Tasked with designing a brand identity? Whether you want to create a contemporary brand for a cool coffee shop or a professional logo for a corporate firm, there are seven elements that will always remain consistent in the brand design process. Here Ill take you through the essential elements youll need to build any awesome brand. Many of these elements can be downloaded and easily adapted, saving you time and helping to give your brand identity a really polished, professional look.

Your 7 Essential Elements for Designing ANY Brand Identity

7 essential elements of branding 123rf

Creating a whole brand from scratch can be a daunting task, particularly if youre short on time. Follow this checklist step-by-step and youll end up with a comprehensive brand identity that will be guaranteed to impress. To build any brand youll need:

  1. an adaptable logo template

  2. a pair of brand fonts

  3. a palette of color swatches

  4. a collection of shapes and graphic elements

  5. a selection of consistently styled photos

  6. mock-ups and templates for stationery and merchandise

  7. a brand guidelines handbook

Whether youre designing a brand for a client or friend, or creating a brand design for your own business, these essential elements will remain the same and will ensure your brand design covers all bases. Once youve checked off the list, you can get started with using your new brand design across products, stores and merchandise!

Lets break down the elements from the checklist one by one…

  1. An Adaptable Logo Template

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A well-designed logo is the cornerstone of a professional brand identity. A logo is a visual summary of your brand, and may be type-based (containing just the name of the brand), symbolic (purely image-based), or a combination of type and image. Brands that are particularly well-known across a variety of territories, such as McDonalds, Shell or Nike, are widely recognized from their symbolic logos alone. This is because the brand has used blanket advertising over the decades and simply becomes part of the everyday scenery for consumers. For brands which are less widely known a pairing of type and image usually has the most impact and will help a new customer to become familiar with both the name and visual identity of the brand.

These coffee shop logo templates are a great example of teaming text and image in a minimal, memorable format.

Vector - Vector set of coffee shop restaurant or bar design elements with mugs and beans. Ribbons, circle shapes, lables, insignias with coffee related elements. Vintage and retro styled quality badges.Logo design is a fine art, and many high-profile design agencies are enlisted by big brands to create new logo designs or even simply to subtly tweak existing logo designs. This is not to say, however, that freelance designers or aspiring graphic designers cant create a logo that has style, impact and symbolic relevance. There are many tools available to help you create a logo that not only looks ultra-professional but has lasting relevance.

Logo templates are a great place to start when designing a logo for the first time. These are ready-made logo designs saved to an editable vector (EPS) format. Download a template, open it up in a vector-editing program like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW, and tweak the elements of the design to adapt it to your brand. Try switching up the font, colors and/or brush effects to customize the design and make it look completely unique.

When searching for templates, you can look for designs that are industry-specific, such as these organic/vegan restaurant logos

Vector - Hand Drawing Vegan Badges…or for logos that have a particular style, like these pared-back, vintage-style designs. These would work fantastically well for independent stores, design agencies or clothing brands.

Vector - vintage logo & insignia 1Even if youre determined to design a logo from scratch, browsing logo templates is a great way to source inspiration and determine whats trending on stock sites. Be sure to also take the time to google the logos of other companies in relevant or related sectors. Certain industries will consistently look to particular colors or fonts to give their brand a sense of trustworthiness and familiarity.

Keep your eyes peeled for the sorts of colors, typefaces and graphics used in logo designs that you like. By keeping a note of the elements you like, you can lift traits from a number of different logos and combine them to create your perfect design.

2. A Pair of Brand Fonts

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

Once you have a logo for your brand, youll want to start thinking about how you can extend your brand design further. Logos alone do not make a brandadvertising and promotional materials, such as websites, posters, packaging and stationery, will need to communicate specific messages to your consumers.

For this, you will need to identify a team of brand fonts which you can apply to text which is visible alongside the logo. You may have already used a particular font in your logo design, which makes your job already easier. You can use this font as your brands A-font, which will be applied to large-scale pieces of text, like headers, callouts and sub-headings. If you havent used a font in your logo thats no problemyou can track down an A-font for your brand by browsing a selection of fonts and looking out for traits which will help make the typeface a suitable A-font choice.

