Craft better brand identities than ever with Brand Drafts

portrait of Leon

Leon Ephraïm

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  • Branding

Before your favorite agency (👋) crafts a final brand identity, there’s the ideation phase, or ‘concepting’ phase if you will. It’s within this phase where the real magic happens. At Yummygum we present the results of this magic in the form of Brand Draft; a term we coined ourselves. Brand Drafts have turned out to be a vital part of our process. Allow me to share how and why.

Core idea

In short, Brand Drafts are the vessels that help us convey possible core ideas that are at the base of a brand’s final brand identity. You see, at the heart of most great brand identities is a core idea that acts like a common thread that can be found throughout every single brand expression. Examples of core ideas in recent brand identities are those of Bolt’s lightning bolt, Cohere’s intelligent building blocks cells, Thread’s ‘threads’, to name a few. A core idea is the abstract layer that mirrors the brand’s essence and personality. This abstract layer can be a theme, a hook or a metaphor. It’s a common thread that pulls everything together. By doing that you can piggyback off existing mental constructs to help translate your brand’s essence and personality into something tangible and familiar. 

But this core idea isn’t much more than a hard-to-grasp mental construct on its own. That’s why it requires a body to turn into something more tangible. Into something that sticks. This is what we’d call a brand concept. And brand concepts are bundled in,.... you guessed it; a Brand Draft.

A core idea is captured in a brand concept. Two or more brand concepts are presented within a Brand Draft

Strategy first

But let’s back up a bit. One thing to take note of is that great branding is strategic by nature. If you leave out strategy that must mean you’re basically just winging it and going off of pure gut feeling and superficial aesthetic preferences. That’s why you need a brand strategy; a master plan that helps you make decisions when it comes to brand expressions. Most digital agencies have a dedicated phase in their branding process, oftentimes succeeding the discovery phase, that focuses on strategy. In this strategy phase you do things like define the brand’s purpose, vision, mission and values, pinpoint the brand value proposition, write the brand story, specify the messaging, settle on the brand personality etc. And of course take a deep dive into a business’ audience and competition.

When everyone is aligned on those things, and only then, will you be able to start thinking about a well grounded brand identity and a visual identity.

Setting the stage; inside a Brand Draft

So, to recap, a solid branding process should always start with strategy (based on discovery and research). For us, the next step is to come up with a core idea. This core idea is subsequently conveyed in a brand concept which, in turn, is part of a Brand Draft. 

But we don’t just slap together a few brand concepts, label it a Brand Draft and call it a day. Presenting a Brand Draft requires finesse and the right mind set. Think of the Brand Draft as a talent show with a stage where we, as an agency, are the main event host that welcomes everyone at an event, introduces each artist (the concepts), makes sure there’s a round of applause after each performance and thanks everyone for coming out at the end. 

Think of the Brand Draft as a talent show with a stage
Stage design

Our Brand Draft documents look and feel Yummygum branded before, in between, and after the individual brand concepts. The brand concepts inside are allowed to take the entire ‘stage’ to stay with that analogy.

Before — recapping

In a Brand Draft, sharing the concepts is always prefaced by looking back at the strategy phase and what’s been agreed upon. This makes sure all stakeholders from the client team will be looking at the brand concepts, and judging them as possible handlebars to make the brand strategy come true.

In between — intermission 

As our Brand Drafts contain at least two concepts that might look and feel different, it’s important to make a clear distinction between each concept. Every concept should have a clear beginning and ending. And in between each brand concept there should be at least one that is clearly different from what’s shown within the actual concept.

After — another round of applause

Staying in the ‘stage’ theme, it’s key to bring out the concepts once more, and compare them side by side again. What we usually do is create one single slide that shows the concepts side by side, presented in a bento-like grid.

The main ingredients of each brand concept

Now that you have a picture of how a Brand Draft is structured, it’s time to dig a little deeper into how the brand concepts within a Brand Draft are organized. We always make sure each brand concept contains a couple of default pages to make sure each brand concept shows its true potential.

Core idea framing

Each concept contains at least one page dedicated to explaining how the core idea fits in with, and aids the brand strategy. It also shows imagery of the concept metaphor for the sake of introduction and framing to help set the tone. That’s essential as each application and graphical decision in the following pages will be infused with this core idea, in some occasions more obvious than others. For example; if the core idea is, say, ‘fluid/water’, you might find subtle hints to this core idea that would be harder to grasp at first sight. And making sure a concept ‘clicks’ is an important aspect of ‘selling’ its potential to clients. The core idea might return in the form of wave-like photo transitions, or in a seamlessly repeating drops pattern. Or there might be some hints in branded copywriting. Whatever the case, framing is key. A great core idea allows for a versatility in graphical and messaging applications.

