and have them select one. You may have to refine the concept further based on their input. Be sure to protect for this in your timeline.
Develop Final Deliverables
Take the final approved concept and run with it. Use your original scope as a checklist to ensure that you are not missing anything. Each and every agreed-upon deliverable can now be created, packaged, and delivered to the client.
Getting the most out of a structured process doesn’t require a lot of overhead. A simple checklist and timeline will do. However, if you are managing large, complex client projects, high volumes of work, or otherwise need a little extra help, consider a tool to help you. Software like Process Street https://www.process.st/checklist/brand-identity-design/ can help you figure out what to track as well as actually tracking it.
Give a brand identity process a go for your next project and see how it helps!
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” — Ralf Speth