A-fonts need to be highly legible and look bold when set at large-scale. Therefore, capitalized fonts tend to look better as brand A-fonts, as do slab and poster styles. Beyond these essential traits, the font world is your oyster! Look for a font that matches the personality and style of your company and logo design. Designing a brand for an independent coffee shop? An informal, vintage-inspired style looks inviting and on-trend.

Vector - Modern alphabet with shadow

Creating a brand for a more formal enterprise? An elegant serif looks classic and respectable.

Vector - font serif black

For longer portions of text youll also need a font that is more pared-back and less novel. This B-fontshould be legible at small size, suit being typeset in long paragraphs and complement your A-font well. Youll find that many brands often turn to tried-and-tested classic fonts for this role. For minimal, modern sans serifs try Gill Sans, Avenir or Futura. For more traditional serifs, look to Caslon, Baskerville or Garamond.

3. A Palette of Color Swatches

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

With a logo and brand fonts checked off, you can keep going with developing your brand. You want to make sure that others can use your brand identity appropriately and in the way in which you envisioned. This means youll need to set out the rules for all major aspects of how the brand should be used.

One of these aspects is color. Aside from the color (or lack of) you may have used in your logo design, color will also feature across almost every branded item in your businessfrom signage to packaging, websites to social media, youre going to want to be able to use color and make sure that the colors used are consistent across all your branded items.

Your task is to create a brand color palettea collection of colors that reflect and enhance your brand. The palette can be as simple or as complex as you like. Some brands will use only one accent color, teaming this with black and white for contrast (European airline Easyjet is an example of a one-color brand, using just orange, teamed with white, in their advertising). Others might have a more complex spectrum of colors, which gives the brand identity a little more flexibility.

Start by identifying your primary brand colorusually this is the main color which is used on your logo designthen choose a few other colors which complement this and work well when paired together. You can lift colors from your logo design, from another logo you admire (perhaps in a similar industry to your brand), or from an image which you feel resonates with the personality of the brand. Adobes Color Picker Tool, which you can find in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, is a great little tool for lifting colors from images and converting them to print-friendly CMYK and web-friendly RGB swatches.

If youre designing a brand for a business which will be be used by a large number of employees its also a wise idea to identify the Pantone equivalents of each of your brand colors. You can convert swatches to Pantone in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, or use this handy online convertor tool to track down the rough equivalent of your CMYK color.

4. Branded Shapes and Graphic Elements

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

Once you have your color palette in place, you can start to think about how you might apply the color in print and online. Many brands use shapes and simple graphics to provide detail and added interest to their media. A simple geometric shape or abstract background makes an interesting alternative to blank space. Look for vector shapes and EPS backgrounds to customize. Apply your brand colors and use them across social media images, ads, stationery, signage and packaging. The purpose of these graphics is not to distract from your logo and other more important content, but to simply add a professional layered look to your whole brand design.

Vector - Abstract background

5. Consistently Styled Photography

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

This may not seem the most urgent thing to address when designing a brand, but taking the time to think about how you will integrate images into your brand communications will have a huge impact on how pulled-together your brand appears.

No brand design exists in a vacuumbrand identities must have the flexibility to adapt to new ads, offers, messages and trends. In the same way that a magazine might maintain the same general layout and typeface for its covers each month but switch up the image to suit the issues theme, a brand will have elements that remain consistent and elements that are fluid.

Images may be a fluid element, but that doesnt mean you cant maintain a brand consistency across photos and illustrations. Lay down the law for using imagesnote down a list of criteria that each image you use in brand communications must meet. For example, say youre designing a brand for a coffee shop and you want to use photos of the coffee shop in social media promotions and poster advertizing.

