3 Tips when Developing a Brand Identity

Creating a brand identity can feel daunting. Creating a look that feels consistent throughout your brand but still appeals to your audience is no easy task, but we have three tips to get you started and ensure you create a brand that exceeds your expectations.

1. Start with the Mission

It can be tempting to immediately jump into choosing colors and fonts, but without establishing a clear mission, the visual brand choices will most likely be arbitrary. What is the client’s main goal? What kind of impact do they wish to have on people and how does their organization or company go about achieving it?

When the non-profit organization, Athletes for Justice, approached Adage to work on their brand identity, the Adage design team first began the process by discussing what Athletes for Justice sought to do when it came to community impact. Stakeholder interviews helped identify key audiences and also began the conversation of how Athletes for Justice wanted to be perceived by these audiences.

The mission is the root from which all decisions, both visual and strategic, should branch out from. Members of an organization may disagree on certain brand elements during the design process. Someone may subjectively love pink or hate yellow, but if everyone asks themselves “does this align with our mission?”, this can help serve as a guiding light. Team members may have different opinions, but at the end of the day, everyone should agree on the mission and purpose.

Athletes for Justice Brand Mission Graphic

2. Make Meaningful Choices

With a mission in mind, designers can start diving into the brand identity. Through a series of different workshops and exercises, the Adage design team helps clients identify what experiences connect with their organization. Just as important, we document what experiences do not represent an organization, and we refer to this documentation when beginning to design visual elements of the brand.

Semantic profile scales of colorful vs. neutral and modern vs. traditional


Colors convey certain feelings and meanings. For example, a bright shade of red can represent urgency or danger, whereas a soft yellow can provide feelings of warmth and friendliness. This is why a color palette is not simply a random collection of hex codes or Pantone swatches. It is something that should be carefully curated and balanced, and should not be based on personal preference.


The same is true for font selection. Each font has its own personality. The graphic below nicely illustrates this. You can display the exact same message using two different fonts and the font will impact how that message is perceived.

Graphic comparing the same message in two different fonts. First font is friendly. Second font is severe.

If a client’s voice and tone is serious and authoritative, you probably wouldn’t want to display their brand communications in Comic Sans. The brand fonts serve as the visual vessels through which you deliver a client’s purpose to the world.


Last but not least is the logo design. This is typically the piece of a brand a client is most eager to see. Creating a survey of logos within your client’s field of work can help you assess what’s already out there. Being mindful of brand identities within your client’s space is important when you’re trying to stand out amongst competitors. Once preliminary research is done, it’s helpful to sketch out any ideas that may come to mind. These sketches can range from the most obvious representation to more abstract graphics. Putting all your sketches up on a wall or within the same artboard can help you see what designs are starting to surface amongst the crowd.

Collection of logos from non-profit organizations

You should always think back to initial discussions around mission and representation. A logo design can technically be strong, but it needs to resonate with the brand vision established at the beginning of this process. Ask you yourself “This design works, but does it work for them?”

Filtering your logo sketches through the filter of the mission and vision, you’ll eventually land a solid direction that you can fine-tune. Make sure that you’re covering different use cases and providing logo lockups that can accommodate them. Your logo should be optimized for the following scenarios:

  • Color Print
  • Black and White Print
  • Digital
  • Small/Mobile Navigation

A single version of the logo may not work for different brand materials and can lead to unwanted manipulation or distortion. Designing different logo lockups better ensures its proper display no matter what medium it’s used for.

Display of Athletes for Justice logos on white, dark, and orange backgrounds

3. Think Beyond the Logo

Many times an organization or company relies too heavily on the logo to do all the work on representing the brand. Though it is a significant piece of the brand identity, it should not be expected to be the sole identity piece. Because of this, a client may want to be more literal or inject more information into the design of the logo. This can actually detract from its quality rather than improve it, creating the risk of going into “clip art” territory.

When you think of successful brands such as Coca-Cola and Nike, their logos are definitely a huge part of their identity. However, their logos do not literally encompass everything their companies do. Their brands are an ecosystem of defined visual elements, strategic actions, and communications working together.

Developing the brand identity is only the beginning. Of course, it should look good, but it needs to be grounded in the core values of an organization. Combined with thoughtful strategy, brand guidelines and assets can be used as tools through which a company or organization can make meaningful connections with its audiences.

Sam Acho with young people at a workshop geared towards community impact.

Interested in getting started? Contact us today!

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