Two core ideas within the same Brand Draft

Yes you read that right. Per concept we create a rough digital draft of a logo we think fits in best with this concept. That doesn’t mean this logo will necessarily be the final logo. It means that the logo is likely to reflect the core idea or hints at it, while fitting in with form decisions based on personality (think: ‘bold’ or ‘friendly’). By doing so we ensure the final brand identity is going to be as strong and cohesive as possible. 

We purposely steer away from working on logos in a vacuum. This is to avoid endless iterations and discussions as to what for example a logo mark should depict. It also aids with the perception of the logo being the cherry on top of a brand identity rather than an individual graphic; a piece of the puzzle that lives in a vacuum. Besides the ‘winning’ logo we sometimes add a page with runner-up logos that would also fit in with the concept. The reason is to spark the imagination of what else would be possible without diverting too far from the concept. 

Typography & color

We present these foundational building blocks of each concept on multiple pages. For instance, not only do we show a typeface specimen to zoom in on the characteristics of a typeface, we also share what the relative sizes would result to. It’s even more valuable to showcase typefaces mixed with other elements like color and imagery/patterns to tie it together. 

Imagery and patterns

Imagery can refer to photography, illustration work, artwork, iconography or a combination of those things. Adding imagery to the concept helps pull everything together and to show the versatility of the concept.

(Digital) collateral

Being able to not get stuck at the abstract conceptualization phase of branding and ideating how a concept would (or could?) actually be applied to relevant collateral is one of our strong suits. We try to spark the imagination of what’s possible. This is an important part of a concept as it helps our clients envision this proposed concept as a real brand identity that is able to compete with other top brands out there. And let’s be honest, a brand color palette is nice to look at but doesn’t tell anything about the extent in which colors will be used. 

Realign and recap

Equally important as showing the concepts is realigning and recapping. Although for some clients the ideation phase might be the most exciting part of the branding process — as this is the first time in the branding process they actually get to ‘see’ something, visually —it’s ever so important to keep insisting on the ever-present relation between strategy and brand identity. And of course how the ideation phase contains the first steps towards that brand identity. 

Narration and guidance

Remember I talked about ‘setting the stage’ earlier? Not only did I use that analogy to hint at a certain structure within a Brand Draft. As we’d be the hosts in this analogy, this also means we would be the ones talking into the mic, right? We never, I repeat never, share Brand Drafts with our clients without the proper narration and guidance. 

That’s because we’re still in the very early stages of ideation and concepting and without the right introduction these very concentrated and abstract expressions per brand concept might be taken too literally. 

Although we present each concept in its strongest and most optimal form, concepts are very concentrated and expressive. Probably more concentrated and expressive than what the brand identity will eventually turn out. Kind of like how some fashion brands showcase conceptual clothing on cat walks that won’t ever find their way to the racks in a store to be sold as wearable items. They do inspire the actual wearables however. 

Concepts are concentrated and expressive. The final output deliverables are more toned down and production-ready.

How are concepts in a Brand Draft different from a brand identity?

Some agencies or designers call their ‘concepts’ actual brand identities. They create multiple possible rough versions of brand identities. We believe there can only be one single final brand identity that truly embodies a brand’s vision, values and personality, and is worn with pride by the brand’s leadership team. And therefore we think it should be called a brand identity only once that brand identity is final. That is why we consider them concepts that belong inside of a Brand Draft. Our concepts paint a picture of the possible future brand identity. They’re the starting point for what is going to be the building blocks of the brand identity, which will eventually be captured and locked in in the Brand Identity Guidelines.

Committing to a brand identity

Committing to a brand identity takes visionary leadership and the right amount of guts. As we preface the ideation phase with the discovery phase and the strategy phase we purposely diminish the chances of brand concepts in a Brand Draft not making the final cut due to (mere) personal preferences. Needless to say that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any room for stakeholders to give input. In fact, the most important stakeholders should actively be involved in the process.

All in all, Brand Drafts help spark the imagination of what’s possible, beyond one mere concept for a brand identity. If you’re looking to work together on a branding project, to go for a brand identity backed by strategy, and if you’re wondering how our Brand Drafts can help with that, send us a message.

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