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Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Lesson 3 of 9

Finding Your Brand Identity

Danielle McWaters

Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Danielle McWaters

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Lesson Info

3. Finding Your Brand Identity

Lesson Info

Finding Your Brand Identity

So, here we are, we're diving into part two, right? So, the first segment we really focused on talking about the concepts that you have to define in order to build your company's position, right? And also, how to put that position into action, right? So, now we've kind of taken care of all the foundation work, and now we're gonna basically build off those concepts and visually translate them into tangible design elements, right? So, this is the fun stuff. So, what is a brand identity? Right, so, I think, again this term may not be totally known to everybody, but what you're used to seeing as like, you know, your logo, and your tagline and your icons and your colors and your typefaces. All of those things are part of actually your brand identity, okay? So, your brand identity is, you know, it creates a unified system for all of the tangible design elements you have in your business. So, they're basically all the things that you can see, touch, and hold. So, your brand identity yields re...

cognition, strengthens differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible, right? So, it's basically taking all of the things that we did in part one, giving them visual tangible elements for your customers or your audience to then interact with. So, what encompasses your brand identity? Right, so, like I mentioned before, you have your logo, you have your tagline, a color palette, your typefaces, your visual language rules, photo style, and tone of voice, right? So, it's all of the things, right? So, we're gonna be touching on a lot of these today. And, so let's dive into this, right? So, where do you begin, right? So, you spent all this time, you're like thinkin' through. Alright, I've got my mission. I know where I wanna go. I've got my unique selling proposition. So, what does this mean? Like, where do I start? So, typically, what I like to do is, now I have these, you know, a real understanding of what I'm doing and where I'm going. So, I can start to actually compile inspiration, right? So, I like to start pulling tones and colors and like compositions and layouts, you know, content, colors, patterns, typefaces, all of the things, right, that I have a vision for coming together for my brand identity. So, Pinterest is a great resource, right? So, that's typically where I would start and start compiling images. You know, I also use is a really great one. There's, I mean, Tumblr. There's tons of places, right? Like there's visual images everywhere. But the key is to really pull a lot of different elements from different things, right? So, it's not just color and not just images. So, we have, you know, patterns and colors and images and types so we're getting a full sense of what this is gonna look like. And then, typically, I like to take that and use It's absolutely fabulous. Basically, what it does is it makes, it takes all of the images that you have and compiles them into like one sheet. So, we're gonna do that today in class. But, just so you know ahead of time, is fantastic. So, then there's this concept called brand essences, right? And this is something that we use at our studio all the time. So, your essences, essentially you're taking into account your ethos, your spirit, and your core values, and you're creating a list of five essences that are behind your company. And basically we use these five brand essences to defend and, basically defend all of our design decisions, right? So, right design can be beautiful, right? But it also has to serve a purpose. It has to serve a function, and particularly when it comes to your brand identity. So, it has to reinforce your mission, and your vision, and your values, right? So, it's basically, like giving people a visual identity to all of those things, to the foundation of your company, right? So, we're gonna go back and use that case study that we've been talking about, and come up with our brand essences for Slow Candle Co. So, they are nourishing, warm, clean, organic, and friendly. So, some people do three. I like to have five. I think it's just more, it's helpful, and it allows you to, again, dive a little bit deeper and see various ways that you can basically visually touch all these different aspects of your brand, okay? So, I'm actually going to put these on the board over here because I want to reference them as we're going through how we're gonna basically develop these out. So, right, so we have, we have nourishing. What else we got? Warm. We have clean. Organic. Thank you, and? Friendly. Friendly. You have great handwriting. (audience laughing) Oh, my gosh, as I get down to the bottom, okay? So, these are are our five brand essences, okay? So, basically, now when you're doing this for yourself, right? So, I want you guys to come up with five distinct words that basically, right, that describe your ethos and your core values. The key thing to creating these five brand essences is make sure that they are five distinctly different words. Okay? So, the tendency is to say like, you know, for instance, if I were to use clean, maybe I would also use minimal, right? Pick which one, and pick the stronger one, okay? So, make sure they're very different from each other, right? So then, and then this is part, this might actually help you figure out which ones are stronger, is I always like to write at least one or two sentences that explain why I've chosen these words and where I plan to use this essence in my visual identity. So, I'm going to, right, so I'm gonna show you what we did here for what we did for SLOW Candle Company. So, for SLOW Candle Company, our first essence is nourishing. So, we're gonna use this essence to visually translate ingredients, right? So, and what I mean by that, is like, there is this ingredient element to our brand. So, I actually see that as a visual opportunity to share and communicate that with my audience. So, I'm going to use, I'm gonna, whenever I show ingredients, I'm gonna be touching on that essence of nourishing because my ingredients are the things that are actually nourishing my mind and body through this aromatherapy candle. So then, we have our next essence which is warm, right? So, this essence should translate visually through product photography, right? So, I'm gonna say when we're shooting our products, right, whatever settings that I'm gonna put them in, they're gonna be warm, right? Or maybe they're gonna show like, you know, maybe they will be burning so it's also showing like the warmth of the actual candle, okay? Clean, so this essence we would like to visually translate through layout and type. So, this means that the typefaces that I'm gonna choose, right, are gonna be really clean and easy to read and really be functional. And then, in terms of how I'm laying out my collateral, my materials, right, so maybe it's my business cards or my, you know, my packaging, or my website. Everything's gonna have a very clean aesthetic to it, okay? Then, we have organic, right? So, this essence I would like to visually translate through color, okay? So, we're using all these cool organic ingredients, you know, from these organic farms. So, automatically, that makes me think of, you know, like nature and leaves and flowers, all the things that are actually going into these candles. And I see that as a great opportunity to pick that, or to use that essence to create my color palette. And then, lastly, we have friendly, right? So, friendly is this essence that I would like to show through brand imagery. So, you know, again, we kind of touched on this before, but we're really going for building a lifestyle around these candles. So, I don't wanna just only have product photography. I wanna show people with my candles, and I wanna show what cozy, relaxing environment that these candles are being enjoyed in. So, I'm gonna make sure that my brand imagery really shows, you know, who my customers are, but also the lifestyle and feel that these candles are producing for them in their life.

