Visual Brand Identities The Brand Project
The living brand identity.
Markets change, companies change, and people change – we all know that. But when should visual brand identities change? And how should you go about doing that?

Before we jump into the juicy stuff, there is one thing we need to address first. For many people, a rebrand is almost synonymous with a new or refreshed brand identity. But there is a very important aspect that will distinguish a rebrand, a redesign, and a refresh from each other – the strategic reason and motivation behind it.

  • A rebrand is a strategic tool to reposition a firm or manifest a new direction. Rebranding covers the whole process of making a strategic organizational change and translating this strategy into visual assets.
  • A redesign is the visual translation of the brand strategy. The motivation behind a redesign is therefore to manifest the new goals and signal this change. It involves fundamental changes to the brand identity and often implies a completely new logo and visuals.
  • A brand refresh, however, involves adjusting your visual identity according to current trends and developments in the market by making minor changes, tweaks, and touch-ups to your existing visual identity. A refresh is usually not based on a new strategic direction, but rather on a need to keep the firm aligned with market movements. And to continue to meet your ambitions and goals you set in your strategy.
Strategic design – not just aesthetics

Strategic design is not about making something “beautiful”. It’s not about aesthetics and making it look good. Strategic design is about aligning the design with your business strategy.

This means that your design should move your target audience toward the same goals as your business strategy. It should tell a story and evoke feelings that trigger responses, and ultimately lead to actions. To make this happen, your design has to be created with psychological principles in mind.

In essence, strategic design is about creating something that is informed, functional, speaks to your target audience, and serves a purpose. It’s therefore crucial for your designers to understand:

  • The desired brand perception you want your design to create.
  • The market you operate in and how you want to be positioned in it.
  • Your target group to trigger the right responses.
  • Your company’s ambitions and goals.

Pro tip: Creating strategic design principles will ensure that everyone in the company understands how the use of your design will create the desired perception in the market.

Alignment means synergy

The last thing you want is to have to knock on your CEO’s door and ask for a higher marketing budget. Which is exactly what might happen if your design isn’t aligned with your strategy. You run the risk of your brand being communicated incorrectly which creates confusion and disconnection with our audience. You could not only lose the opportunity to make the connections and the triggers you want, but may end up losing influence over your audience.

When your design successfully reflects your business strategy, core values, and speaks the same language as the audience, it makes it easy for everyone to understand exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what value you bring. You gain a certain amount of control over the perceptions and associations people get when they come in contact with your visual identity. And you’re getting the most “bang for the buck”.

Pro tip: Have your designers work side by side with different stakeholders in the business particularly the ones that own your brand strategy. This will help them to get a deep understanding of the strategy to ensure it is translated into properly aligned visual assets. Check out our expertise page to see how we do it at The Brand Project.

Assess like your life depends on it

So how do you know if you need a new design or not? There is really never a good time or a bad time to get into the business of redesigning, or refreshing your identity. What is important, is that you’re in the driver’s seat of the decision. And that decision is made for strategic reasons, not because the new CEO likes green better than blue.

Staying relevant in a fast-moving market
An important aspect of good design is timelessness. In a market that moves quickly and changes every time you turn your head, you should always look around and check if you are becoming outdated. And figure out why.

If you are falling behind or are perceived as less relevant, it might be the right time to re-examine. Especially if you’re not meeting the needs and expectations of your audience.

The painful conclusion of outdatedness is not always the actual fact
Start to explore wether you actually are, in fact, outdated or if it just feels like it. If based on this you conclude that yes, you are indeed in the need of developing your design – is it worth it?

  • Are you being consistent when you use your visual identity? Is your design versatile and easy to use? Does it work on all surfaces?
  • Are you still relevant among your target audience? Are you able to influence and lead to the action you desire? Are you meeting their needs?
  • How is the market moving? What is the competition doing? Why are others perceived different (or better or worse) than us?
  • Has your business goals changed or the market itself?
  • How valuable is your already-established brand?
  • What is the risk-reward ratio you expect from a new design?
To redesign or refresh, that is the question

If your current visual identity was strategically designed and is still functional, a refresh or a few tweaks to meet current and future audiences is generally a high value-low risk decision. It will likely not affect customer decision-making, you can refresh your designs without a large-scale PR announcement and, if done cleverly, it will become the new reality without anyone really noticing.

However, if your visual identity is not working for you and wasn’t created with the overall strategy in mind, a complete redesign (or possibly a full rebrand) might be necessary. Your design as a part of your business and brand strategy should drive future business and position your company for long-term success. This ultimately will create more opportunities and successful go-to-market activities than before.

B2B brands sometimes have an easier time when making these types of decisions because normally they have far less customers to deal with. It makes it easier for them to inform them of change and can often be done in person. All the while our friends on the B2C side will have thousands of customers suddenly dealing with a changed identity of their (hopefully) loved brand.

Pro tip: Your decision to rebrand, redesign or refresh should be carefully thought out, planned, tested, and developed with future ambitions and strategies in mind. As a rule of thumb, if the accumulated risk is greater than your estimated value it is obviously not worth doing it.

If you’re considering a rebrand, have a look at these articles in our rebranding series, Time for a rebrand? Well. Maybe., Yes, it’s time for a rebrand!, and Implement like crazy!, to learn more about how to lead a successful rebrand process. There‘s a lot of pro tips that can help you when implementing a new design.

Want some examples of strategic design and rebranding stories – well, here you go:

  • Ardoq – A scale-up SaaS company growing in high-speed, manifesting and signaling a new strategic direction and new ambition. Read the case, or look at the website.
  • Arkieva – A leading SaaS company developing a multi-vertical strategy aimed at manifesting its position. Read the case, or look at the website.

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