Branding Basics: Terminology
So you have a new company and need a logo? Or maybe you have a company and logo, but want a new one. The overall process and terminology involved with logo designs can be overwhelming. My goal is to give you a bit of “Branding 101” so you can get a good understanding about some branding terminology, how brands are created, and how you can best market yourself to consumers.
The list of terms can be endless, but here are a few basic terms and what they really mean:
First things first, what is a brand? A brand is the perceived emotional image of your company. It’s the more holistic aspect of how your customers perceive your company. In order to have a brand or even a brand message to convey, you need all the bits and pieces involved in branding, such as a logo, fonts, colour palette, voice, etc. The act of “branding” then is essentially producing a brand for your company. A rebrand typically involves developing a new logo, fonts, palette, voice, etc. for your company.
A “logo” is a design asset or symbol meant to represent a company or organization. They’re typically composed of text and/or images and carry symbolism that represent the values of a company.
Think Adidas, Canadian Tire and NASA.
A wordmark is an entity’s logo comprised solely of text or typography (see typography below) for branding and identification. Can you spot the wordmarks in these logo designs?
A few that you might recognize out in the wild are Tim Hortons, Google, and Fed Ex.
An icon is a symbol that conveys specific values and ideas that represent a company. A strong icon is something that is unique, easily recognizable, and can be scaled down to small sizes without loss of detail or meaning.
Here are a few icons that you might recognize. Left to right: Instagram, Nike and Starbucks.
A monogram is a logo comprised of the initials of a name or organization rather than pictures.
Think IBM, McDonald’s and CN.
Target Audience and Target Market
When developing your brand, you always want to think about the people who will actually be interacting with your services and products, your ideal customers. You always want to think about their demographics, how they spend their time, what they value and so on. This helps tailor your brand message to the right group of people and can even help you stand out from your competitors.
Typography is essentially the use of letters or words in your logo. Throughout the branding process, typography plays a huge role. It’s essentially how people read your company name. Different typefaces (or font families like Times New Roman for example) are selected to convey different tones, meanings and values of your company.
A colour palette is a set of colours that a company selects to have part of their brand. They typically aren’t colours selected at random, but rather colours that represent meaning and symbolism in relation to their values and emotions to convey. For example, an eco-conscious company might use greens and browns in their palette to represent the nature elements.
Primary and Secondary Palette
The main logo colours are typically considered your primary colour palette. Any additional colours that may be used with your logo or branding are considered part of your secondary palette. Take a look at the University of Alberta’s primary and secondary palette. Although the logo only has green and yellow, their secondary palette has multiple options to use in their brand.
Visual Identity Guidelines
This is also known as a brand guide, brand guidelines, visual guide, etc. These guides are essentially documents that outline the proper use of your logo and its’ supporting elements. It helps you keep track of all the assets and outlines things like typography, colour palette, photography, logo use, etc. It helps both you and other people who need to use or work with your logo to ensure it looks consistent, no matter what. Here's a digital example.
Visual Identity System and Collateral
A visual identity system is a series of visual graphics or treatments that are used across your brand to develop a consistent style. This could be something like using a red line across the bottom of your business cards, letterhead, etc. Collateral is the physical, visible objects created that represent your brand. This could be anything from business cards, to ads and signage.
Now you're a branding whiz!
I hope these branding term definitions will help you better understand the bits and pieces of just a "logo design". Typically, if you ask for a logo design, you'll likely be presented with some of these terms and elements.
*Company logo images from Wikimedia Commons and Natasia Designs.