Class Description


What does it take to create a successful brand? A strong, clear message and visual consistency is what builds trust, and this course will help you define this. Danielle runs her own successful design studio, specializing in branding. 

She’ll guide you through the process of branding your business from start to finish, including how to:

  • Establish a point of view through tone, messaging and voice 
  • Define your vision, core values and how you position yourself in the market 
  • Create a visual style guide that provides a reference for color, typography, and image styling
This class will teach you how to effectively articulate and communicate your brand to your audience visually, creating cohesion through every touch-point. From how you talk about yourself, to what typeface you use, creating cohesion and clarity builds trust. Position your brand to stand out from the crowd!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brand Questionnaire

Branding 101 - Companion

Branding 101 - Resources

Style Guide Templates

Style Guide Example - Slow Candle Co

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


- Emma -

Just finished watching the course. Absolutely loved it! I have no experience in branding at all and this course has given me so much information that will help me a lot. I am so excited to get started and creating my brand style sheet. Thank you so much Danielle you were brilliant! Constructive criticism: If would be better if you knew the information rather than reading off the screen in front of you. Paraphrasing would help, too. But very good job nonetheless!


Amazing class! I've been looking for something like this on Creative Live for a long time. It taught me all I needed to know about creating my brand's visual identity and I finally got that needed push to formulate a brand strategy and assemble the visual elements for my brand. Very simple and straight to the point. Thank you, Danielle!

Vivian Bustamante

Great information with handy resources to use after and apply into our own project. The concepts explained made it more clear and I loved the quotes Danielle used to explain this words we heard a lot when talking about branding, the mission, vision, etc. These weren't clear to me up until this point. Thanks so much!