The end of brand identity

Let’s discuss the ridiculousness of the term brand identity, shall we? Recently, the term has become inexplicably popular – to the point that it’s nearly usurped the use of the words brand and identity individually.

Granted, the term has some merit in an absolute contextual vacuum. But, in a conversation about design, brand and identity alone are just as meaningful.

Don’t believe us? Let’s take a look at AIGA’s Dictionary of Brand:

brand identity is the outward expression of a brand, including its name, trademark, communications, and visual appearance.

Sounds clear enough, but how is that different from identity alone? From AIGA’s Dictionary, we can assume that corporate identity is its equivalent:

identity is the brand identity of a company, consisting of its visual identifiers such as the name, trademark, typography, and colors; a company’s trade dress.

Well, that’s not helpful at all. In our opinion, identity and brand should be the synonyms – to say nothing of the fact that they’ve basically defined identity as brand identity. Anyway”¦ it says this about brand:

brand is a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization.

OK, wait a second – it’s considered brand identity until it has been perceived, at which point it becomes a brand? In other words, if a brand is being outwardly expressed in the forest, and no one’s around to perceive it, is it really a brand? (According to AIGA, I guess not.) If you ask us, that’s a worthless differentiation.

To simplify this complicated mess, we propose that brand and identity are synonyms, defined as brand is above. Brand identity, however, is unnecessary jargon. To us, brand identity is equivalent to saying rectangular square, food chef, or hot water heater – it’s nonsensical wordiness.

The continued popularity of the term (even among designers themselves) is disappointing. In an industry that should be defined by clarity and simplicity – it’s just ridiculous.