Many times our marketing clients ask questions like, “Aren’t branding and graphic design basically the same thing?” The truth is that, yes, they go hand -in-hand, but they are actually distinctly different, and that difference is very important. In fact, branding is established way before graphic design even enters the picture. It is established even before a logo is conceptualized. Let’s start off with some definitions.
Branding can be defined simply as a mark that indicates ownership or distinction.
This of course is shown through a logo and signature trademarks. Most people just stop there, but the most successful clients realize that the branding process goes much deeper than just a few graphics. Branding also means the collective elements that make you or your company unique. Branding is that “X Factor” that brings instant distinction and notoriety.
With that being said, we can begin to see that branding your business goes beyond just a logo and begins to encompass the overall product that is you or your company. This would include things like colors, fonts, slogans, messaging, photography, video, persona, etc. Your brand is your first impression. It is your constant spokesperson.
All of these things are so important to define before building sites, making printable materials, or selling products. If you do not know who you are and are unable to define yourself visually then imagine how much harder it is for a client to easily form an opinion of you! Different colors can present you as warm and inviting or cold and serious. Creative messaging can present you as customer-focused or give a different impression altogether. And all of this should be conceptualized and implemented in the branding process.
So, if we were to define branding now it might look like this:
Branding - The cumulative visual, verbal, and written elements of an entity that work together and become the full representation who they are and what they are all about.
Now that we have a good understanding of the branding process, let’s talk about Graphic Design. Graphic design is the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect. The question that should be asked with every Graphic Design element is this: “Is this consistent with our brand?”
Graphic Design comes in all shapes, sizes, and functions. It appears on business cards, flyers, commercial spots, websites, and even the logo. All of these pieces must be asked that question, then refined until they compliment, enforce, and empower your brand/message even more.
One of the biggest hurdles for designers to conquer is simply to use restraint. Being a designer myself, I find myself mentally saying “no” more than I say “yes.” My job is to have a plethora of ideas and remain inspired on a daily basis, but it is also to not accept the first idea that comes into my head. I have to use critical thinking to refine my design choices and accurately convey the heart of the brand. This all revolves around the strength of the overall brand. The more clearly stated the brand, the more I am able to add to the brand with what I do as a designer.
Branding is absolutely one of the most important parts of an entity. It can really make or break you when it comes to an outsider’s first impression of who you are and what you do. Inconsistency in a brand has an intangible effect on people. If a brand is inconsistent there is often a little bit of uncertainty that happens causing a lack of confidence in you and what you do but the reasons are not often recognized and are simply felt.
This is why having a solid brand that conveys a consistent, strong, and clearly stated message is of the utmost importance. The tension is not branding vs graphic design, but how branding and graphic design work hand-in-hand.
Graphic design is the process that brings the visual enhancing of your brand and makes it a fully cohesive message in visual form. Everything that is done in the world of graphic design should always put the brand first and the creative ideas second. At times it means rejecting great art concepts that everyone loves to look at for something that is a little less flashy and a little more functional but if it adds depth to the brand then it’s a win for everyone.