Business News

Branding in a nutshell

By Business & Finance
22 November 2016
niall corcoran
Niall Corcoran, managing director, CI Studio

Niall Corcoran discusses the key elements to consider when designing a brand identity.

Whether rebranding or starting the process of creating a new entity, it’s all about the core. A brand with a sense of purpose or meaning, a clear brand structure, something that’s ownable and can be protected (trademarked), a visual identity and tone of voice that tells a narrative and story that will resonate with its audience – these are the key ingredients for a strong brand identity.

A brand with a purpose is incredibly powerful. It not only guides key decisions at a board or executive level but informs throughout the company, especially with regards to behaviour and motivation. It also forms the basis of our thinking when it comes to creating a visual identity and a way of speaking, thereby influencing the external perception of how people see the brand.

Tusla, Ireland’s child and family agency, is a good example. Tusla – a mix of two Gaelic words ‘tús’ (new beginning) and ‘lá’ (day) – took its inspiration from the organisation’s central belief ‘Children, First Always’. Everything that followed – the name, identity, tone of voice and most importantly, organisation and employee behaviour – came from this thinking.

A brand with a purpose is incredibly powerful


A common mistake we see are brand structures that don’t make any sense. Whether it is companies creating brands or sub-brands where none exist, e.g. branding services or divisions, attempting to logo-ise everything they do, or simply creating sub-brands that are poorly aligned to their core, they are creating confusion and complexity where none is needed. Simplicity is the key to understanding.


tusla stationery

Tusla stationery

Naming has become a critical component of creating brands, more so than ever in this litigious world.

… a brand identity must tell the story of a company or product that will resonate

Increased globalisation, the internet and the recent proliferation of apps has meant that it has become ever more difficult to create a name where the dotcom is available and where someone else hasn’t already laid claim to it (trademarked) or something similar.

We recently worked on the creation of the Marqette brand for the food hall at Terminal 1 in Dublin Airport, where we were approached because the original name they were intending to use was already a trademark of a large multiple in the UK. At least they found out early, before they had gone to the expense of building and implementing a new brand.


Above all, a conceptual and collaborative approach is key to creating an identity that will have real stand-out. While getting the strategic thinking right is important, in my experience there is no substitute for great design. Design makes things better. Just ask Apple what design has done for their balance sheet. An attention to detail is essential.

The little things really do matter. We humans love stories and through the consistent application of type, colour, language, imagery and how it all works together in both still and moving form, a brand identity must tell the story of a company or product that will resonate with its target audience. A well-considered strategy, communicated through a laissez-faire attitude to design, will remain just that, a considered strategy.

While getting the strategic thinking right is important, in my experience there is no substitute for great design


Above all, do not allow research to stifle creativity. Research can be useful to better understand what is known or currently accepted, what is familiar. Just remember, the familiar is usually quite dull and sometimes a jolt of something unexpected is what’s required to stimulate and engage.

There is no substitute for innovation and creativity, so beware of research that seeks to limit this. Just ask Dyson. Or as Henry Ford once famously said, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. So, innovate, innovate, innovate.

CI Studio have worked on brand identities for clients including Monoset, Quillsen, Dublin City Council, Havok, Saba, Bloomberg PolarLake and William Fry.

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