• Home
  • Learn
  • Branding
  • Creating a brand identity that resonates with your audience — and grows your business

Creating a brand identity that resonates with your audience — and grows your business

How to build your brand identity

What is brand identity?

A company’s brand identity is the combination of visual and content choices that represent your company’s personality. It’s the face of your brand.

Your brand identity is composed of the visual brand elements you’ve chosen, like your color palette, but it also includes your brand’s voice and tone. If created successfully, your brand identity will represent and allude to your brand values and mission.

Creating a strong brand identity will help you develop a brand image that’s recognizable to your target audience, even if they only see one small element of it.

Here’s some of what brand identity includes:

  • Brand visuals, like colors, logo, fonts, layouts, and design elements like photography and illustrations
  • Brand voice and tone, including a slogan or tagline, social, email, and in-product content messaging, ad copy, and website copy

Key takeaways

  • Brand identity includes visual design elements plus a brand’s voice and tone. When done correctly, it can represent a brand’s ethos, mission, and vision.
  • Your brand identity should resonate with your target market, so market research is crucial.
  • Creating a brand identity builds awareness of your product or service and helps you rise above the competition.
  • A brand identity can shift and change over time — but be mindful about maintaining a positive customer perception even through rebrands

Brand vs. brand identity vs. brand image vs. brand

Brand encompasses everything that defines your company: your color palette, logo, fonts, imagery, voice and tone, mission, vision, goals, personality, products, pricing, social media use.

Brand identity is a little more specific. It’s the face of your brand: the visual, content, and tone choices you make to represent your values, story, and product.

A diagram that shows the many different elements that go into a brand, and highlights the elements that make up a brand identity, which are logo, tagline, colors, imagery, typography, and messaging.

Brand image focuses on the visual side of a brand, including colors, fonts, and logos, but also brand photography and videography, and the look and feel of all types of communications.

And branding is the verb that describes the process of creating a brand and implementing a brand strategy to run campaigns, increase awareness, and grow the business.

Examples of companies with a strong brand identity

A strong brand identity helps you stand out from competitors, build your brand on social media, attract your target audience, and ultimately grow your business. Here are some companies with memorable, recognizable, and delightful brand identities:

Slack

The go-to messaging app for B2B brands, startups, and modern companies has developed a brand that shows the app and company as a whole is friendly and engaging. They stand out from the stuffier, more corporate competition using casual, friendly messaging, a calming interface, emojis galore, and that knock-brush notification sound that’s now seared into millions of brains.

They’ve even created a public-facing Slack media kit and branding guidelines that shows the world how to properly use their brand.

A beige background, with the words “Hello. We’re happy you’re here” in bold, simple font. On top of the words, there is a waving hand emoji.

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna’s beauty line is known for its high-quality formulations, unique, shiny, and glamorous packaging, an extremely inclusive shade range, bold, fun colors that encourage experimentation, and mid-range prices that make her products feel like a treat — but one that’s within reach.

A ruby-red makeup highlighter in a gemstone-inspired clamshell case.
A quote by Fenty founder, CEO, and owner Rihanna, saying “Makeup is there for you to play with. It’s there for you to have fun with. It should never feel like pressure, and it should never feel like a uniform.” The quote is printed over a scrawled font showing the word “Fenty”

Apple

Apple has never shied away from bold brand experimentation. From the clear and colorful plastic desktop computers of the 90s to the iconic music-and-headphones commercials of the 2000s, to the extremely minimalist, sleek look of the 2010s, to the combination of sleek neutrals with bold splashes of color that define the brand today — their evolution has been captivating to watch. But what’s stayed consistent the entire time is their bitten Apple logo, which has come to signify quality, trustworthiness, and cutting-edge, user-friendly products.

An Apple ad showing two hands holding the two new iPhone 14s, one facing the camera and one facing away so we see both sides. The text reads “iPhone 14, big and bigger.”

Some more successful, engaging brand identities to explore:

HubSpot: The original inbound marketing thought leaders whose cheerful brand has always made users feel like they can learn anything.

