Brand identity is probably the most critical element of retail and business design. As a graphic and packaging designer, you must be able to offer branding services as part of your design services package. Brand identity is the overall graphic representation that people will associate with a company or product. In today’s market, competition for customers is fierce, so you can see why a strong brand identity is crucial for companies. Business owners rely on design professionals to invest time into researching, defining, and ultimately building a brand that people can trust. One could say that branding is the foundation of your design and marketing campaign.

For graphic designers who are new to building brand recognition, this article will highlight the research process that experienced designers who are successful at building brands will implement in their graphic approach before offering up any directions. When building brands it’s not simply a matter of creativity it’s a matter of doing the right research.

Whether you’re branding a product or a company you will need to put in a good amount of time doing research. Ask yourself some key questions such as;

• What kind of company are you trying to establish a graphic representation for?

• Who are their clients?

• What is the company’s target demographic?

• What services do they provide, etc.?

The same applies to product branding. What kind of product is it? Is the product targeted at males or females and what age group? How should the product be associated with the company that is selling the product?

Once you’ve collected your preliminary data from your initial questions, filter through and analyze your information to really hone in on your target audience. The ultimate goal of branding is to speak directly to your target audience in order to motivate them to action. In order to do this you better be sure that your target market is clearly defined.

Establishing your target market means identifying who your audience is specifically. To help you find out who your target audience is exactly asking questions like;

• Where is my audience located geographically?

• What colors should be associated with the product or company?

• Who is my brand’s direct competition?

• What elements have made my competition successful?

• Who are my competitors targeting?

You can do a large amount of this investigating on line. The more accurately you can assess your target market the more effective your brand will be.

If you spend enough time properly researching answers to your questions you will find that you have provided yourself with a guide to direct your creativity in the design process. Remember, every element of your design is something that will be associated with the business or product you are branding. These elements should evoke emotion, create a reaction, and will not only define the company but be a part of it for as long as it exists.

These may seem like very simple questions, but the trick is making sure that you spend the time to answer them properly. Many designers throw the term branding around without a true understanding of what that term means or how effective branding is accomplished. A strong brand builds relevance, credibility and establishes trust. A strong brand speaks to your target market – it motivates customers to act. When done correctly it establishes the company or product as an industry leader. By answering a few core questions you will be provided with a system of guides to help direct you when it comes to the actual design process. This is your map to an effective brand.

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