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Designs vs. Brands

Branding is much harder than design. So is explaining it.

A brand is a bigger story that creates recognition and feelings. A design just makes it look good.

To build a brand, you need longevity and consistency — so it gets recognized over time and feelings can grow. (Which really means you need patience to let a brand succeed.)

De La Soul has design:

De la soul

Cake has a brand:



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  1. Penina October 11, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Hi Andy,

    I always love your posts, but in this case I think you’re confusing Design with Decoration. A beautifully decorated chair may not be comfortable or weather use: a beautifully *designed* chair is not only attractive, but also thoughtfully built to last, resist the elements and provide comfort. That takes a lot more work.

    I also disagree with your examples! The second one implies that using a repeating visual device is the mark of a strong brand… and it may be. But when a company *really* sweats at brand, the elements of recognition are not necessarily visual at all.

    My current favorite example of this is the Chipotle video that’s been making the rounds. That’s not even its title. It’s called “The Scarecrow”. And the brand’s logo is nowhere until the very end of the video. Even then, it’s rather small. The story it tells is about values, which are, in some ways, expressed by the Cake albums… I suppose they are telling me what’s important to them with those images and colors. I just don’t think this comparison edifies as much as it ought to. It’s telling that “The Scarecrow” is more often referred to as “the Chipotle video”.

    Designers (the ones who are more than decorators) understand this, and build unseen intangibles into an identity program. Often, resulting style guides for this kind of program are less rigid and police-y. They leave room for passionate fans to bend things a little in the name of shared values. They are much harder to write.

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