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Most of the companies that have managed to stand out in the market have created a strong visual identity that has contributed in a very important way to the construction of their brand. It is not the first step, but it is a key strategic factor that must know how to synthesize a specific DNA, a unique personality, becoming a crucial element for the construction and memory of the brand.

But, being so important, it is paradoxical that the terms brand and logo are still used synonymously. A brand is the expression of the essence of an organization, product, or service. It is responsible for identifying the characteristics, values, and attributes that the organization or product represents, and identifying how it is positioned differently from competitors. Brands connect with people, so we must provide clear personality traits, based on who we are and thinking about those with whom we want to connect.

The logo is only like the spearhead of identity, although it rarely manages to express clearly what is behind it on its own. To do this, the brand system (VIS – Visual Identity System) intervenes, comprising typographies, color palette, style of images -both photography and illustration-, patterns and treatments, visual and verbal tone, and even a sound identity. All these elements acting together make up a series of clues that facilitate the association of ideas in our brain so that it is much easier for us to connect with the brand, and remember it.

The human brain is constantly using these clues (cues and symbols) that allow it to draw cognitive shortcuts to arrive at an idea without needing to explain it every time. These shortcuts are important for brands because they condition how people perceive certain identities and categories since, when buying, we decode the symbols we receive based on our previous learning.

Why do you need a branding system?

Today, more than ever, brands come into contact with people through a multiplicity of channels and spaces that favor the dispersion of what the brand represents. In many cases, these are dynamic and interactive experiences, with huge opportunities to show how the brand expresses itself. Faced with this reality, the most effective brand systems make the brand recognizable even without the logo itself, because they help differentiation, build associations of ideas, and make it easier to maintain control.

    1. Differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult. As brands proliferate and trends define styles, most identities are becoming more and more similar. In an increasingly accessible world, people are exposed to a plethora of brands, which greatly intensifies visual noise. The result is that developing an icon or logo that is unique becomes increasingly complex.
      In addition, we move from 2D to 3D, from mute expression to sound expression. Perceptions about a brand are shaped by the sum of multiple interactions through multisensory experiences. Beyond a logo on a card or brochure, brands come to life directly in retail, in offices, and digital spaces. The metaverse is also bursting into, a parallel universe where major companies are already beginning to gain ground. It’s time to think about multi-sensory brands, holistically.
       
    2. Symbols create associations that reinforce the meaning of the brand. As people interact with a symbol, whatever it may be, it becomes full of meaning. It becomes a hint of what’s to come. When you see a person wearing a white jacket and a stethoscope, you think it’s a doctor. The white jacket and the stethoscope are the symbols of the profession, and when they are combined we naturally assume that the person wearing them must be a doctor. Symbols are thus a visual way of communicating our thoughts and beliefs.
      Let’s also think that in the age of digital communication, viewing spaces have been reduced. On mobile devices, key brand touchpoints don’t always allow you to see a full logo. The avatars or icons of social networks and apps are now another variable to be considered by brands. In some cases, they can become your most ubiquitous visual representation, but with the difficulty of being the smallest, and most logos don’t fit within them.
    3. They make it easy to stay in control of the game. Metaphorically, I could say that brands do not belong to companies, but to the customers who prefer them. With almost 60% of the decision-making process occurring beyond the direct control of a company, it is more than advisable to ensure that the 40% formed by the image we project is just the one we want to show. Brands are perceptions. For customers, their perception is the truth, no matter what arguments may be made against it. Therefore, to gain their preference, it is necessary to have a good perception.
      The challenge is to build a single impression and defend it over time, achieving a unique place in a market that is more than saturated with supply. It’s about finding a window into people’s minds, a space that they can occupy, and that space matters.

As Karl Gerstner considered one of the fathers of design, pointed out, “A system is much more than a simple sum of parts. They are the parts, their functions, and their intrinsic relationships.”

To be effective, they must be created under the premises of coherence and consistency, although considering that their essence is not altered according to the space in which they are going to be applied nor under the monotonous repetition of codes. In reality, they must collaborate in the construction of a language that reinforces a specific personality, achieving the increase in the impact of an identity on its way to becoming a brand.

For this reason, Visual identity extensions are critical elements in design that support and enhance the visual experience of the brand. Establishing a graphic pattern that is used as a subtle part of the brand’s visual universe can go a long way in creating a high level of brand recall. Patterns reinforce the message and let the audience know that the brand cares about the details.

We have seen how the importance of the logo diminishes in favor of a visual identity system with enough recognizable brand elements. Investing in an end-to-end VIS provides a considerable return the more it contributes to building an emotional connection. Whether it is from the point of view of notoriety and remembrance, or in terms of preference and trust.

Of course, with a logo you don’t have a brand, you also need a system. But design is just the silent ambassador and the next stage will be to take action. Let’s not forget that brands are experiences.

 

Carlos Puig Falcó
CEO of Branward