Set down two or three cast-iron rules about the images you use. Lets say we want the photos to always feature young people, that the shots should always appear natural and real world, and that the images should have an immersive, fly-on-the-wall quality. Given these criteria these photos would completely fit the bill

Stock Photo - Young couple on first date drinking coffee

Stock Photo - Friendly conversation

…but the image below doesnt meet our criteria. Even though the image is set in a coffee shop and features young people, it looks too staged, posed and unnatural.

Stock Photo - Portrait of a waiter serving coffees to customers at the coffee shop

You might also decide that product shots have to be in a particular style. You might decide to consistently use only overhead or aerialshots when photographing products, to give the products an on-trend look. So this picture would tick the box…

Stock Photo - Fresh coffee with several ingredients

…but this shot is face-on and therefore breaks your rule of consistency.

Stock Photo - coffee latte in two tall glasses, shallow dof

Once you start sticking to a set of rules for using images in your brand communications, youll find that the end result is much more polished and consistent, and will help your brand to develop a strong and instantly recognisable communications style over time.

6. Stationery & Merchandise Templates

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

The key building blocks of your brand are now in placewith a logo, typefaces, colors, graphics and photos to hand, you can now start to visualise how the brand design might work in practice.

The most effective and quickest way to do this is to make good use of templates for stationery and merchandise. Depending on the type of business you are designing the brand for you can find tons of great templates for mocking up images of packaging, stationery, signage, vehicle wraps, uniforms, and much more. These brand identity template sets are easy to edit in Illustrator or Photoshop, and can be customized with your own brand design.

Vector - Blue anchors coffee shop corporate identity template design set on wood background

Templates are perfect for putting that finishing touch to a brand design proposal for a client, helping the client to imagine how the branding would look in real life. Its also a really useful exercise if youre creating a brand for your own business, helping you to assess how the designs will look before committing to costly print and manufacturing jobs.

Vector - concept for coffee shop and restaurant identity mock up template. card .menu.polo shirt.vector

7. A Brand Guidelines Handbook

7 Essential Elements You Need To Design Awesome Brands

Youre coming to the end of the brand design process, great work so far! All thats left to do now is to pull all the elements of your design together into a brand guidelines document (also known as a style guide). This helpful document will act as the rulebook for using and applying your brand design.

Particularly useful if a number of employees will be using the brand in communications, marketing and merchandising, this style guide will help them to apply your brand design consistently, just in the way you intentioned! You can put together the style guide in any desktop publishing program, like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.

Vector - Set Magazine Cover with origami intersecting ribbons. For book, brochure, flyer, poster, booklet, leaflet, cd cover, postcard, business card, annual report. vector illustration. abstract background

Your style guide should have a clear structure, with a contents page and page numbers allowing readers to find relevant guidance quickly. Within the document itself, begin with stating rules about logo usethe colorways it can be used in, the backgrounds it can be placed against and the amount of space it will need around the edge of the logo. Move on to set down rules of use for the brand typefaces (e.g. appropriate sizing, formatting etc), colors, graphics and photography. You can use stationery and merchandise templates as visual examples of correct use of your brand design.

Once youve finished the document, you can distribute print or digital copies to employees or colleagues who will need to implement your brand design.

7 Simple Steps to Designing an Awesome Brand Identity

7 essential elements of branding 123rf

Youve successfully designed a complete brand identity. Congratulations! Lets review those seven essential elements for designing any brand identity. Make sure to bookmark this page for future reference when you need to design another awesome brand! To create any brand youll need:

  1. an adaptable logo template

  2. a pair of brand fonts

  3. a palette of color swatches

  4. a collection of shapes and graphic elements

  5. a selection of consistently styled photos

  6. mock-ups and templates for stationery and merchandise

  7. a brand guidelines handbook

Many of these resources you can find in the 123RF collectionbrowse thousands of logo templates, fonts, backgrounds, photos and brand templates to help build a professional, high-impact brand in no time.

Have you got any tips or advice for designing brand identities? Wed love to hear about them! Share your brand design experiences in the comments below.