Why Branding Is More Than a Logo and Color Palette

Brands are a lot like people, each having a purpose, personality, and voice all its own

Jo Layne Skillman
Modus
Published in
6 min readDec 20, 2019

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Illustration: Jorge Juan Perez/EyeEm/Getty Images

Branding is a thing designers have to explain a lot.

“That’s not your brand.”

“Let’s make this more on brand.”

“Let’s look one more time at our brand guidelines and see if we can find Giddyup anywhere near the section on brand fonts.”

But recently, I had to explain brands to a bunch of people who already knew what they were in a class at Rice University, which meant I finally had to sit down and define exactly how I think about brands — what they are, how they work, what they need to do.

Brands live within culture, and so they are a reaction to us and our world and the things that are happening in it. That’s huge. A brand is so much more than a logo and a color palette and not-terrible typefaces. We should be building brands people are excited by and curious about, brands they’ll rally around. We should be building brands that actually make a difference. Why? Because that’s what humanity needs. Because every little bit helps, whether it comes from an individual or a brand. And because if you don’t, someone else will.

The reality is that people’s expectations for brands are very high. Having a good product is not enough. Having a website is not enough. Doing good is not enough. If you’re not wrapping all those things and then some into a cohesive brand that people find delightful, or relatable, or memorable, or human — something — whatever your niche is, you’re going to lose out to a brand that did.

Brands live within culture, and so they are a reaction to us and our world and the things that are happening in it.

What is a brand?

I could easily write a dictionary-style definition, but the reality is that a brand encompasses too many things to list, everything from typefaces to choice of social channels to, quite possibly, employee sock color. So instead we’re just going to think of our brand as a multifaceted, soulful entity with passions, preferences, and an aesthetic all its own.

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Jo Layne Skillman
Modus
Writer for

Creative & brand director. Piemaker, occasional speaker, restorer of found objects. joskillman.com