Fast Company

A Sustainable Brand Identity

So, what is a sustainable brand identity? Let's start by defining a Brand Identity. Fundamentally, your brand identity is the visual interpretation of your cause, business, or products. It is the way in which we recognize and distinguish one company from another. A brand identity typically consists of one or more of the following elements:
- a logotype (the typographic treatment of the business name)
- a logo (a graphic symbol or icon)
- a tagline (a short description or slogan)
- a color palette (one or more colors used in the above components)

A sustainable brand identity includes ALL of the above elements plus a concept and
design that is:
- unique and distinguishable;
- efficient and effective in communicating key messages and personality; and
- used in a consistent manner throughout all visual touchpoints.

So what's the difference then, between a concept and design that's simply effective and one that's sustainable? A sustainable design is stylistically and functionally adaptable so it grows with you and your business. An effective design will work in the short-term in some forms, but a sustainable one can function and flourish over time, across product lines and media platforms.

As it relates to business stationery and promotional materials and especially packaging, it can also support the environment. In future entries, we'll get specific with ways to design and produce materials in an efficient and eco-friendly manner.

Why you need one. A sustainable brand identity is vital because it can help people to make an immediate connection with your product or service and then retain that connection as they remain loyal customers through good times and bad.

In this age of technology and communication, we have a virtually unlimited selection of choices. Take a walk down any isle in your local supermarket, or browse online and choose from an endless array of options at the touch of a button. There's little time to make a big first impression. A sustainable identity will stand out and attract. It will communicate more efficiently and effectively - getting the message across quickly. It's consistent manner of use will evoke a sense of dependability and professionalism. Stylistically, a sustainable brand identity will endure time and the graphic trends that come with it. Functionally, it's ability to adapt and expand will enable your company or brand to do the same.


5 Steps to Breathe New Life to An Old Identity

1. Streamline your logotype.
Is it hard to read? Is your typeface dated? Or maybe it's just non-descript and nothing special. Does it scream the groovy seventies and you're a technology company? Or does it say plain jane when really, your boutique sells the funkiest stuff in town? The style of font should evoke the personality of the brand. However, whatever the style, legibility is key. You want your logotype to be easily read – whether it's huge on a billboard, or tiny in your email signature. Make sure you chose a font that works both ways. Test it out. Print it as big as you possibly can and step away from it. Email a jpeg of the logo to yourself. Make sure the jpeg is screen resolution (72 dpi) and about the size of a postage stamp. Is it still legible?

2. If you have an old logo, give it a new look. If you don't have one, get one!
Updating the look of your logo can extend the life of your brand by appealing to a wider and newer audience. Take for example, this identity redesign we did at my studio for Pallante Design – an architecture and interior design firm in Hoboken, NJ. Joseph Pallante wanted to update his logo and create something that was more dynamic and memorable. Keeping the equity in the three bars from the former symbol, we added dimension and perspective, thereby visually communicating the nature of their business. If you don't have a logo, get one! It symbolizes your business and is a great shorthand to communicate what you do. If it's unique enough, it will help to make your brand instantly recognizable.

3. If you don't have a tagline, create one. If you do, incorporate it into your brand identity.
A creative tagline or slogan is another element of your identity to help the consumer connect with your brand. It may be a descriptive statement about the company's services (like FedEx's - Absolutely, positively overnight) or a call to action (like Apple's – Think different or Nike's – Just do it). Either way, it should be brief, memorable, and should speak to the essential mission statement of your organization or product. It should be graphically refined and thought out, possibly incorporating it into your logotype if the design allows. As is true of all elements to your brand identity, the tagline should be replicated in a consistent manner throughout.

4. Refresh your colors.
A revived logo treatment deserves a refreshed color palette. If your color or it's consistency has been problematic in the past, now is your chance to refine it and get it right. Unless you're overhauling your identity drastically, you should choose to stay in the same color family, possibly going a shade brighter or darker. There may be huge brand equity in your logo color(s). If so, bravo! Keep it - and keep it consistent.

5. Use it or lose it.
Everywhere and anywhere you can. From the doormat at the foot of the door, to the screensaver on the office computers, the logo and/or its elements should be used in a consistent manner, reflecting and reinforcing the brand identity. When designing or redesigning brand identities, I often provide clients with Identity Guidelines - which provides basic parameters on logo placement and information on correct usage in print production. It also specifies logo colors, acceptable and unacceptable variations, and proportions. This allows for more consistent usage.

Work with a professional. In these days of DIY software where "anyone" can be a designer, photographer, filmmaker or music producer, it's easy to forget what a talented and trained professional brings to your design challenge. They have the talent to conceive artistically and the training, technical skills, and experience to render, refine, and ultimately execute your design ideas in the real world global marketplace. Don't sell your efforts short with anything less.

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