So you have an amazing app idea. Now it’s time to build a brand around your app! In this post we’ll talk about the challenges, tools, and components of designing your app brand identity.
What Is a Brand Identity?
Designer Marty Neumeier notes that “A brand is not a logo, a promise, a product, or even an impression. A brand is a result. It is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.”
That is, a brand is a collection of experiences that make up an overall footprint. A logo is a part of that, yes, but designing brand identities is much more than creating a fancy symbol.
A Brand is More Than Visual
With a holistic definition of “brand” in mind, I encourage you to come humbly to the art studio when designing your app’s new identity. Make a nice logo of course, but realize deep within that your app’s brand is much more than its external symbology.
Consider this my way of putting a huge yellow flag in the sand. Alert, alert! Stop right there! — The following discussion will focus primarily on the visual components of brand design, but please don’t mistake such to be the entire scope of brand creation.
A first challenge to designing an app identity is skillset. If you don’t consider yourself a designer, it can be extremely overwhelming to put a fresh coat of paint on your vision.
Since you’re after an MVP, take some pressure off yourself to make things perfect. That means it’s quite alright to whip out Canva to simply get your idea in the wild. You can always hire a designer later to help your identity better match your vision.
Another challenge with designing an app identity is figuring out the personality of your brand. What tone of voice does your app have, how should users feel when using your product, what design patterns will set you apart from the competition?
For Abate, my goal was to create a simplified and elegant text-only news experience. In my sketchbook I noted that my users should feel a sense of ease and peace when using the app. I also noted that I wanted modern typography, rounded corners, and a native app feel. So, for your app, jot down what your app’s personality should convey. Then design the app identity toward that projected personality.
High five! You bravely stepped into the scary world of brand design and dreamed up your app’s brand personality. Now to actually start designing. First up: the sketch pad.
I strongly encourage you not to start your logo using design software. Mixing up mediums will help you brainstorm more quickly and allow you to obtain a broader perspective.
Avoid erasing, make lots of small iterations, and combine versions as you go. Only then should you move to design software. Here’s a great example of this progression at work from Aaron Draplin.
Vectors Are Friends, Not Food
Vector and raster graphics have different use cases. Vector graphics can give you a crispy, non-blurry logo. Whereas a raster image, like an actual photograph, can provide more details for shadows, highlights, and midtones.
Some design software is free, others are a one-time fee, and still others require a subscription. Some top players are Adobe Illustrator, Canva, Affinity Designer, Figma, and Adobe XD.
I prefer to design logos in Illustrator since it provides a lot of flexibility to create custom vector iconography. Whichever software you use, make sure it supports vector exporting. One of the most common vector formats for the web is
.svg, so keep an eye out for that.
A final thing to consider when designing your app’s identity is what specifically to design. I tend to include a lot of assets in brand packages I deliver to clients. However, since you are after a minimum viable product, feel free to create the following three essential items to start:
There are many ways to organize brand colors and the science of color theory is rather pedantic at times. You can keep things simple by selecting 1-2 primary colors, and 3-4 secondary colors.
I’ve used COLOURLovers and Adobe Color in several projects. However, since Abate is after a more native app personality, I used Google’s Material palette generator to select my color palette.
Logos vary from text-only, to a combination of symbols and text. Whichever path you take, make sure to export full color and one color
.svg versions of your logo to use in your app.
Web apps typically have a
manifest.json file that specifies which images to use when your app is saved as a bookmark on a smart phone. Many also have a favicon for easy site identification in a browser.
All this to say, you’ll need to have a square or circular version of your logo. The favicon and bookmark icons are meant for quick recognition and minimal complexity. So make sure you create a version of your logo that can fit within a square bounding box.
Wrapping it Up
There are quite a few challenges and nuances to consider when creating your app’s new brand identity. Still, if you’re scrappy with a sketchbook and design software, you can certainly make a minimum viable product to get your app in the wild.
So what are you waiting for? I can’t wait to see what you’ll design!