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Common problems with translating brand identity into visual product design

14/12/2010 by Roel Wessels

Many producers are trying to implement brand values and brand identity into their product design. Therefore, Visual Brand Language is definitely a hot topic. However, very little producers succeed in defining their brand’s design language. Most producers only have verbal descriptions but no idea of their design language.

Several different design perspectives and brand perspectives can be observed. The majority of producers still see design as a short-term selling argument only. These producers often use signature designers* who they believe to match their brand identity and the current market trend.

Outsourcing of visual translation

The producers often outsource the actual visual translation of their values and identity. This means that their important projects are actually interpreted and translated by a ‘stranger’ (the outside designer). When producers are asked why they leave this process to the designer, most producers say they have no other option. The producers believe they can´t do the visual translation themselves because they don´t know how to do it.

Communication problems

Producers therefore often receive finished designs that do not meet their expectations. Most of these designs need to be redone. The producers claim that this inefficient process is caused by communication problems. The producers and the designers do not communicate in way that creates an understanding between them. Problems like these can be expected if the producers brief the designers only using verbal descriptions. Some producers even blame the designers by saying that the designers aren’t asking the right questions.

Producers put their selves in the dark

Sometimes producers do not state their wishes clearly because they are afraid of constraining the designer’s creative process by telling too much what they want. The producers think they need to keep their distance from the creative translation process. By acting this way the producers put themselves in the ‘dark’.

Producers ACTUALLY want to be in control

The above is actually quite strange, given that producers usually hate the fact of being left in the dark during the translation process. Although they think they cannot help in the visual translation process, they want to know where things are heading. Most of producers force themselves in the design process loop by monitoring every step the designer takes.

Producers DO know what they want

Producers usually find themselves being capable of judging whether the delivered design communicates their brand values and identity. This must mean that producers DO know what they want the designer to deliver, otherwise they could not tell a design is wrong?


Producers do not know how to translate their brand values and brand identity into a design language. They believe a designer has to do this job. However, they often feel a designer does not understand their brand. Therefore producers force themselves to be in control. In fact, they actually DO know what they want visually. They want to know if that is what the designer will deliver.

* A signature designer is a designer who has a unique style of his own. Signature designers design according to their own style and design language. Examples of well-known signature designers: Philippe Starck, Marc Newson, Jan des Bouvrie.

seemingly contradictory

About the Innerbrand image set

12/11/2010 by Pim Jonkman

Our Visual Brand Language (VBL) Tool uses a visual stimuli set in order to help companies create a visual starting point for their brand identity.

• Interviewing companies that are known for their professional application of design in The Netherlands we learned two important things: Companies use several market positioning models in their strategy phase preceding the tactical project definition to define their brand values and brand identity.

• Companies themselves do not know how to translate their brand values and brand identity into a visual briefing instrument.

Companies frequently let a designer do this translation even though they often feel that a designer does not understand their briefing. It appears that they actually DO know what they visually want, and try to manage that is what the designer will deliver.

Creating a visual tool will enable them to create this visual briefing and visual reference point. The tool will assist their strategy definition as well as the creative delivery process of the designer.

The fact that positioning models play such an important role led us to use them as a selection for the image set for this tool. The most commonly used models are de Bock & Dekker (brand expression), Aacker (brand personality), Motivaction (Mentality Profile), Jung/Jansen (Brand Archetype) and the Brand Culture Monitor to describe the character of the brand.

Accepting this reality we started of with a random set of 1200 images of contemporary products. A carefully selected group of professionals plotted the images on the models resulting in five visual market-positioning models. Images that were agreed upon in most of the models were selected for the image set and models were enhanced with additional images to ensure a good spread across the models with the same set of images. This finally resulted in the set of 203 pictures that are the basis for this tool.

Interesting reading

13/06/2010 by Pim Jonkman

Brand Personality Impressions

Brands have a lot of similarity with human character. Lot’s of research indicates this relation. The better the relation, the better the brand preference.
This research finds an elementary difference. Starting off with the difference between the Big-5 of Human character definitions and the Big-5 of brand characteristics.

Read Brand Personality Impressions, Aaker (2005)

Preference for Curvature

Interesting story about design in relation to rapid judgements.

Read Humans prefer curved visual objects (2006)

Talk at PKN033

06/04/2010 by Roel Wessels

Innerbrand attended the Marketing & Design 2010 convention in Amersfoort at April 1st 2010. We gave a presentation during the last part of the convention, during the PechaKucha. The central theme was: ‘I made it sell’.

Pim Jonkman discussed some of the problems that producers and designers face during the process of translating brand identity into visual product design. We explained how our Visual Brand Language (VBL) Tool and can give you insight in the match between your brand identity and the required visual brand language. We gave insight in how our tools will help you design better products by ensuring a match between your brand identity and your visual brand language, which is especially useful during the first part of the design process.

Furthermore, we showed a preview of our upcoming Brand Identity Analysis Dashboard. This tool will help you analyse your own visual brand language and also compare it to how other players in your industry translate their brand values visually.

You can view Pim’s presentation (in Dutch) below. Enjoy!

Business and marketing meet design

06/03/2010 by Pim Jonkman

Yesterday I had an interesting discussion in the Tipii in Amersfoort. I learned from one of the people attached to the Marketing & Design conference at VODW this April, that a lot of businesses are looking for answers to integrate design in their management process. The attention for design as a business instrument is rising both from a perspective of marketing as from the perspective of business.

Our experience over the last 12 years and our research program of the last two years has proved to be helpful in these situations. Over ten projects have already been finished successfully for international companies like Philips and Autobar as well as for national companies like Gazelle and Batavus.

They experience that our services help to unravel the mystery of product and service identity. Creating a result that fits both the brand as the context.

Innerbrand delivers insight, effectiveness and efficiency! Expect us to be as the conference and at PechaKucha!

What is visual brand language?

15/01/2010 by Roel Wessels

Visual brand language is the visual communication of brand values and identity through design. By means of the right combination of design elements; such as form, dimensions, materials, composition and colors, an unique product expression is developed. When the experience of the product expression is similar to the brand experience, a product contributes to the relation between brand and consumer.

In this perspective, brands should be seen as a promise to its customers. By their unique expressions (design languages), products have become vehicles of communication for brand promises and subsequently consumer self-expression. Visual brand language is communicating that unique brand promise through the appearance of products.