Introduction to Branding for UI/UX Designers

In this post, you’ll find out what branding is and how it helps designers build products faster.

November 2, 2021
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As a design and development company, we often create apps for companies that already have working products in their portfolio. To incorporate their existing approaches in product creation and communication, we rely on their branding. In this post, we’d like to explain how to do that.

What’s a brand?

A layman’s answer would be that it’s something present in the product’s package, design, advertising that makes it different from others.

From the designer’s point of view, it’s a set of rules, color choices, logos. In other words, it’s a visual guideline for product creation.

Finally, a brand manager or a marketing specialist would say that a brand is explained through brand equity, a passport revealing its values that are communicated through the ads.

All of these definitions are correct. However, the most important thing about the brand is what a person feels and experiences when interacting with it.

If the product causes the same feelings for a big variety of people, such a brand is successful. If those feelings are different or complicated, a brand is not successful yet. The values of such a brand appear to be unclear or volatile, so the ads can’t communicate them well. This leads to the absence of the solid feeling the brand should cause.

To figure out the feeling your brand should cause through the product design, you’ll need to define and understand brand equity.

Brand equity

Different representations of brand equity
Different representations of brand equity

You’ll find lots of sophisticated definitions about brand equity, but if put simply, brand equity represents the key components comprising the value of the brand.

It can be represented as a pyramid. A keyhole. A key. A diamond. The form doesn’t matter much as it mostly serves to help visualize and memorize the information about the brand.

It can have different contents. In the case of our UX/UI design service company, we operate the next key concepts.

Big Idea

A brand’s big idea is something that explains the values of the brand and is communicated through every aspect of the product. In other words, it answers the next questions:

-       Why does your brand exist?

-       Why should people care about your brand?

-       What does your brand stand for?

Examples of brands’ big ideas:

Coca-cola: Open Happiness Image

Coca-Cola: to be producers of happiness.

Google: to make the information useful and universally accessible.

Facebook: to make the world more open and connected.

Target Audience

Every product has its main target audience. If you think that all people are consumers of your branded product, you’re using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. For a brand to hit the spot, it needs to hit a narrow target audience first. If the brand addresses the needs and insights of that target audience, the result will most probably propagate to other target audiences.

The target audience can be defined by demographics (gender, marital status, age, income) and psychographics (personal interests, desires, values, attitude, possibly unusual behaviors).

To define your target audience, you can perform customer research, analyze the market, or create a buyer persona, i.e., a perfect customer representing your target audience.

In the UI/UX design services industry, common descriptions of target audiences will include things like:

And so on.

Brand DNA and Product Truth

Brand DNA explains the brand’s utmost quality that is not defined by the products of the brand but comes with them by default. It’s a signature of the brand that brings it to life and sets the tone for the business.

Again, you can find a few ways to come up with a brand DNA, so here we’re going to illustrate it with examples.

In anything they do, Apple brings the idea that technology can be elegant and simple to use.

Paypal’s DNA is contained in the idea of being an innovation leader in digital payments.

And Netflix, despite being a streaming service, shifts with its DNA into the production and source of edgy, engaging, and modern high-quality content.

Product’s Truth is pretty much the same but defines the DNA of the specific product. For Coca-Cola, the product truth is that it’s a refreshing drink that not only quenches thirst but makes people feel good about themselves.

It’s important to notice here that brand DNA and product truth should be real things, and not something made out of thin air. In the latter case, the company will be facing difficulties with public communication and advertising.

devops ninja animation
devops ninja animation

Reasons to Believe: Rational Benefits and Emotional Benefits

When we’re talking about certain products, they have their own pros and cons and qualities that help us decide whether to buy them or not.

However, branding helps add something extra to that reasoning.

A brand might have a long reputation of associating with reliability and durability, like Bosch. That’s a rational benefit. Or it might bring positive emotions, like Disney. That’s an emotional benefit.

Behind every benefit that the company wants to bring with its brand, there should be a reason to believe. Imagine creating a new Bosch-like brand: how can one prove that its products are reliable and durable? For instance, they might offer extra-long guarantees or free service.

When we provide UI/UX design services to clients with a long history on the market, one of the important questions we ask is how we can convey the benefits associated with the clients’ brand via design.

Distinctive Assets & Brand Tonality

Distinctive assets of Coca-cola: keywords, colors, ideas
Distinctive Assets of Coca-Cola

After you figure out all the above-mentioned aspects of the brand, you can finally understand how a set of visual elements that make up the brand’s passport was created.

By looking at the brand’s distinctive assets customers should be able to easily say what kind of a brand it is. And brand tonality is the specific things (colors, accents, or anything that defines brand perception) that will be shown in all ads through all communication channels.

Why Designers Should Know About Branding

You need to keep the brand in mind at all times to avoid making inconsistent graphical decisions. The first and foremost function of brand equity is to help keep consistency everywhere.

Huge corporations often work with a few agencies at once – say, an ad agency, a PR agency, and a digital agency. To keep their work coordinated they need to follow the brand equity.

On top of that, in any company, new designers sometimes come, and old ones leave. And since different designers have different likes in visual styles, they’ll need to have brand equity on their hands to avoid style fusion and mix-up.

That doesn’t mean designers shouldn’t think out of the box. But they should keep brand equity in mind when experimenting.

In short, here are three reasons how proper branding helps designers:

1.    It makes the client’s tasks clearer since you understand their brand DNA and RTB.

2.    It helps you focus. You will not play with colors and elements that are not primarily for the brand. By using distinctive assets and brand tonality, you will immediately start representing brand values in your design ideas.

3.    It decreases the time needed to get the job done, as you make fewer wrong decisions and unnecessary mistakes.

Last But Not Least: What About Trends?

Every designer wants to create new stuff. To figure out how to work with new trends in every case, you need to understand the brand’s lifecycle and how trends arise and vanish.

The brutalism trend represented in Balenciaga ads
Brutalism trend in Balenciaga ads

For instance, let’s take the trend of brutalism. It appeared 5-7 years ago and was popular among trendsetters and innovators. So, in the beginning, it was utilized by Balenciaga and Nike, the brands that know the unusual design works for their target audience.  

Companies making products for mass consumption prefer to wait — sometimes for years — before they can allow those trends to get into their visual communications and design solutions.

Bottom Line

This article does not pretend to be an introduction to branding for designers. There are so many more things to explain about that: brand awareness, brand portfolio, brand cannibalism, restyling, relaunch, price positioning, rebranding, and many others.

However, this article should be enough for a designer to understand the importance of branding in product design and make designs that are aligned with the client brands’ DNA faster and better.

Having troubles with branding your digital product? The EGO Creative Innovations UI/UX design company can help. Let’s have a free consultation to see how we can help.

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