Branding and Design

Fiona Sichi  

Interior and Environmental Design



A brand can be defined as a symbol of values and identity for a company, product or services that allow consumers to differentiate between similarities in the market. Branding can come in the form of logos, advertising and slogans, each designed specifically for the purpose of characterising the uniqueness of a company’s goods. “The brand needs to convey a clear and more appealing brand personality than any other brand in its sector.” (Lightfoot, 1998, p.46). A company’s brand is the image that consumers recognize and remember so the importance of a brand is essential in the success of a company.  

The values of successful brands reach the emotions of consumers, embracing the connections and relationships that they may have towards a certain brand and ensuring their trust in that product. “By emotional I mean how a brand engages consumers on the level of the senses and emotions; how a brand comes to life for the people and forges a deeper, lasting connection.” (Gobe, 2001, p.xiv) This “connection” certifies a level of loyalty that lies with the customer’s perception of the brand’s identity, it can lead to success however a violation of this trust could leave a company’s name in pieces.

“If the brand image becomes tarnished through a media scandal or controversial incident or even a rumour spread via the internet, then the company as a whole can find itself in deep trouble.” (Haig, 2003, p.3)

“Companies live or die on the strength of their brand” (Haig, 2003, p.4)  



Taking the term “brand” right back to its Germanic roots we find it refers to the expression “to burn” (Healy, 2008, p.6). This relates to the task of literally burning a brand into the cattle that you owned in order to promote ownership of your livestock. This earlier branding concept focused primarily on the possession of goods however as time passed the development of branding as an advertisement method progressed.

In the times of the Greeks and Romans shopkeepers had to indicate to their customers what, who and where they sold their goods in order for the public to distinguish between the different merchants. In these early times the beginnings of ‘logos’ were appearing, designed to hang in shop windows to indicate the purpose of that shop. “In classical times most potential purchasers of most products were illiterate…” (Room, 1998, p.14) The ‘logos’ of such took the form of basic pictures, these images were very literal and helped the customer identify visually exactly what, who and where to find their desired goods. “…a butcher’s shop would display a sign depicting a row of hams, a shoemaker a boot…” (Room, 1998, p.13)   

As the modern revolution of branding progressed the development of mass production was intensifying and many companies feared for the public reaction to brands that conformed to this process. The 1880’s marked the stage in advertising and marketing when many companies developed brand identities that would ease the consumer into the idea of mass produced products. “Brand identities were designed not only to help these products stand out, but also to reassure a public anxious about the whole concept of factory-produced goods.”(Haig, 2003, p.3) Consumers were used to their advertising and branding being on a personal level with their local grocer; their beliefs in the values of the product they regularly bought were placed in the image of their “friendly shopkeeper”. A concept to shift this trust to the mass produced brands was to bring in a “human element”.

“By adding a ‘human’ element to the product, branding put the 19th century shopper’s minds at rest. They may have once placed their trust in their friendly shopkeeper, but now they could have placed it in the brands themselves, and the smiling faces of Uncle Bens or Aunt Jemima which beamed down from the shop shelves.” (Haig, 2003, p.3)   

These brands formed their own personality that mirrored the values of the product and allowed the consumer to forge a relationship with the brand through the characterisations that represented the company.

As branding develops further through history its connotations immerge broader; now places, people and experiences can become brand themselves opening up opportunities for corporations to embrace this breed of advertising.  


Fig 1: Aunt Jemima the face of the brand that brings the “human element” to the relationship between consumer and brand. 


Branding and Design

“I believe that design is the most potent expression of a brand and that ultimately bringing powerful ideas to life through design is the best way to create a lasting link between a manufacturer or retailer and the consumer.” (Gobe, 2001, p.107)

This statement characterises design’s relationship with branding, many other people agree with Gobe’s theory; Matthew Healey (2008) “Design is the single most important tool in branding”. The strength of these claims argue that without the help from designers, companies would fail (or be less successful) in the marketing of their brands.

When designing brands the apparent qualities that are pin-pointed are the form and aesthetics of the logo, but there is more to it than that when designing the visual aspect of the brand. Package design is important to developing a brand as well as sensory and emotional design. These aspects are all very essential to design but without the cooperation of a company the application of these objectives becomes obsolete.

“We are now on the verge of a renewed partnership between corporations and designers. Corporations need innovative designs along with a strong understanding of trends in the marketplace to compete and reach a blasé consumer…These are the companies that will succeed in the twenty-first century.” (Gobe, 2001, p.114)

Proof of this effective role that design has on the image and values of a brand can be seen in the well known brand Gillette – “The best a man can get”. – This slogan for the company depicts the message that the brand wishes to portray; quite literally that you cannot get any better product than this in the “world of shaving”. The best way to depict these values was through the package design of the product, the image of the product that consumers would see on the shelves. “Visuals communicate better than words.” (Gobe, 2001, p.113). The packaging would have to sell the brand to its best qualities and try to capture the consumer’s desires through the design of the brand because the only concrete way a consumer would benefit the full use and understanding of the product would be to effectively shave. “After all, the blades can only speak for themselves when you shave!” (Gobe, 2001, p.113). 

They proposed innovative designs for the innovative product that reinforced the best technology of the blade but in the form of visual design rather than an informative description of how the product meets the needs of the consumer. How the handle of the razor was designed determined the message it gave to the consumer. The design represented the “freshness and technology in line with the core image of the Gillette brand.” (Gobe, 2001, p.114). After this marketing scheme Gillette “considers design to be the lifeblood of its business.”


 Fig 2: Gillette Sensor showed the importance design has on branding. 


Gobe, M. (2001). Emotional Branding. New York: Allworth Press.

Haig, M. (2003). Brand Failures. London: Kogan Page.

Hart, S. and Murphy, J. (eds.) (1998) Brands. The New Wealth Creators. London: Macmillan Press LTD.

Healey, M. (2008). What is Branding? Switzerland: RotoVision.

Julier, G. (2008). The Culture of Design. London: Sage.

Lury. C. (1996). Consumer Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press

Fig 1: The New York Times. 2007. Aunt Jemima Image. (Online) [Accessed 6 October 2006]. Avaliable at:

 Fig 2: Gobe, M (2001). Emotional Branding.(p.113) New York: Allworth Press



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