10 steps to redesigning a brand identity

Whether you're refreshing a client's identity or creating a whole new brand from scratch, these wise words of advice from The Partners' design director, Michael Paisley, should prove very helpful...

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01. Start with a clear brand strategy

To begin with you need to have a clear articulation of the brand strategy, purpose, personality and core idea. It tends to work best when the brand strategy and idea is derived from a credible, relevant truth about the business or brand.

So you’re not re-inventing the brand to be something it isn’t, but rather re-focusing on existing strengths that have been forgotten about, hidden, or under-utilised. The question then, is how best to do it?

02. Define the parameters

Is it a small tweak or more of a sweeping re-invention, or somewhere in-between? If it’s not clear in the brief it might be useful to explore a stretch to help you and the client find out.

03. A simple, powerful idea

If it’s a significant change rather than an update, try and create a simple, powerful idea for the identity that is rooted in the core idea at the heart of the strategy.

Articulate it as precisely as you can. It’ll take a lot of development and trial and error but once you’ve got this nailed it’ll be easier to guide and make decisions about the identity as a whole. It also makes it easier to explain to others and easier to sell-in too.

04. Tell the brand’s story

The Partner's brand work for The Connaught Hotel led to a truer version of its emblem

The Partner's brand work for The Connaught Hotel led to a truer version of its emblem

People like stories. They’re engaging and memorable and the brand’s story itself can be a really useful way of helping both customers and employees understand what’s happening and why, through a period of change.

Think how central the creation story of Innocent is to building your idea of the Innocent brand. Many brands have powerful, if not as quirky, stories. Find out the story of your brand’s beginnings, there might be something great tucked away there.

05. Plunder the brand’s visual history

If you dig into the past there will often be something valuable that can provide inspiration or a simply be caringly updated.

The Connaught’s animal marque had ended up, by some form of visual Chinese whispers, looking a little like the Loch Ness Monster.

Working with The College of Arms the design team found out it was, in fact, a hound. It was carefully re-drawn and provided the inspiration for the hounds-tooth checked branding device and the hotel’s very own ‘house’ hound.

06. Ensure consistency and flexibility

Always try to find a good balance of both. Consistency of elements and personality to build recognition and a clear sense of what/who the brand is. And flexibility, so there is room for a wide range of messages across varying communication channels, as well as allowing for change moving forward. Not enough of either, and the identity just won’t work very well.

07. Be practical, and inspiring

We’ve all waded through great guideline tomes, and all the nitty gritty detail is very, very important. The system has to ‘work’. But it should inspire too.

The Partners created a visual identity for insurance firm The Foresters focused on honesty

The Partners created a visual identity for insurance firm The Foresters focused on honesty

Ask yourself how can you inspire within the guidelines and by others means. How can you get design agencies excited about working on the brand? If the agency is inspired then hopefully great work will follow.

08. Move beyond the obvious

An identity is just the visual expression of the brand. Think about how the new or updated brand would behave in a whole range of scenarios.

Take it out of the design world into the real world. What experiences and behaviours would be most appropriate? How would they answer the phone? By influencing all of these elements the new brand comes to life and what people see, read and hear matches what they experience. It might even influence the design of the identity.

09. Look inwards not just outwards

It’s easy to spend an awful lot of time thinking about the customer but it’s the employees who really make the brand come to life in the day-to-day.

If the employees aren't on-board, supportive and enthused, then no matter how well you’re telling the story visually, the experience will just be the same as it always was.

10. Don’t tinker too soon

Often the design team or someone client-side may want to start tinkering soon after launch. Mainly because they’ve been living with the new design for a long time and they’re a little bored.

Remind them that if they’ve seen 100% of everything then their customers have probably seen significantly less than 5%, if they’re lucky. If the communications that make up that 5% are too different, you're already chipping away at your hard-earned new brand.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts magazine.

Words: Michael Paisley

Michael Paisley is design director at The Partners. He has led the creative team to launch a new brand for financial service firm Foresters, rejuvenated the Liverpool Victoria insurance brand and also worked on brand programmes for Novo Nordisk.

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