It’s important to understand that a Graphic Designer and Brand Designer provide two completely different services when it comes to branding a business or a person.
I regularly come across individuals, who do not have a clear understanding of the difference between the two roles. And the difference is HUGE! This blog post may give you a little more insight into what these two professions do and how they can be of service to you when it comes to your branding. The more you understand about this subject, the more you are likely to make the right choice when it comes to branding you and your business and spending your precious budget.
A lot of the confusion has come to light over the last couple of years, because so many people have started to use the terms incorrectly, by using them interchangeably. Due to this incorrect use, many people think that they are employing the services of a professional to create their branding when they are actually just employing someone to create their branding graphics without a vision or a direction. It’s a costly trap many people fall victim to. So, knowing the difference will save you a lot of time and money. More and more graphic designers are adding the term ‘Brand Designer’ on their profiles and it’s the lack of understanding and experience of what the term ‘branding’ encapsulates is letting down the creative industry.
A GRAPHIC DESIGNER
A graphic designer, by definition is a profession within the graphic arts industry. It’s a professional, who gathers together, colours, images, typography, and/or motion graphics to create a particular design project. You may need a graphic designer for the following.
1) Brand Identity Representations – These include your logo, marks, colours, and typography.
2) Collateral Branding – These include your business card, stationery, flyers, and any other physical or virtual designs that you deploy for marketing purposes.
3) Digital Graphics – These include graphics for your website and social media.
There are other services but I have picked the three which are most relevant to this post.
Even if you are only employing the services of a graphic designer, it’s so important that you do your research and pick someone who specialises in graphic design and doesn’t classify themselves as a branding expert for luxury brands. I recently came across one as such, and I was horrified at the lack of knowledge and understanding for even something as basic as the difference between a logo and a sub mark. They had created two different versions of the logo and labelled one as the ‘sub mark’ for someone. This was just one of the many mistakes and as a result, everything looked pretty but nothing was functional or useful. By the end of their branding project, they had no idea what their brand values were, no direction of where the brand was heading, no idea about their target audience and certainly no brand strategies in place. Their visuals didn't gel with their brand message. Everything was disconnected.
They had spent thousands on two variations of their logo and a very basic but a pretty website with six pages, which was not even optimised. None of their images were optimised. They all had random file names and the brand name was not even spelt correctly on the header image of the website. Mistakes like this only contribute towards confusing your audience and end up costing you thousands of pounds which could have been utilised more efficiently within other areas of your business.
Now, more than a year later and not being able to attract any clients, and a website full of broken links, the client has approached me and I am having to start completely from the beginning to create their branding step by step. Part of my brand analysis process during the consultation was to highlight the difference between a logo and a sub mark. That is a very basic point any good graphic designer should be aware of. Then the first steps being, the brand's purpose, the brand identity and the brand's direction. All that has to be defined before we can even start to think about the graphics and visuals.
Below is an example of what is classed as an appropriate sub mark. The first image is just different versions of the same brand logo.
The second two images indicate what two different options of sub marks could look like when they derive from the same logo.
Everything a graphic designer will do for you will ONLY form just one single part of your branding, and that is your brand identity, which covers the three points which I mentioned above – Brand Identity Representations, Collateral Branding and Digital Graphics. Before these three elements of your branding are given to a graphic designer to produce, the reasoning for each of these elements have to be defined and that initial process is what a ‘Brand Designer’ would conceptualise with you.
There are also individuals, who are a hybrid of the graphics and branding industry and they are known as Brand Identity Designers or Brand Identity Stylists. This group of professionals offer more than what a graphic designer would, for example, they may style your brand photoshoot and create your website. These professionals again are not quite a ‘Brand Designer’. I will be exploring those two types in another blog post.
A BRAND DESIGNER
The profession of Brand Designing sits more within the business industry and requires a qualified person to have an in-depth business and marketing knowledge as well as extensive experience of the business industry to be able to understand consumerism. A good brand designer will be knowledgeable but will not have the necessary skills or experience to create brand visuals and will bring a graphic designer on board to help with the visuals. A great brand designer will be acomplished in every aspect of branding, from initial concepts, graphics to visualisations and full concept branding services.
Your brand occupies a unique position in the mind of your existing and prospective clients. So, a brand designer is involved with and is responsible for designing a great deal more than just the visual representations of your brand. Your branding should be established before graphic design even enters the frame. Aspects of your brand should be established even before a logo is conceptualised. If you confuse this stage, you will sure enough confuse your audience.
Working with you, a brand designer would establish every aspect of your brand, which helps your audience to connect with you on multiple levels, I have listed just a few of those below.
What are some of your brand’s core values?
What makes your products unique?
What does your brand stand for?
Who is your target/dream audience?
What are the values which your brand will be built upon?
Where your brand is heading to?
Questions like these form the foundation of brand strategies, values & ethos and should be established as early as possible during the branding process.
There are times during your business journey, when you may feel that you need a new variation of your logo, or a different colour scheme and fonts for a particular brand visual campaign, but that is not rebranding, it’s known as updating the visual aspects of your brand. A rebrand would be the redefining of the purpose of your brand. If the reason that your brand exists has changed, or your branding was not properly done in the first place, then you would need to do a rebrand. This applies to your new web design as well. A new website may change the overall look and feel of your brand but it does not change what your brand does. This is why it’s crucial to consult a brand designer prior to changing any elements of your branding. They would carry out a brand analysis, which would assess if and how the new design will gel with your brand’s vision, values, approach and direction and if it will appeal to your target clients.
A great brand designer would be able to offer you guidance and assistance on the appropriate areas of your website to place copy. Copy is the language you connect to your audience with, when they visit your website or experience your brand through ad campaigns. It forms part of your brand storytelling and it’s fundamentally crucial to be placed correctly. It can have a huge impact on how your brand is perceived and the level of contribution it will have to your success.
The creation of a brand requires the assistance of many individuals, and your brand designer will be responsible for putting a team together. My biggest advice would be to look for an individual or a company who provides the full solution under one roof. This is the only way to keeping any confusions at bay, especially when it comes to your brand message and consumerism. You never want to confuse your prospective clients and the message you communicate through your branding. Consistency is key!
To conclude, a brand designer gels together brand strategies, brand values, brand visions, brand identity, brand marketing, brand placement and brand visuals along with other vital components of your business to communicate with you audience in the most effective and stylish way.