What is identity?

People, even designers, struggle with defining identity. Of course it has a dictionary definition, but we’re talking specifically about a corporate identity. Talk to any designer, and they might tell you identity is:

  • Your logo
  • Your logo, letterhead, and business cards
  • The bits and pieces that tend to be repeated over the course of all of your collateral

We think all of these are right, but lacking. We tend to think of identity as literally everything. Anything that you see, hear, read, touch, or maybe even smell is part of an identity if it relates to a company. From the way your receptionist answers the phone, to the navigation on your website. Anything that might affect a customers perception of you is a component of identity. That’s not a textbook definition, but it’s our definition…

Some things you might not think of that affect corporate identity

  • How easy your automated phone service is to navigate.
  • How friendly and accessible your employees are.
  • How sharply dressed, and put together your staff is.
  • Every single tiny bit of correspondence you send- from emails to faxes to invoices.
  • Packaging, manuals, disclaimers warranties etc.

As an industry we might ignore some of these things because we don’t have control over them. We often short-hand refer to identity as the pieces we design. As a client, or an owner of a business, we encourage you to broaden the definition. Everything that can affect the way your client perceives you is part of your identity. Right down to the smell of the lobby…


Seth godin


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