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The art of user centred brand design

Branding or rebranding a business is an exciting but also tricky undertaking. When resources are scarce, DIY branding can seem like a good option, especially with all the tools available out there. But it comes with various risks, such as looking unprofessional - undermining your credibility - or not reflecting the personality of your brand - undermining your ability to engage with your audiences.

This is where following proven methods and processes can help. Here is ours.

Brand design process

Strategy & Research

Write down your mission statement, your measurable impact and how you are going to make it happen.

Conduct qualitative user research and crystallise your findings through user personas including insight such as motivations, goals, and pain points.

Articulate your customer value proposition for each persona.

Brand personality & values

Get together with your team to define your brand personality attributes. At the C Collective, we use the brand archetype framework. Brand archetypes were originally designed by the Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung to help us understand human personalities at a higher level.

Each archetypes has a specific set of characteristics which can be used to define your brand personality.

After looking at the 12 archetypes, you should be able to select one or two which, combined, reflect the personality you envision for your brand.

There are quite a few examples which can be used, the below is from Iconicfox.


Once you have selected one or two brand archetypes, write down your brand values.

Find a name

Get a few team members, friends and creative brains in the room and create a mind map, then brainstorm to come up with as many names as possible.

Shortlist a few names that match your brand personality and team preferences. Select them through user testing and voting.

Translate all the above into visual assets and brand guidelines

Get the help of a brand designer to guide you through a choice of colours, typography and imagery which will bring to life your brand personality.

If you're not fully decided on the name at this stage, get the designer to create different creative routes for each of the shortlisted names.

Using established brand design theories (see below), the designer should be able to create mood boards and then three to five creative routes including name, low fidelity logo, colour palette, typography, and imagery.

You will then have to select the best creative routes by making sure they reflect your brand personality - rather than your own preferences.

When the winning creative route has been chosen, the designer should produce the following elements:

1. High-resolution logo set for use in print, digital and social

2. A colour palette including primary and secondary colours

3. Typography guidelines with a choice of two or three fonts and a suggestion for hierarchy of use

4. A selection of images with guidelines on further imagery style and sourcing

5. A brand guidelines document summarising all the above.

In line with all the above, tone of voice guidelines should also be produced.

View our very own C Collective brand book as an example of brand guidelines document.

Download PDF • 814KB

The theory behind a brand’s visual identity; from colour to imagery

Colour theory

When used correctly, colour has the power to create emotions, inspire and convert users.

“Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.” Source: Colorcom- Institute for Color Research

Choosing a colour palette for your brand is not about your personal preference, it’s about which colours will inspire the right emotional connection with the right audiences. Thankfully, there is a science to selecting the right ones.

Colour wheels

The diagram above shows a colour wheel with hues, tints, tones, and shades.

Brighter hues and tints convey youthful, vibrant, strong, whimsical associations, while darker tones and shades imply luxury, wisdom, exclusivity, and trustworthiness.

The shades can be combined in various palettes using different harmonies.

Connecting your brand values to colours

The first step is to associate the words used to describe your brand values to colours, like in the above figure. Start with a single colour which conveys your most important brand personality trait. For instance, if your brand has to do with healthy food, green would be a good primary colour choice. One or two secondary/complimentary colours can be added to contrast or complement one another.

Once a primary colour is selected, it’s important to then refer back to your brand personality as this will help to identify which seasonal palette to select your colours from. For instance, your primary colour may be green, but if you wish to convey feelings of confidence and luxury, a winter colour palette would be advantageous - forest or hunter green, for example, would best represent your brand. Likewise if the business was focused on being organic or natural the colour palette should be drawn from the warmth of Autumn - a sage green would work really well. Youthful, forward thinking and approachable personalities are best represented by the bright, light tints of Spring, the best green for these brands would be lime or pistachio or if the brand needed to emulate beauty, aspiration or intuition the Summer palette should be used with cool but delicate tints like teal or aquamarine.

This theory can be applied to any colour throughout each season and can be contrasted with colours within the same season or across the seasons should the personality sit between two seasons.


Typography and the use of fonts as word marks should also be carefully considered when developing a visual language. Light, wide space sans serif fonts are associated with modern, high end, trendy brands. Chunky, serif fonts are associated with exclusive, trustworthy, and established brands.

Once a brand personality is defined, the voice that comes from typography should be selected carefully to establish an immediate connection with the target audience through touchpoints such as your logo, content, or website. The below table shows how different fonts communicate a variety of brand personalities.

When choosing a font for a logo, it is worth looking at the alphabet in its entirety to ensure it is compatible for multiple uses, ie. sub-branding or categorising, advertising, and signage etc. When selecting a font for use across brand collaterals, separate print and digital fonts should be chosen.

A Google font should always be used when choosing a digital typeface, this is to avoid font corruption through differing browser programmes, not to mention compatibility with Google will also ensure better Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Imagery, icons & graphics

Identifying a graphic, icon and image style is paramount in conveying the right brand image. If the business is tech based for example, it would make little sense to use sketchy, hand drawn graphics and icons, however these would work really well for artisan businesses or events companies.

Quirky businesses wanting to stand out might use a style that echoes their individualism and character.

Photographic imagery doesn’t always have to be professionally taken and stock images are a cost effective and plentiful resource, however, be cautious when selecting images for your brand. Conceptual business imagery can really cheapen a brand, like using a light bulb for ideas or innovation, for example.

It is crucial to think more about the user experience- think less about what you are trying to tell your audience and more about you want them to feel. Is your brand aspirational or hedonistic? Then find imagery that matches these values. If in doubt, always return to your brand personality as this will help guide and remind you who you are speaking to and what you are trying to achieve.

Imagery can also be used to reinforce brand colours and an image selection can be made to continue this theme. This works especially well for marketing.

Establishing a tone of voice

Your tone of voice brings your brand to life into words and visuals, even when other more tangible assets such as name, logo, colours are absent.

Defining a tone of voice through the type of words, visuals and storytelling style ensures consistency with your brand personality or values across channels and content types.

Like any other type of brand guideline, it also allows different content producers – from freelance copywriters to employees delivering sales pitches - to create coherent content.


Last but not least, at each stage of the creative process, incorporate some testing with REAL users who haven't been exposed to your brand.

Test different combination of creative assets. For instance, test names with value proposition or tagline, test logos and creative routes before you develop them.

This will save hours of debate within the management team and make you decide with objective and realistic insight before you spend a lot of resources on producing all the brand assets.

Cost and duration of a brand design or refresh process

Once the foundations of mission statetement, target audience and value proposition are established, our process can allow to turn around guidelines for a new/refreshed brand in a two or three weeks at a cost of £3000 to £6000 depending on desired outputs.


Bringing a brand to life is a critical and complex process. The golden rule is to keep a detached judgement all through the brand development stages by alternatively wearing your manager hat and your core users’ shoes. Like in many situations, following a plan and a process is the best way to stay away from subjectivity and endless discussions.

And remember;

“A great brand is a story that’s never completely told”. Scott Bedbury, CEO @ Brandstream

No matter how hard you want to craft and control every facet of your brand, it will not live into a vacuum, it will have a life of its own in the hearts and minds of your users, in a constantly evolving environment.

Which means you can never quite finish writing your brand story!

It’s a test and learn process fueled by an open conversation with your audience.

Get in touch with our team if you want to refresh or create a purpose-led brand.

Join our next webinar on How to create a powerful impact brand (08/06/21)

Authors: Fiona Hamilton, Brand Consultant and Marie Geneste, Founder @ The C Collective

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