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Branding & Design Terminology You Need to know: A Comprehensive Guide

Let’s clear something up today… Whether you’re getting your brand designed, or working on a complete brand overhaul, working with a brand designer and brand strategist is a lot easier when you understand the branding and design terminology!


Terms for business branding and design get thrown around an awful lot. Various different terms are used relating to similar things and it can end up a tad confusing to say the least. I get it, and let's be honest for 2 seconds, I find it frustrating too. Seeing numerous terms thrown around can be off-putting and there’s nothing worse than going into branding or design services with no understanding of what you’re getting into.


Although I do my best not to use industry jargon, I still sometimes forget myself! To help with this, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of words that are commonly used in the brand design world, organized by different category. I hope this helps you the next time you work with a designer!


BRANDING TERMS

Brand


The overarching term for the combination of all of your branding elements. Visuals and visual identity, your voice, your value, marketing, mission and vision – the whole lot. From the experience you provide and how you interact with customers, to the visuals of your company and how you present yourself, it’s the umbrella term.


Branding


The way you select, create and display the elements of your brand in a meaningful and relatable way. Through your branding you can bolster (or alter) your visual identity and therefore the connection you make with your target audience while offering your service or product. Consistency is really the key here, your branding should always be in line with your brand.


Let’s say your business and brand is a photography studio – your brand identity contains certain patterns, colours and logos, while your brand voice is a friendly, authentic approach with humility and grace. The culmination of these elements is your branding.


Brand Identity


Brand identity refers to the brand that a business is attempting to create for itself. In other words, it’s the intention behind your brand, as well as how the business presents itself and interacts with others.


Put simply, this is the visual representation of your brand – logos, icons, patterns, typography and colour palettes (please refer to design terminology section for definitions). It’s these initial visuals which will (or won’t) create a memorable and recognizable visual identity for your target audience, drawing them closer to a purchase through the connection they feel to your brand.


When you think of a brand off the top of your head, Apple, Amazon, Mcdonald, Nike, Coca-cola, Facebook, how many do you instantly recognize through the colours, typography and imagery without even needing to see the business name or logo? All of them – the hallmark of a strong brand identity.


Brand image


Brand image refers to how your brand is perceived. It’s the result of the efforts a business puts into their brand. Of course, the outcome (how people receive & perceive the brand) is not actually within the business’ control. That's the impression you brand leave for your target audience.


Brand Assets


Brand assets are the individual elements that form a visual brand. These include logo files, fonts, colors, icons, patterns, etc.


Mission statement


The dreaded phrase by many small businesses, a mission statement outlines who your are, what you do, who you’re helping and how.


Many small business will question whether they really need one, the answer? ABSOLUTELY. It’s the one thing will give you an immediate identity and allow your audience to easily decide whether they connect and resonate with you brand. It only has to be one or two sentences max, but it really couldn’t be more vital to your businesses direction and purpose for existing.


Brand Positioning


Brand positioning is the process of positioning your brand in the mind of your target audience. This goes way beyond a pretty logo or a tagline. Brand positioning is the strategy used to set your business apart from the rest (aka. your competitors).


Brand positioning is essential because being "different" from your competitors isn't enough to win in the market. You are only remarkable when you are unique in your own way. Your brand has a reputation whether you cultivate it or not, so you might as well create a brand positioning plan that help you take control of your reputation and brand image.


Target audience


Your target audience is the demographic of people most likely to be interested in your company's mission, vision and to purchase or buy your product and service.


A target audience is basically a defined group of people. Target audiences should share similar demographics traits including, but not limiting to the following:


- Age. gender, location, education, Socioeconomic status.


Instead of spending money and your marketing effort to target everyone, defining your target audience will allow you for more intentional and personal out-reach to those most likely to purchase your product or service.


Ideal client avatar / ICA


“One way businesses explore their target audience is by coming up with an ideal customer avatar,” says Minal Sampat, a marketing expert from the state of Washington. “This isn’t a new idea I can take credit for: it’s well-known in the marketing world because it’s highly effective.”


Take a moment to think about your business, and who you would really love to see working with. By creating a fictional customer profile will help you to understand your audience better, what they like, what are they struggling with, and what's important for them. With that in mind, you will be able to nail down on the content that you are creating for them and also a brand that resonates with your ideal customers.


Competitor


Your competitors are not just those you are currently competing with. They also include any potential competitors who may choose to compete in your market in the future. This could involve a competitor from another location expanding in your area or a competitor deciding to expand its offering to target a different part of the market. But just remember, nobody is unique like you and if you are doing things exactly the same as your competitors that you are not standing out.


Competitive Analysis


A competitive analysis is the strategy where you identify your direct competitors and research heir products, services, sales, marketing strategy, and competitive advantages (aka. their unique selling point). Knowing what your competitors is doing good and bad in will actually help you to discover the blank spot of your own business. Competitive analysis is important to build a strong business foundation that improve your competitor's.


Competitive advantage


Competitive advantage refers to what your brand is unique about, the factors that allow your business to product goods or services better or more cheaply than its rivals. Your competitive advantage is actually what makes you stand out from your competitors.