Google: The search engine is as ubiquitous and recognizable as their primary color scheme.

Squarespace: Through smart advertising and strong brand storytelling, they’ve become the approachable website builder.

Lululemon: Upscale wellness wear that represents not just a brand, but a community.

Coca Cola: As crisp, refreshing, and timeless as their drinks.

A note on brand accessibility

When developing a new brand identity or doing a brand refresh, always consider web accessibility guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the international standard for ensuring that text, images, sounds, website code, and web visuals are accessible to everyone. The WCAG guidelines include info on required contrast between text and background colors, mobile accessibility, and ways to make sure that web content is accessible to those using screen readers or other adaptive technology.

For more on developing a strong brand identity, take the Canva Design School course on branding design.

How to build a brand identity

Building an effective brand identity that really connects with your audience requires a deep understanding of who they are, what they want, and what piques their interest.

The video below includes an expert explanation of how companies can create and scale brands – and ensure their brand guidelines are always adhered to, by using brand management tools.

To learn more about teaming up and collaborating in Canva, check out our full video series on collaborative brand building.

Here’s how to create a brand identity that helps your business scale and reach more engaged audiences.

1. Analyze your audience in depth and learn about their challenges.

Brand identity design starts with a thorough audience analysis, and requires a brand identity specialist. Asking a designer to make you a logo when you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach is like promoting an ad to an audience of “everyone on the internet”. You’ll be lucky if it sticks with someone, and waste tons of time and resources along the way.

Look at the demographic profile, pain points, and challenges of your top performing customers and most engaged audience members. Talk to sales reps or customer support specialists to find out, in their own words, what people are struggling with and how you can help.

The more you’ve already posted online and communicated with your customers and prospects, the more data you have to analyze.

At Moneytree, the marketing team uses Canva to easily create presentations that resonate with their audience. “Our main clients are financial institutions and they’re very traditional. We need to make sure our message is going to the client in the right way. While our brand is not very traditional, we need to make sure the balance of what we present to them is correct,” shared marketing designer Hayoung Shin.

“Before Canva, designing these presentations was taking too much time and we were struggling with consistency and quality. In the past, our teams had to create a design request to change anything - even a few words of text - in a presentation. With Canva, team members can quickly make last-minute changes themselves - it’s saved everyone so much time,” - Hayoung Shin, marketing designer, Moneytree

2. Develop the key elements of your brand that speak to your audience.

Most great brands start with a (possibly messy) mood board, and evolve into the brands people can recognize from just the colors. Some brands, like UPS, T-Mobile, and Tiffany have even trademarked their brand colors.

Brand colors

Colors are powerful and can communicate your brand personality from the first glance. When choosing your brand colors, think about how they reflect your identity and speak to your target audience.

To choose a color palette that will help you create a memorable brand, look at the existing color schemes in your space, ask your audience, and learn what feelings certain colors evoke (while taking this data with a grain of salt).

Take a moment to learn about color theory in the video below. A solid understanding of color principles helps when choosing to put various colors together, picking out primary and secondary colors, trying to choose a mood you want to evoke, and when figuring out why something just doesn’t look right. Once you learn about color theory, you can feel more confident making design and branding decisions.

Here are the various types of brand colors you’ll need to choose:

  • Primary palette: The colors you will use the most, that will express the primary voice of your brand
  • Secondary palette: The colors you’ll use the least, for background colors or supplementary colors in data visualizations or marketing materials
  • Text colors
  • Background colors
  • Accessible color combinations

When developing assets for your website or social media feed, customize your designs by choosing from your core colors. And Canva templates are designed to be easily customizable to suit any palette in keeping with your brand. Whether it’s an Instagram Story quiz or graphics for your website, you can add your brand’s color palette in seconds.

Brand fonts

Just like many brands have extremely memorable colors, there are signature brand fonts, too — like Chobani. After their launch, fonts like this seemed to show up everywhere, from wedding invitations to startup brands to books to website headers.

Chobani’s logo and brand mark with updated branding.

Chobani’s font from their recent rebrand, which was developed by their in-house creative team.

