Defining Brand Style: When Words Aren’t Enough

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Lots of designers have been there: you show the 3 design concepts outlined in your agreement only to hear your client say, “That isn’t what I wanted at all.”

At Imagemme, we know communication is the key to success.  But certain adjectives are subjective.  What one person thinks is a “clean” or “elegant” design might be “busy” and “pedestrian” to another.

When going through the design process, requesting that your clients show you examples of work they consider idealistic is paramount.  Whether it’s a specific artist,  competitive brand or  clothing line, you will be able to discern an aesthetic sensibility from what they show you.  Then you need to drill down to specific areas: Are they responding to color, form, typography or something else?  Isolate each element of design until you identify what propels your client’s response.

When in discussion with your client, make sure you clearly understand the following factors:

  • Competitive environment
  • Customer demographics/psychographics
  • Brand personality/Brand story

With a comprehensive knowledge of these factors and how they apply to your client, you’ll be able to understand how the client sees their brand, where it lives in the market, how this product will be used, and exactly who the end user is.

We guide our clients through the Attribute Spectrum—and it the most significant and successful branding activity we institute.   We create a list of 12 or more  adjectives paired with antonyms (i.e. formal vs. casual; expensive vs. economical) and ask our clients to rank their brand within the attribute spectrum.  Their next task is to assign images to these attributes and then place competitive brands within the same spectrum.  This allows us to distinguish where they think their brand belongs in relation to others in a visual and verbal sense.  By linking the adjectives they use to describe their brands with the images they associate with these adjectives, we establish a jumping off point for design. Moving forward, we generate mood boards to ensure we are all on the same page—identifying with the same styles.  Though these extra steps may seem laborious, they make for a more seamless design process and ultimately, a better work product.  Let’s face it, when it comes to design: words just aren’t enough.

Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director for the Imagemme New York City office.

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