Comment: Why a good brand can make you cry

Eva Couto, a brand designer and strategist based in Porto, explains the power of thoughtful branding in the digital age.

Just like an onion, a brand identity has the power to make you weep. As a graphic designer, this is the effect that good (as well as bad) branding can have on me. And I know I’m far from alone in feeling this way. 

According to researchers at the University of York, a 33-millisecond glance is all it takes to form a first impression of someone’s status and trustworthiness. If this is true for people, it’s probably also true for brands. 

Think about it. You see a brand’s colors and design long before reading any paragraphs of copy about it (let alone making the decision to buy a product or even just test it out). A strong brand conveys the quality of your work, attracts the right audience and elevates the experience.

Back in 1986, in his pioneering work on visual perception, Rudolf Arnheim told us how certain graphic elements enhance our content and help us reach our goals. Even further back, avant-garde writing from the early 20th century demonstrated the importance of typography and graphic design in the construction of new ways of producing meaning. 

More recently, and in a very different context, graphology studies, with their conclusions used in psychology and criminal law, show us how the characteristics of individual handwriting can reveal a lot about our personal identity. 

In an increasingly visual, connected and online world – with more images displayed on a greater variety of platforms; with more brands, more copy and more design – taking advantage of branding and communication mechanisms is more important than ever before.

In concept presentations, I’ve seen founders crying at the sight of their new brand and logo. Repeatedly. Why is it so powerful to see yourself and your vision reflected in something as tangible as branding? 

Maybe it’s because it allows you to be more than a foolish dreamer, more than a misfit who dislikes the current labor market, more than yet another business account on Instagram. Maybe the tears appear because you finally feel heard and understood. What was once simply a crazy idea of yours has been captured by a designer and it doesn’t just feel like a dream anymore. Maybe you can succeed after all. 

That custom brand, made just for you, reflects the ins and outs of your mission, the journey you took to get where you are and your hopes for the future. It’s much more than just a logo. Suddenly you know what you’re meant to do, you have a strategy and a plan for the first time since becoming self-employed. Now you get to finally feel confident at the head of a business. 

All this because, just like an onion, good branding has a lot of layers.

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