The Difference Between Logos, Identities, and Branding

What's the difference between logo, identity and branding

When we talk about logo design, sometimes the words “logo”, “Identity”, and “brand” or “branding” are all used interchangeably. They all do deal with the same basic topic but there are differences between these three things.

What is a Logo?

A logo is a mark that identifies a brand at first glance.

We all know Nike at a glance. Or Apple. Or Starbucks. We even know what this mark represents without words associated with it.

Sometimes it’s a symbol, sometimes it’s words (LogoType), sometimes it’s a symbol with words.

What is an Identity?

Understanding the difference between logo, identity and branding

Identity usually refers to all the ways the logo is used to represent the company, plus considerations for using fonts, colors, and so forth in representing a brand.

Sometimes this is called a “branding guide” or “branding usage guide”.  This sets the standards for how the logo and other brand-specific items should be used.

Usually when a good logo designer (and not just some logo factory website selling $20 “logos”) is creating a logo for a company or organization, they also take into a account how it will be used, and develop a guide for the company or organization for how to best use the logo. Sometimes this also involves simplified versions of the logo for different applications. For example, creating a simplified version of the logo to serve as the icon in the address bar of the website (the favicon).

A great example of logo and identity that work really well are the “Speak Life” memes that Toby Mac shares. They all are unique, but yet you know in an instant that these came from Mac.

What is Branding?

Branding is in reference to how other people think about and feel about your company or organization.  Sometimes you’ll hear business people talk about what is “hurting a brand” or “building a brand”. If you are doing something that makes the public think negatively of you, that is going to hurt your brand.

For example, I once had someone who hired me to create a brochure and a website for an ebook editing and publishing service they had started for fan fiction. The problem was that they wanted me to create this using the logo they had created — an animated logo of books burning in a large pile. Now, the animation of the fire was pretty cool, but the association was anything but. Burning books is symbolic in our culture of censorship, not promoting the creation of fan fiction. I tried to explain this to my client but they just wouldn’t hear it. They loved their logo and refused to change. They also didn’t do well when they tried to solicit business at a fan convention of some sort. In fact, many people who were there thought, at first glance, that they were some kind of religious sect promoting censorship based on the logo.

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