Why did Chobani change up their typeface? The old type was a bolder sans serif font (no curly parts), and the new font embraced a “warmer and stronger” vibe. What does your brand represent? A youthful skincare brand might want to lean into a rounded, “throwback” font style, whereas a financial institution geared towards a more mature audience might choose an easy-to-read, traditional serif (with the curly parts).

When choosing the right font for your brand, consider choosing two typefaces for your brand and using them consistently. The font for headings should be the largest and most expressive, and represent your brand persona. If you want to use a script, uppercase, or title font in your marketing materials, save those exclusively for headings as these typefaces aren’t easy to read in small or dense copy.

Subtitle fonts and body fonts should also be easy to read. A good tip for subtitles is to use the same font as your heading but at a smaller size or in a different style, such as bold or italic. Or, try increasing the letter spacing and using all capital letters. In general, you’ll want to aim for “typographic variance” to keep the layout and design from appearing flat and boring.

A brand logo is one of the most challenging, but important parts of your brand. How can you convey your brand’s mission, values, and personality in a single logo or wordmark?

Conduct a competitive analysis of top brands in your industry to see which brands stand out and why, and use these logo design tips to make sure you put in the effort where it counts.

Logo design best practices include:

  • Communicating your brand personality
  • Incorporating your brand color palette
  • Creating balance
  • Embracing white space
  • Adding repetitive patterns
  • Using contrast
  • Highlighting a dominant focal point
  • Establishing hierarchy to guide your viewer through the design

Here’s Canva’s logo and wordmark that we use for our app icon.

Canva’s logo and social media profile icon, both with the word “Canva” in a curly, fun font styled with teal, deep blue, and purple.

Some brands choose to use their brand name, or an icon or symbol to represent their brand for social media accounts, app icons, or merchandise.

Use Canva’s free logo maker, or logo templates to design a logo for your brand identity, then add your designs to business cards, your website, stationery, apparel, and more.

Brand voice and tone

As you build your brand style guide, you need to spell out exactly how you want to communicate with your audience. This is the key to growth. If only a handful of folks on your marketing team know how to emulate your brand and capture your unique voice, you’ll limit your brand reach and burn out that smaller team.

Develop guidelines that include language dos and don’ts, formatting and style preferences, and adjectives that explain who your brand is and who your brand is not. Give exact examples of messaging, words to use, and projects that encapsulate your brand perfectly. Your brand style guide can be long and detailed for internal teams, but make a condensed version for external contractors or freelancers.

In order to land on the right tone for your branding, start by digging into the personality of your company.

  • What is the mission of your brand?
  • What makes it different from competitors?
  • How would you describe your brand?
  • How would a consumer summarize your brand?
  • How do you want people to experience your product or service?
  • What kind of emotions do you want your brand images to evoke?

Branded imagery and design elements

Images and design elements will also set the tone for your brand. Ensure your assets and layout are consistent by using a style guide that dictates the types of filters, colors, or any other relevant specs.

Brand elements can include:

  • Tints
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Blurring
  • How you manipulate brand images

For example, it would be off-brand for a company like McKinsey to use similar brand elements to Glossier, a modern makeup brand. Glossier can embrace pinks, sparkles, and youthful photo edits. McKinsey can prioritize executive-facing, professional image treatments that speak to a more corporate audience.

Canva houses millions of images and icons that are free to use in your designs.

Brand templates

Creating brand templates is one of the easiest ways to grow your reach online. And keep everyone aligned with your most up-to-date brand guidelines.

Maybe your optimization team has been testing CTAs and wants to implement the results of the latest analysis. Or you conducted a brand refresh with new colors or messaging. By maintaining a digital library or on-brand templates, you can make edits on the master file that are reflected for everyone using them. With Canva for Teams, you can even collaborate on files in real-time and skip lengthy approval workflows that slow down the creative marketing process.

Explore different styles of brand templates that you can customize for your own look and feel or use for inspiration as you organize your brand assets and resources.

Brand templates let anyone, with or without design experience, create on-brand designs for everything from presentations to business cards in just a few minutes.