Brand Message


Brand message is the set of practices that define how a company will deliver its value proposition and communicate its business values. This is based on the tone of voice, language, and core message, businesses can define a specific way to convey your ideals to the public.


Brand Attributes


Brand attributes refer to the brand’s “personality”. These are the qualities and characteristics of the brand that make it personable and memorable.


Brand Voice


How your present your brand through words, voice and communication. For many businesses this is the toughest element of branding to crack, many try too hard to be something they aren’t and it will inevitably only end up driving customers away.

We have a fairly informal and relaxed way of talking about our business, because behind the work, that’s how we are! We want to create a feeling of comfort and warmth to our clients, with less of the jargon and confusing processes that put lots of small businesses off working with designers. If we were to suddenly switch our tone to overly formal, not only would we feel less approachable to our target audience, we’d create inconsistency in our brand and conflict our brand voice – not what anyone wants!


Brand Guidelines/Standards/Manual


While it may come in varying names, the purpose and nature is always the same. This is essentially and written manual or guidebook for all the principles of a brand. The visuals (logos, patterns, fonts etc), target audience, mission and vision will all be outlined here. It’s a streamlined catalogue of a brand – almost like an encyclopedia you can pick up and learn all about them.

Brand guidelines are a wonderful document to have, being able to show potential clients, or new employees, what your brand is all about in a matter of minutes with absolutely no confusion is something you simple can’t put a price on.


A style guide refers to a summary of your brand identity that is presented in a document for easy reference.


Re-Branding


So, you’ve already got a brand and and identity – but perhaps it isn’t feeling like the home and vision you envisaged for your business when you started out. Maybe your logo isn’t as unique as you’d like, or your colour scheme is outdated, or perhaps your target audience has changed ever so slightly, leaving your visuals in need of a refresh, all of these are signs you’re ready for a rebrand.


Tagline


A Taglines usually accompany a company's logo. It's meant to be a condensed version of your business' slogan that will capture the essence and relevance of the brand.


DESIGN TERMINOLOGY

Logo


A logo is a graphic representation or symbol that represents a business, product, group or organization. It may include a logotype or logomark or both.


It’s the graphic designed to represent your brand within a glance – it can include your business name, tagline and often an illustration or icon. Every brand should have a primary logo, secondary/alternate logos and a brandmark/submark. Each variation will be perfect for a different use so don’t go without these – your primary logo is your tree and your other logos are the branches, and what’s a tree without branches?!


Logotype


A logotype (sometimes referred to as a wordmark) is when text is used as a logo. Generally the business name will be designed using a specific font or the letters might be displayed in a creative way.


Logomark


A logomark (sometimes referred to as a brandmark) refers to the graphic or symbol that is used to represent the business and generally does not include the text/business name.


Mood Board / Inspiration Board


A moodboard is a collage of images designed to evoke the intended mood or style of your brand. It’s used to inspire the direction of the brand design.


Often used at the beginning of a re-branding or design process, moodboards are a selection of graphics, patterns, images or illustrations that speak to the brand and it’s vision. Comprised of different textures, scenes and tones, they bring varying elements together to create a cohesive feel for the brand.


Designers often present mood boards to clients before beginning a design project to ensure both are working along the same visual identity and are happy with the direction of the brand design.


Colour Palette


A collection of the chosen colours for a brand, combined into one palette to emphasize how the colours work harmoniously together.


No two brand colour palettes will be the same, but each will immediately set the tone and feel that the brand is trying to get across. The colours will be used to create all of the brand collateral and designs and should be instantly recognizable for each brand.


Brand Collateral


Brand collateral encompasses any marketing material that goes alongside your business to support and promote your product or service.


It’s the tangible evidence of the brand, think business cards, flyers, stickers, icons, packaging, presentations, promotional graphics, newsletters, opt-ins, thank you cards – the list goes on. In a nutshell, it’s anything besides your regular branding and website design that will support your business.


Typography / Font-face /Typeface


The terms typography and font are often used interchangeably (which in my opinion is no big deal!) Traditionally, typeface referred to the font family and its aesthetic qualities (such as Arial) and font referred to the typeface at a specific size and weight (such as Arial, 12pt, bold) or the availability of the various sizes and weights.


The varying fonts that make up any branding, along with their hierarchy. Sounds simple right? Wrong! There’s a reason why designers not only spend a huge amount of time selecting fonts but also a huge amount of money, the right fonts don’t come cheap!


Choosing the right fonts for your brand is not easy, it speaks volumes about the business, their tone and identity, many would argue it’s the most important part of any brand.


Typography hierarchies should be a minimum of two fonts, max three, containing a variety of different font spacing and weights to emphasize contrast between headings and body text, while still keeping the brand cohesive and not overwhelming.


Below are some terms used for Typography


Serif Font


Serif is a classic style of font where the lines (strokes) of each letter have a little tick extending off the top and bottom. Times New Roman is one of the best known serif fonts.


