The 7 Commandments of Brand Design


"Your brand is the single most important investment that you'll make in your business."
- Steve Forbes

When I talk about branding, I often talk about the 3 R’s: recognized, remembered and revered. The success of any brand can be measured by how well it has achieved those three simple words. But how do you get there? The design of a brand has to hit on a lot of cylinders to get to those 3 R’s. Here are seven of the key attributes of a brand’s design that are critical to success.

1st COMMANDMENT:  Make It Beautiful

Beautiful design is proven to be a quantifiable competitive advantage. Having an elegant, contemporary design is what today’s consumers expect. Great brand design is easy to look at. You need to look successful to be successful. A homely, amateurish brand design is going to make people click away from you, and you're not going to build your business that way. No one is going to volunteer to be an evangelist for an ugly brand.

2nd COMMANDMENT:  Make It Simple

The world is way too noisy and too complicated. We're inundated with a tremendous amount of visual stimulation and information every moment. Everyone's looking for simplicity in their lives. If you make it simple, you make it a less complicated and less stressful experience to interact with your brand. You also make it easier to be remembered (there’s an R again) and easier for customers to communicate what you do to others.

3rd COMMANDMENT:  Make it Strategic

Hoping it looks good is not a strategy. Your brand design has to be created with intentional focus on what your target customer avatar wants and is expecting from you. You have to display an aspirational aesthetic and speak their visual and verbal language. Great brand design is about reduction. Getting rid of all that is unnecessary and boiling down to the essence. Brand design strategy is as much what not to show as it is what to show. All design execution needs to stem directly from the brand strategy.

4th COMMANDMENT:  Communicate

All strategic brand design is communication. You need to communicate who you are, what you do, how you do it, how you do it differently and why people should care. Powerful brand design communicates through three things: semiotics, the meaning of symbols and images, through color theory and color psychology, and through verbal or written communication. By artistically weaving those three together, you tell a brand story.

5th COMMANDMENT:  Be Different

From the time we're adolescents, we all seek to fit in. Humans naturally gravitate towards the median,  to “normal”. It takes a lot of work, concentration and real courage to be different. Just like the brand’s unique selling proposition, having a brand design that visually differentiates you from your competitive environment can make breaking through the noise a hell of a lot easier. Just ask Method the home cleaning products brand. By adopting a product line in clear bottles with whimsical shapes and a rainbow of liquid colors they smashed through the sea of blue and orange dominating the laundry aisle owned by Tide and Gain. Not an easy thing to do. But they did it through design.

6th COMMANDMENT:  Be Consistent

In order to be recognized, you have to be remembered, and in order to be remembered, you have to be consistent. Everywhere your brand shows up, at every brand touch-point; online, retail, social, outdoor, packaging, media, your imagery, your color, all of your brand design elements have to be absolutely consistent. Every inconsistent touch-point erodes customer recognition. Inconsistency bleeds brand equity.

7th COMMANDMENT:  Be Memorable

If you're simple, if you're different, if you're consistent and if you communicate, you'll be memorable. And being memorable is the gold standard of brand design. If you're memorable, people will return to you, and they'll recognize you wherever they come across you. You'll create brand evangelists who will ultimately do the work of building your brand for you. And it doesn’t get better than that. Amen.


photo: Charlton Heston in Cecile B. DeMille film "The Ten Commandments"