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What is a brand identity? To me, it’s any sensorial articulation of the actual brand. It’s usually visual, in my mind, but it can also have auditory, olfactory and tactile expressions as well.
What then is a brand? Is a brand a person?
Theirry Brunfaut of Base design seems to think that they are at least like people, in some capacity. I suppose you could say that a brand or brand identity could have a certain personality. But to say that a brand is a person or that brands are
like people is, perhaps a small, but very significant fallacy. We do not, indeed we cannot interact with brands in the same way we do with people.
A brand is, or at least should be the representation of a particular group of people and the activities in which they engage, and not the thing itself.
When a brand, and not the people who are engaged as part of the brand, becomes the thing interacted with, we introduce another degree of separation between us and real people. The brand identity becomes a mask or a wall that separates us from
the people behind the brand and as such can more easily become a tool for deceiving and misleading people about the character or the people of said brand. It can become a straw man to hide behind.
We should ask “who” of brands more. Who is behind the shiny graphics? What is her or his name? What are her or his motives? Are they pure?
And as designers, we should seek to create brand identity systems that are both honest and right in their representation of the people of a brand and that serve as a gateway that connects human to human, and not as a wall that divides and disconnects
us. It’s part of the reason why
Cindy Rodriguez and i have setup
Lockstep Studio as a collaboration between the two of us and not as a company unto itself, per se. It’s a gateway to introduce you to "the Cindy" and "the Dailey."
Think of a brand identity as a photograph. It is a representation, and not the thing itself. It is as absurd to think that one can have a relationship with a brand as it is to think that one can have a relationship with a photograph.
Brands are not people, brands represent people. I think of my friend Jay, and his company
Sherpaa. To me, Sherpaa is a fantastic example of a brand that uses it’s brand identity to connect humans to other humans.
How will you create brand identities that help to connect humans to humans?
i moved to brooklyn, ny in 2006 in pursuit of a design career. i’ve conceptualized and designed many brand identities, corporate documents, promotional items and more, with a heavy emphasis on type.
my goal now is to explore design, specifically graphic design, as a social phenomenon and the impact it has on our communities, for better or worse. i hope you’ll join me in the conversation.
Michael Mabry is recognized with a 2014 AIGA Medal for expertly melding design and illustration to create a playful and sophisticated visual language that is highly intuitive and intuitively right.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, advertising, illustration, graphic design, identity design, packaging
Having your first bona fide
design job at a well-respected firm or agency can be an
exhilarating and stressful experience. These eight tips will help you keep—and excel at—your new job.
Section: Tools and Resources
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