Sans Serif Font


Sans serif is a modern style of font where the lines (strokes) of each letter are straight (without the serif tick). Arial is the one of the best known sans serif fonts.


Display Font


A display font refers to a font that will be used in a headline or in a larger format (as opposed to paragraphs of text.) This allows for a font that is more interesting, with more personality, because readability is not a huge issue.


Kerning


Kerning refers to adjusting the spacing between characters in a word. It is sometimes adjusted for readability and balance or to achieve a certain look within a word.


Leading


Leading refers to the vertical space between lines of text for improved readability or effect.


LAYOUT

White space


White space refers to the portion of a document or design that does not contain text or images. It’s used to create balance and visual “breathing room” in a design, as well as to help direct the reader’s eye through the content. White space is also sometimes referred to as negative space.


Margins


Margins refer to the space or edge around a document or design.


Alignment


Alignment refers to how elements of a page or design line up relative to each other. Common alignment terms are left, right, centered, justified, top, bottom.


Above the fold


This terms is commonly used in web design (although it originated in the printing industry) and it refers to content that is able to be seen on the screen before scrolling. In other words, it’s any content that is not cut off by the bottom of the screen before you scroll down.


Hierarchy


Hierarchy refers to the alignment and arrangement of elements in a design that visually demonstrates importance.


Mock up


A mock-up (also called a proof) is a representation of how a design will look when finished in order to demonstrate the design in a realistic way.


Trim Marks


Trim marks show anywhere a printed piece will need to be cut.


Bleed Marks


Bleed marks are needed when a design goes right to the edge of a printed piece. In order to have a clean edge, the design will extend past the dimensions of the piece and be trimmed after printing.


TEXT

Copy


Copy (short for copywriting) refers to any written text that will be needed for a design project.


Dummy text


Dummy text is “placeholder” text that represents text that will eventually be placed in a document. This allows designers to design the layout of a document without having all the final text.


Lorem Ipsum


The industry standard for dummy text is “Lorem Ipsum” text, which is simply scrambled Latin words.


COLORS

Palette


A color palette is a group of colors used together for a brand. A palette helps to keep your brand look consistent across all of your marketing.


CMYK


CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) and is generally the color mode you want to choose if you’re going to be printing your designs.


RGB


RGB stands for Red, Green & Blue and is the color mode used by screens, such as computer and TV screens. Use RGB if your designs are going to be online (websites, social media graphics, etc.)


Pantone


Pantone is an industry standard color matching system that helps keep colors accurate through various printing and manufacturing processes. Generally they are used by large, well known brands who need to keep colors very specific and consistent.


HEX Code


HEX (hexadecimal) Code is a numbering system used to represent a colors. HEX codes are typically used to define colors in web design, but can also be used in any design software, making it an easy system to use for brand colors.


Gradient


A color gradient is a subtle progression from one color to the next, or a fading of one color from full intensity to transparent.


Opacity


Opacity refers to the degree of transparency of a color or design element.


IMAGES & GRAPHICS

Vector Image


A vector image is a digital image made up of paths (lines) rather than pixels. This allows for the image to scale without losing quality. For example, logos are designed as vector images.

EPS, AI (Adobe Illustrator file), and SVG are examples of vector image files. Generally you need design software to open vector images, and they need to be exported as bitmaps in order to be used on websites or social media.


Bitmap Image


A bitmap image (also called raster image) is an image that is made up of pixels (dots). This type of image is commonly used for digital photographs because it allows for a large range and depth of colors. The quality of the image depends on its resolution.

JPEG, GIF and PNG are examples of bitmap images. GIF and PNG allow for transparent backgrounds, JPG does not. However, JPG files can be optimized for the web to allow a high quality image at relatively low file size.


Resolution


Resolution is a term used to describe the quality of an image or a printed piece. It’s measured in PPI (pixels per inch) for screens and DPI (dots per inch) for printers, which refers to the number of dots/pixels in one inch of the image.


Stock Photo


Stock photos are collections of photos that are available to be downloaded or purchased by businesses to be used on websites, social media or other marketing pieces. Stock photos are an alternative to taking your own photos and are available at a range of price points, from free to high-end.


Patterns


Patterns are digital images often incorporated as a background in a design. Patterns are used to create interest, add texture or achieve a certain look. Patterns can be part of a brand identity.


Icons


Icons are digital images used to represent a subject matter, object or an action. For example, the image of an envelope is an icon commonly used to represent contact details or e-mail. Icons can be part of a brand identity.



And here we go! A complete list of terms that you might hear from your brand designer or brand strategist when working on your brand! I hope you find it helpful!


Branding and design terms can so often be intimidating and complicated, I hope these break-downs have helped clear some of the confusion and given you the confidence to take on your next branding or design project.


At this point you’ll probably need to hire a brand designer to help fix your branding issues and really define your new online home. Struggling to know whether you need to rebrand? Or not sure how to build a successful brand. Grab our Ultimate guide here


If you have any questions or need any other design terms explaining, I’d love to help, click here to get in touch!



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