Why your corporate identity doesn't have to be corporate
When you hear the words ‘corporate identity’, what comes to mind? If you think suits and ties and same old, same old branding, then it’s time to think again...
There are few things more important for the success of your business than your corporate identity. That’s true whether you’re a fashion house, a tech firm, or a multinational bank.
Don’t let the word “corporate” mislead you, though. Yes, a corporate identity or corporate brand is the visual language used to represent the organisation as a whole. But that doesn’t mean you need to play it safe and rein your creativity in.
“And there’s nothing all that exciting about the same old semiotics and cookie-cutter corporate branding, is there?”
What are the key ingredients for a successful, memorable, corporate identity?
Your corporate identity has one essential purpose: to portray the characteristics that matter for your business. Depending on what sector or industry you’re in, this could mean tradition, innovation, value, premium, creativity… you name it, there’s a brand that stands for it.
Intertwined with these characteristics is the mission your company lives to achieve. For example, ASOS exists “To become the number 1 fashion destination for 20-somethings globally” and PayPal “To build the Web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.” These mission statements will form a crucial part of the visual brand identity they go with — if you’re saying one thing to your customers and trying to do another, you won’t get anywhere fast.
That’s because your corporate identity and visual brand language is a key driver of consumer confidence and trust. Does your identity carry weight and hold significant meaning for the people you want to engage with? It might sound like a big question to answer, but no business is too small to invest in great brand identity.
Understanding the difference between “corporate” and “professional”
When you consider the important roles that branding performs for a business, then it becomes clear why corporate branding shouldn't always be “corporate” in the stuffy, suit-and-tie kind of way.
Yes, this is a personality that works for some businesses: McKinsey & Company, for example. But even if your brand operates in the business-to-business space, you shouldn’t feel restrained by the traditional look and feel of your competitors.
There’s a difference between looking professional and looking corporate — and that’s a distinction a great designer will help you achieve. A corporate visual identity that lacks energy, differentiation, relevance, vision and emotion is one that’s too easily ignored.
5 examples of highly engaging corporate identities
Interested to see what I’m talking about? Here are my favourite examples of corporate identity done right. Each example is engaging and emotive in its own, unique way.
When you think “healthcare”, it’s easy to imagine lab coats, clinical colour palettes and not a lot of room for passion and style. But this branding challenges you to think again!
Designed by one of my favourite agencies, Moniker, the corporate identity for One Medical is sleek, sophisticated, and simple. But it also manages to be soft and human — thanks to the photographic imagery and hand-drawn illustrations — and trustworthy, too — thanks to the use of teal in the colour palette, a common semiotic for healthcare and medicine.
All in all, this is an excellent example of a corporate identity that’s far from boring.
The L’Oréal name extends far beyond the beauty products for sale in your local store. L’Oréal is actually a vast portfolio of brands, covering skincare, make-up, haircare, hair colour, fragrances, hygiene products and more, sold right across the world.
Designing the corporate identity for such a big business is no easy task, but FutureBrand have done it to perfection, if you ask me. The look is modern, bold, and inclusive.
Clubhouse is a collaborative project management platform, designed to help software teams work better together. But unlike some other B2B products and services, the Clubhouse gang wanted to present themselves as peers — delivering a platform to people just like them.
As the design agency behind the corporate identity, Ueno has truly captured the spirit of collaboration and peer-to-peer positioning. The layouts are dynamic and playful; the colours are approachable and inspiring.
This corporate visual brand language is a masterclass in B2B design for today’s creative teams.
The corporate identity created by By North, for Vörda, provides an inspiring example for other brands looking to pack a lot of personality into not a lot of detail.
Vörda’s logotype (the icon created through its name) is distinct and contemporary, while also promoting the brand’s mission to deliver high-quality, natural, healthy products. What could your logotype or lettermark do for you?
About the author
I’m Stefano, a freelance web designer and Webflow expert — based in Italy, but working across the world. I help marketing teams and creative agencies tackle complex digital design challenges, and create engaging experiences that their users love.