Featured Image source.

What does it mean to create a brand vs. an identity?

Brand, and brand identity, are terms that we frequently hear thrown around to describe the ways a company situates itself in the world. A brand refers to the relationship that consumers create with the product and organization. Your brand encompasses the words customers are using to describe the product behind your back. The identity is what you put into the world–the logo, the colour scheme, the visual reflections of the brand you aim to develop.

brand-identity-logo-explained1.jpgSource: Jacob Cass, JUST™ Creative

Why does your image matter?

The way a consumer sees your brand impacts their likelihood to remember and purchase it. According to a 2015 study conducted by Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, brands are perceived in the same way as faces. This means you need to work on the creation of an identity that is trustworthy and assertive.

What is rebranding?

Rebranding involves changing the corporate imaging of your organization in some way. This could include a change in name, logo, packaging, marketing and web layout.


Source: 5WPR

Why do companies do it?

There are many reasons why a company may rebrand:

  • To modernize
  • To rid themselves of negative associations
  • To reach a new demographic
  • To retain customers
  • To remain competitive


Source: ABS-CBN News

When does rebranding fail?

Rebranding can certainly keep things current in a successful company and even revitalize a struggling one. However, it doesn’t always work that way.

Case Study: GAP logo


Source: ’10 Rebranding Failures and How Much They Cost’ by Tony Hardy

The new logo, designed by Laird+Partners, removed the square and font that made the previous one iconic. Instead, they chose to move to the attractive but overused Helvetica font and a gratuitous gradient square. The Gap logo lost any semblance of personality. While the new logo wasn’t bad, per se, it was bland and seemed thoughtless (more on that here). Hence, the Gap has reverted back to the previous incarnation of their identity.

The key takeaway here is to do your market research: know what works and what doesn’t. Consider the following:

  • Do you have a rational and well-defined reason for the change?
  • Does your audience appreciate traditional aesthetics or desire a more modern touch?
  • Is the design in line with mission statements that your audience is still connected to?
  • Will the changes you make take your company in the direction you want it to go?

How does diversity and inclusivity factor into all this?

Diversity and inclusivity are extremely valuable, oft-forgotten design considerations. You have to remember that even within a very specific demographic, there exists a very diverse set of people. So cast a wide net! Designing for all can be challenging, but it’s worth considering design from multiple viewpoints. Often, designing this way can result in a better product for everyone.

Case Study: “Norman Doors”

Ever pull on a push door, or vice versa? Don Norman, an expert in cognitive science and design, was frustrated by the same things, so he decided to write a book about it: The Design of Everyday Things. The basic premise is if you run into this kind of problem consistently, then it’s not you: it’s the doors.

He highlighted two key design premises: discoverability and feedback. We should be able  to easily discover the actions an object can perform, and receive feedback that shows what happened. The process you should follow as a designer, he says, is human-centred:

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 1.18.10 PM.png

Source: ‘It’s not you. Bad doors are everywhere.’ by Vox

It’s about designing for people, and going out and seeing what really works. But it’s also about paying attention to the minority, which brings me to my next point…

Inclusivity in Design and Advertising

When I walk across campus at my university every day, I see a wide variety of people with visible differences, be it their expression of fashion sense, gender identity, height, race, and more. There’s lots of invisible differences, too: not everyone thinks the same way, or has a certain assumed capacity of hearing or movement. Some people have conditions that mean they live with chronic pain.

We know these differences make up the human spectrum. So why aren’t they adequately represented?

Examining ‘The State of Disability on Book Covers’

In this wonderful article by Corinne Duyvis and Kayla Whaley, the representation of characters with disabilities in youth literature is studied. The overwhelming trend revealed that the disabilities the characters have are often masked on book covers.


Source: The State of Disability on Book Covers

Take this cover, for example. There is a character who uses a wheelchair, yet it has been obscured by the placement of the title text and a tree.

This treatment surprised me, which speaks to my position of privilege. As a thin white woman, I see faces and bodies like mine everywhere. That’s something I’ve taken for granted all my life. Because of this, it can be hard to understand the following:

Visibility is important.

Design can change the world. Consider the broader implications of Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, which states that heavy TV viewers begin to accept television concepts as indicative of lived social reality. We are around design and advertising constantly, far more than anyone who watches television. This means we are, consciously or unconsciously, normalizing a Eurocentric, able-bodied view of society in the Western world. For the many people not confined within those bounds, their identities become classified as “other”.

Existing within the “other” is a scary place to be. Historically, groups considered “other” are silenced, ostracized and cast aside. At the very least, they become secondary considerations. Morally and from a brand perspective, all people are important. To develop a positive relationship with a product, the entire audience must feel seen and heard. This all starts with the physical design of a product and the way it is marketed.

Product Design

In this video, disability rights lawyer and design thinker Elise Roy discusses how product designers should design for those with disabilities. Designing for that 19% of people with disabilities doesn’t alienate anyone–it usually improves design for the 81% as well.

They are not “better for Roy.” They’re simply a better design. (Source)

Case Study: Oxo’s Good Grips Potato Peeler


Source: iDsgn

This peeler was designed to address people with arthritic hands, who found the metal peeler to be extremely uncomfortable. The result wasn’t a better design for people with arthritis–it was a better design, period.

Diversity in Advertising

As I mentioned, I’m in a position of extreme privilege with regards to representation. In fact, with my work as a model, I’ve witnessed many casting rooms; they are often filled with thin, able-bodied white women. I struggle with the situation: I enjoy the opportunities that I have. However, this is also why I know there needs to be a change. I recognize that my experience is not the experience that everyone has. But my hope is that, as a designer, I can be a part of the change.

I wanted to take a moment to highlight the first whiffs of change within the fashion industry. Rachel Romu, who models with my mother agency Peggi Lepage, is a fantastic model and accomplished track athlete, though she doesn’t run any longer. She also happens to use a mobility aid. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, in 2016. She recently walked in Toronto Fashion Week in Hayley Elsaesser’s show.


Taken by George Pimentel, source.

There is a boatload of work to be done, but we are starting to see a shift. Selling clothing, and anything else for that matter, should involve the spectrum of human appearances and abilities. Paying attention to the human experience is the first step. It’s time to open up the runways, print ads, commercials and product design to address a wide range of perspectives.

Putting it all in Perspective

As a company, you have control over your logo and your identity, but the brand extends past your sphere of power into that of your users. User bases are broad, which can admittedly be intimidating. It means you have many outlooks to attend to. But if you choose to take on the task, you have the potential to create a brand loved and trusted by all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s