3. Strengthen your brand image with detailed brand guidelines and templates

Sometimes, the barrier to brand growth is simply that your marketing or brand team are the only ones with the right hex codes, fonts, and brand-approved images. The only thing that setup is doing is limiting your company from reaching more folks.

Having a well-defined brand identity helps you communicate:

What you do and how you do it differently

What you believe in, or stand for

What you represent

The most successful brands incorporate their brand identity into all of their marketing, sales, and customer content, which boosts recognition and loyalty. To save time and maintain consistency, create a brand kit and branded templates for social media, website content, and branded images.

Learn how to set up and design with branded templates:

Build a Brand Kit in Canva and save your logos, colors, typefaces, and templates, then share it with the whole team. A brand style guide can include more or less, like sample messaging, approved brand images, and instructions on every brand template. Or, on the “less” side, you can include guidelines on selecting images, brand and tone recommendations, and other suggestions.

“Using Canva has been a huge help to us to get branded templates throughout the company, enabling other teams to design their own branded assets,” says Brandon Realmonte, Global Creative Manager at Zoom.

4. Build your brand strategy and goals

Now that you know more about your audience, and you have a plan in place to ensure brand compliance, your brand strategy will guide the evolution of your visual brand. Brand strategy should be tailored to each medium of communication – including social media, email marketing, website, PR and offline media, advertising, and internal communications. But all of your content will match in look, feel, and tone — working to better represent your mission, values, and personality.

A consistent brand image affects the customer’s perception of your brand, and significantly impacts purchasing decisions. In a study on millennial consumers, brand image and brand trust were found to have a “vital impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions.” Additionally, the study found that “brand experience positively influences brand image and attachment.” In short, a strong brand image builds trust and increases the likelihood that someone will follow your brand and buy from you.

A strong brand image builds trust and increases the likelihood that someone will follow your brand and buy from you.

Once you have determined what your brand image will look like, you can maintain consistency throughout your marketing by creating a brand style guide.

The brand personality your customers associate with you will reflect the style or unique voice of your brand with respect to the product or service you are selling. For example, is it masculine or feminine? Eco-conscious or tech-driven? Trendy or traditional?

To dig deeper, analyze your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a SWOT analysis. Then, work on identifying key business goals about what you want to achieve and where you want to take the brand—this should help you better understand what market you need to appeal to.

And your brand won’t stay the same forever. Once you’ve established a brand identity, you can mold and shape it over time. Spotify has continued to grow and define their branding, landing on a new “playful” persona under the marketing direction of Taj Alavi and Alex Bodman who lead their in-house creative agency.

5. Track your brand’s impact with brand management tools

A brand is only as strong as its organization and overall management. Brand management is how you measure, analyze, and influence your audience’s view of your brand identity.

A screen shows the Canva interface with a template for a company culture book.

Manage all of your brand assets together with Canva for Teams.

  • Streamline your assets across departments: When you streamline your assets with a Brand Kit, your sales and marketing teams will always use collateral that reflects your brand identity. Whether you’re a small business, a freelancer, or a growing startup, as your team or client list grows, using Brand Kits will help you manage your brand assets and stay organized.
  • Manage changing brand guidelines at scale: On Canva, your Brand Kit is accessible and adjustable as you update your brand identity. Then, when your team is designing, they’ll be able to easily select the correct colors, fonts, and logos, because they’re built right into their design platform.
  • Accelerate brand growth: The more accessible your brand management tools, the faster you can put together press kits, pitches, newsletters, merchandise, and everything else you need to grow.

Build a strong brand identity and grow your reach

Once you develop your vision and brand values, you can begin to strategically craft a brand identity, brand guidelines, and brand templates that speak to your ideal audience. Creating a memorable brand identity is a journey, so listen to your followers and be prepared to adapt.

Learn more about Brand, Branding and Brand Identity

To learn everything you need to know about brand identity, and how to ensure your brand plan resonates with your target audience, watch this info-packed webinar with Canva’s own Rebecca Flint:

Related articles

See all

Bring your ideas to life in minutes.

Express yourself with the world's easiest design program.