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The Branding Process: Step 2 – Identity & Modernization

March 8, 2022

Designing a human-centered brand

In the previous posts in the series we outlined the process we use at Carimus to design brands for companies of all types and sizes and the first step in the process: definition & strategy – if you haven’t read them, check it out:

The Branding Process: Intro – Winning Hearts and Minds

The Branding Process: Step 1 – Definition & Strategy

Identity & Modernization

Now that you’ve been through step 1 (definition & strategy) and have a strong grasp of what makes your company unique, who you need to connect with, your competition, and your values and voice defined, you’re ready to start putting meat on the bones of an authentic brand. 

The process of defining the visual language, messaging, and positioning for your brand identity will create clearer and clearer focus as you move through it – starting with a wide array of possibilities, and slowly distilling and iterating to reach your brand’s final form.  We call this process “Discovery through Design”.

Discovery through designTM

Discovery through designTM is a method we use to achieve  progressively clearer focus of the end-state, through cycles of highly visual designs and collaborative feedback.  

When pulling together stakeholders with various capabilities to make the imagination leap it requires to envision a brand fully realized, it’s necessary to help close those imagination gaps for them.

Imagine for a moment, you’re starting a brand new company that makes cutting edge computer hardware and software.  You hire a snazzy brand design agency, they lead you through a series of discovery exercises, go back to their workshop to work their magic and come prepared to make a big pitch. 

The pitch: “We want to name your company after a fruit: ‘Apple’.”   

Of course this is not the origin story of the iconic Apple brand, but an agency pitching this idea would be laughed out of the room unless they were able to paint the picture of why this innovative idea is a good one – which requires envisioning the future state of the brand and enticing stakeholders to envision with them.  Apple’s brand is one of the strongest in the world because of the genius with which it has been consistently executed over the years… but at some point in the past, it was a leap of faith.

An iterative, collaborative process, must be visual and sensory.  A visual process closes the gaps of imagination by providing concrete examples of brand execution to avoid misinterpretation and to clearly communicate the end goal of the brand identity.

Mood Boards

Mood boards are an excellent device to quickly explore multiple different design and visual styles and the emotions they evoke when brought together.  Informed by the discovery workshop, pull together 3-5 mood boards that explore multiple different moods.  These may include colors, typefaces, visual graphical styles, illustrations, etc. that tie together to evoke certain emotions and feelings.

When presenting mood boards, gather visceral emotional feedback from the team quickly.  Avoid the tendency to overthink and overanalyze.  In addition to initial visceral emotional feelings, you’ll likely receive comments about individual components of the mood board as well, this is helpful information to incorporate into future design concepts.

If none of the mood boards are hitting the mark for the group, iterate, or try something new until the group has general consensus on 1 or 2 directions.

Brand Workups

Brand workups paint the picture of the new brand in multiple relevant forms.  A brand workup could include:

  • Full logo mark
  • Icon/Wordmark
  • Color Palette
  • Graphical Composition
  • Website Homepage
  • Positioning/Messaging headlines
  • Brand “in-the-wild” – Truck wrap graphics, moleskine notebooks, app icons, etc.

By thoroughly showcasing how a brand will be deployed throughout the brand workup, you’re closing those mental gaps of how a logo mark may connect to presentation materials, advertising campaigns, or anywhere else the brand may show up in the future.  This allows good ideas that may seem like a stretch, to really start to have life.

Brand workups explore 2-3 different visual approaches.  This allows the group to make clear directional choices, gaining further clarity for implementation of the final brand.


Feedback from the group is essential and is incorporated into future iterations of the brand.  There are times as the visionary that certain design decisions can be defended, or elaborated upon with the goal to gain consensus.  Through iteration, collaboration and a multitude of visual presentations, you’ll gain clarity on the final brand direction for your brand identity and modernization project.


Developing or modernizing your brand through a refined process will move you and your team towards an excellent human-centered brand.  A visual, iterative process lets all stakeholders participate, provide valuable feedback and achieve alignment for the final brand direction.

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