9 Essential Elements of a Corporate Identity

I probably should have started with this entry, as it now appears that I seem to favor writing ass-backwards. In reality, I prefer nice, organized stories. <sigh> I cannot go back in time and post this at the beginning…There are 9 essential elements that contribute to the building of your corporate identity. Each carry weight. Each add to the nuance and depth to your image as a whole. Consider each when building your brand. They should all support and add to your identity as a whole.

They are:

1. Name
2. Logo
3. Tagline
4. Color Palette
5. Fonts
6. Voice
7. Graphic Elements
8. Imagery
9. Brand or Identity Vehicles

You’ll find links to entries on the subjects I’ve touched upon thus far below:
What’s in a Name?
Creating a Killer Logo
Tag, You’re It!
Using Fonts to Extend Your Identity
Your Voice as Your Corporate Identity

Need help with your identity? Contact Melissa Shimmin.

Your Voice as your Corporate Identity

Your company’s ‘voice’ is an integral part of you company’s identity. Just as color or fonts give the viewer a feeling about who your company is, so does the writing of your copy.

If you’re a small company, particularly a sole proprietorship, you may be doing your own copy writing and your voice may well be your company’s voice.

On the other hand, if you’re a 50-year-old tax attorney launching a social networking site for tweens as a side business, you might not speak your target audience’s language. Hiring a professional copywriter is probably a good idea.

Whatever your business, your voice should align with your audience. A company with an older, more conservative target customer should ‘speak’ in proper English, triple checking grammar and punctuation.

A young, hip, urban company, on the other hand, might choose a casual, conversational tone peppered with current slang.

Design your voice, just as you design your imagery and align the two for a stronger, more memorable identity.

Set the Tone

When beginning the journey of developing a corporate identity, consider the tone you’ll be creating. I always like to visualize the voice of the company. Is it male or female? Young or old? Hip or stodgy? Traditional or edgy?

Once I can ‘hear’ that voice, everything spills out from it.

For example, if that voice is young, edgy and female, I might choose hot colors and modern fonts that speak to that ‘person’. The logo might have an icon in an ‘on trend’ illustration style. Marketing collateral (if there was any) might have a unique shape or format or use a funky paper stock. The website and online marketing would likely take center stage and extend these ideas. And so on.

A traditional company in turn might stick to subdued color and serif fonts. Classic formats for marketing materials would probably be retained. Etc.

Essentially, think of your company as a person, then dress him or her in the appropriate ‘outfit’. The person is your identity. The outfit is your look and feel.

Using fonts to extend your identity

Fonts are an integral part of your identity. Selecting the right typefaces goes beyond the font or fonts used in your logo.

Where to Start

Consider where text is to ge used. Adverttising? Brochures? Posters? Signage? Website? A combination? You’ll need fonts that work in all your media.

Web vs. Print

Is your business primarily web-based with little print visibility? Choose fonts that are html friendly like Arial, Helvetica, or Times Roman.

If your marketing will be primarily in print, your font options are considerably wider. An equal mix of web and print? Some companies have two sets of fonts – one for the web and one for print.

How much is too much?

Too many different fonts distract from your message. While it’s possible to create strong designs with a multitude of fonts, it generally takes an especially gifted designer to do it well. Limit yourself to 2 font families – one for the bulk of your text, and one for headlines, subheads and pops.

A font family is all the styles of a particular font. For example, Helvetica Regular, Helvetica Bold, Helvetica Oblique, Helvetica Bold Oblique, etc. You might even limit yourself to a single font if it has a particularly extensive family.

What style?

Coordinate with your logo, but don’t get too matchy-matchy. For example, if your logo uses Frutiger Ultra Bold, consider Frutiger Regular for your text. Alternately, contrast your text font to your logo (or headline) font. Use a serif font for text and a sans serif font for your headline, or vice versa.

Tag, you’re it!

You might be asking, ‘do I need a tagline?’ Well, that depends…

Does your company name say what you do? For example, if your business is called Pete’s Plumbing, it’s pretty clear what you do.

What about your logo? Does it say what you do? If you’re in residential real estate and your logo has a house in it, your logo is fairly representative of what you do, so you might not need a tagline.

On the other hand, if the name of your company doesn’t say what you do and your logo doesn’t say what you do, you probably need a tagline. Or, if you want to differentiate your company from the competition, a tagline is an excellent way to clearly do that.

Writing your tagline

A good tagline says what you do, or differentiates your business with just a few words. Selecting those few words is of course the challenge.

Start with your core message. What do you do? What services or products do you provide? Break that down to a single word. Hopefully you’ll find several that apply.

Next determine your secondary message. Your secondary message is most likely your differentiation. Break that down to a single word.

Now, marry those two words together. You may need to add a conjunction or verb to bring it together. Make a list of all the combinations and select the best.

Finally, check to see if your tagline is being used by someone else. You can google the phrase for a quick search. Also be sure to check whether or not it’s been trademarked by another company. Visit http://www.uspto.gov/ to search.