Updated: Aug 23
Have you ever considered all of the different places your logo will end up? From mobile screens to giant billboards — will your logo succeed at all scales and for all orientations? Are there other visual elements that exist beyond your logo that work together to build a strong and cohesive brand?
Let’s say good-bye to boring brands! Having a versatile brand system is the key to ensuring your brand is always prominent and recognizable without falling flat. So what is a brand system and how will it benefit your business?
WHAT IS A BRAND SYSTEM?
A brand system is a collection of logo designs, brandmarks, patterns, subgraphics, and any other visual element that comes together to represent the same brand. When it comes to logos, any one brand should have at least two logos as part of their visual identity. In Your Guide to the 7 Types of Logos we go over the various logo styles:
Generally, brands will have at the very least their primary logo — which may be an emblem or pictorial design — and a supporting logo such as a wordmark — which would be a typographical logo.
When designing brand identities for my clients, I strive to have at least three logo variations: a primary logo, wordmark, and brandmark. Looking at Bodytonic Pilates’ brand identity example, I designed for them a primary logo, an alternate logo orientation, a wordmark, and two options for brandmarks. Each one of these supporting logos and brandmarks are repurposed from the same core identity.
The brand system is more than just logos. It is made up of various visual elements that support the brand. Beyond the components of their brand identity, Bodytonic Pilates' overall brand system includes two tagline graphics. You'll notice they, too, come in two orientations, giving more versatility to this element as well.
Another common element we are seeing more and more of in brand identity design in 2021 are signature patterns. These patterns can be used as backdrops to landing pages, social media posts, and packaging.
The beauty of having a well thought-out brand system design is that your brand’s visual identity becomes so much more than its colours and singular logo. It is versatile and dynamic and offers more for your audience to fall in love with.
WHY BRAND SYSTEM DESIGN ADDS VALUE
It’s All in the Details
Every part of your brand’s visual identity should be striving to connect and resonate with your target audience. Investing time and effort into designing a brand system speaks volumes to your brand’s value because it shows you care about the details.
Level Up Your Brand Personality
It’s important to remember that branding is all about connection. A comprehensive brand system levels up your brand’s personality and offers more for your audience to grab onto visually. It provides a reliable brand experience without growing tired.
Strong Brand System Design Equals Versatility
Without a range of logo orientations you are limiting your brand’s ability to showcase itself prominently in every orientation. Having supporting icons, logos, and brandmarks gives you versatility for each product or platform’s different dimension requirements.
Let’s look at Starbucks. We are all familiar with their siren logo, but as a round design there are certain logo placements that won’t benefit from this orientation. Let’s use their storefront signage as an example.
What you’ll notice is that most Starbucks’ use their wordmark logo across the front of their coffee shops. Having this alternate orientation allows them to occupy more visual real estate in places where horizontal orientations are preferred. If they were limited to just the round siren logo, their storefront signage would often be small and hard to spot. Though today, the brand is so iconic that many can identify a Starbucks just by spotting their green on a building.
The point is, there are so many areas your logo will be used that won’t serve your original dimensions. Having a range of logo designs to choose from helps you adapt with ease to the seemingly endless number of places you may end up putting your logo.
BEST WAYS TO USE YOUR BRAND SYSTEM
Identify Where You’ll Use Your Logo
When setting out to design your brand system, it’s important to consider all of the different places your logo or brand identifiers will be used. Let’s start with the overarching categories:
Under digital you have things like landing pages, email banners, favicons, and social media.
Under packaging you have things like product boxes, labels, envelopes, or coffee cups.
Internally, you may have things like employee handbook, letterhead, vehicle wraps, and awards.
There are 1001 different places your logo may end up so it’s worthwhile spending some time establishing your list of possible placements.
Say you will be launching a product line, how can you integrate this product line’s design into the development of your brand system? Let’s look at Adidas as an example. They have a series of logos used throughout their brand. All of the logos share the same common motif, the iconic three stripes.
Their iconic Trefoil logo, which was one of their earlier logo iterations, was reintroduced in 1997 as the logo for their Originals line. This clothing line features heritage products featuring old classics.
Their Equipment logo represents their more athletic and performance products where the Style logo is reserved for their more fashion-forward product lines. You can read a great history of the Adidas story here.
In Adidas’ case, they have a different icon affiliated with different product lines — but there are other ways to adapt your brand system to products or services. If you know your services will be growing, be mindful of how you style and design the visual identity for these services early on. FedEx, for example, has a range of delivery services, each represented by a different colour.
Depending on the nature of your business and what you offer, take into consideration the different facets of your business and how you can develop your brand system to house them as unique entities but part of the greater whole.
Designing a versatile brand system will give you the tools for long-term success.