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Developing Corporate Identity Materials

jp logo constructionCorporate identity materials are critical to establishing a clear brand for any organization. In this article we will explore one process for developing a complete brand from scratch and the resulting corporate identity materials. The “brand” concept revolves around a simple theory – humans create categories because we have too much to try to remember. 
The brand is our attempt to simplify the core qualities of an organization and present it to people so they remember a company much more efficiently. For this article we will use a theoretical small consulting business that wants to develop corporate identity materials. They don’t have their own logos yet, so we will start from scratch. Our theoretical client is Justyn Paul Management – a small business technology consulting firm.

We will look at a process that involves the following steps:

  1. Interview the client
  2. Develop the logo
  3. Develop brand definitions
    1. Fonts
    2. Colors
  4. Develop collateral
    1. Letterhead
    2. Business cards

Interview the client

You cannot effectively develop a brand in a vacuum. You have to get out, sit down with your clients and listen. From a design standpoint, we want to understand how our client wants their brand to be perceived. Listen for what excites them about what they do and try to get a sense of how they want others to see and recall their brand.

Bring some sample logos and corporate identity materials with you to the interview. You will want a broad range of styles to show them so you can filter out what they definitely do not want and start to get an idea of where they want to go.

In our interview with our theoretical client, Justyn Paul Management, we hear them talk about simplifying business processes using technology. They want to be perceived as fast and sophisticated. One word emerges: minimalist.

Develop the logo

The logo is the centerpiece of the brand – the embodiment of what the brand means distilled into a single symbol or visual graphic. There are countless ways to go about developing a logo:

  • You can use a logo cookbook filled with hundreds of logos of various types
  • Purchase a stock logo from a website and tweak it
  • Develop something from scratch using software such as Adobe Illustrator

With our client, Justyn Paul Management, we will start from scratch. We came up with a simple, minimalist logo using “J” and “P” and two simple shapes – a circle and a line. You can see our construction:

Keeping the lines and white space balanced, using simple shapes, and integrating the “J” and “P” all help capture a simple image that exudes that minimalist look our client wants. The final version:

With approval from our client, we can move on to the next stage where we begin to define the brand as a whole.

Develop Brand Definitions

A brand is often a lot more than a logo. It’s colors, fonts, patterns, and even complete design systems. For our example, we will focus on colors and fonts since our client is just trying to get a basic brand established. You can start with whatever excites you, whether that’s the typography or the colors. We will start with colors.

Resources abound for color selection. You can go to Adobe Kuler for palettes or build your own using a color system on a site like Color Scheme Designer. However you come up with a color palette, the end result should be clearly defined color swatches. You want RGB and CMYK definitions. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even match the Pantone color if you have the physical swatches and a tuned monitor or printer.

For our Justyn Paul Management client we came up with a two color system so their design can be easily printed in many different mediums with minimal cost, although printing in full-color only really has a major cost impact when printing large documents are multipage documents like catalogs. So don’t worry too much about color systems unless your client has expressed specific concerns about the cost of duplicating a full-color brand. Here are our color system definitions:

Moving along, we select our font faces. Several schools of thought exist regarding font selection. A tried and true method is to define a set of sans serif based fonts for titles and heading and a serif font for body text. You can define as many as you want or just one for the brand. The key is to stick with your choices across mediums, though, so versatility is the key. Here’s an example we used for our hypothetical client:

Of course, you can define the fonts for the brand in much more detail. Our example only defines one title (Trebuchet MS at 24pt, bold), but you can create sub-headings. And some brand definitions go so far as to define the spacing between the header and the body text. So here’s our logo and text treatment together with our color choices:

Develop Collateral

Now that we have a working logo, colors, and font we can really jump into the core of our goal: developing corporate identity materials. These range from flyers to posters to business cards and letterhead. Most businesses immediately get business cards and letterhead printed, so we will focus on using our brand definitions to create these two pieces.

Business cards should focus on basic contact information. You can do a great deal with the design, but we focus on a clean, simple design to demonstrate integrating our brand definitions and logo on a business card layout:

And an alternate design with the key elements (logo, company name, person’s name, person’s title, and contact information) rearranged:

There are dozens of “correct” layouts you could do. The placement of the various elements could be completely different. You should send your client several versions to show them how it all ties together and see if they come up with any recommendations or ideas.

Letterhead can be full-color, but keep in mind that your client will likely be printing with black text and will need a high contrasting background. So you will likely need to keep the bulk of the design blank and focus your attention on the header and footer areas. In our example, we stick with our colors, but keep the background white:

In conclusion

The designs we came up with for our sample client are just one of millions of directions we could have gone, so don’t focus too much on the final product. The process of carefully interviewing and documenting your brand is the key. As you build out the various corporate identity materials, your brand definitions will ensure your designs are consistent and your brand translates to the various mediums you design for.

For more resources:

Author’s bio

Tara Hornor has a degree in English and writes about marketing, advertising, branding, graphic design, and desktop publishing. She works for, an online printing company that offers postcards, posters, brochure printing, postcard printing, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

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