Bridging brand strategy and identity

By RocketAir Crew
August 18, 2022

Grounded in research and insights, a strategy that articulates your brand’s unique DNA is crucial to the execution of a visual identity that audiences connect with and remember.

Here, we look at the crucial bridge between brand strategy and visual identity, how top teams do it, and what can go wrong when the bridge collapses (hint: it’s not good).

Research-led strategy, strategy-led design

A decent designer in his own right, Pablo Picasso once said: “Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan. There can be no other route to success.”

In the business of brand building, that plan comes in the form of a strategy.

At its most basic, a brand strategy is the foundation on which everything else is built. Through intensive client engagement, stakeholder interviews, competitive reviews, and customer research—among other methods—the values and principles that underpin a business are all uncovered and understood to then be synthesized into a solid strategy.

Only when the brand strategy is established can designers have “a route to success” in representing the brand’s unique DNA in a sincere and accurate way. It’s for this very reason that we practice strategy-led design as part of our Orbital Design model at RocketAir.

What good strategy does is act as guard rails, ensuring that all design work comes from a deep understanding of the brand’s essence, who it is and what it’s trying to achieve.

The catch: making sure that brand strategy remains at the forefront of the design process.

The answer is collaboration

The best creative agencies operate as one. We’ve previously explored the need for close collaboration between designers and developers, but we also believe that the partnership between strategist and designer is just as critical.

At RocketAir, designers are involved at the outset. Throughout our entire discovery process with a client, from the kickoff meeting to the exercise of determining a brand’s voice and tone, designers ride shotgun on the project, affirming findings, guiding conversations, and constantly ideating with strategists. When it comes time to embark on the design phase, the designer already has a thorough understanding of the brand, with no ground lost.

For their part, the strategist’s job doesn’t end when they hand over the brand strategy. Just as the designer is there from the start, the strategist is there until the end. It’s up to them to ensure that the right house is built on top of the foundation. 

Close collaboration between designers and strategists is facilitated by our Orbital Design approach to client partnerships, in which we build a Core Team that’s working together from beginning to end—preventing knowledge silos from forming during a project.

Design Lead Tracy Loi sums it up:

I always have strategy documentation opened when I’m designing, but I also know the strategist is only a Slack message away, always ready to make sure I’m equipped to do work that satisfies and delights the client, to make sure my designs are completely in line with the brand.

Nothing grows without roots

Creating a brand identity without a strong strategy is like flying without wings—blindfolded. Even if you manage to get off the ground, you won’t land anywhere good.

Says Loi: 

When there’s no strategy, there’s no plan, and without a plan there’s a constant jumping back and forth between design execution and brainstorming because the initial direction wasn’t clear enough.

Successful, impactful, goal-centric design is rooted in strategy. A successful plan accounts for strategic brand design that aligns not only with a company’s aesthetic ambitions but their customer/industry expectations and intended audience behavior to drive metrics. 

When that foundation isn’t there, companies run the risk of, at best, stalled timelines, wasted resources, and design debt in a creative process without a compass—at worst, a brand identity that falls flat, failing to connect with audiences or achieve business goals.

It’s true what they say: failing to plan is planning to fail.