Why branding is not an isolated process but an essential part of a digital product’s DNA

Branding is an inextricable part of User Experience. It should be central to the product development process in order to achieve coherence and quality.

At Chelsea Apps Factory the variety of scenarios that we are presented with, when it comes to tackling brand development in digital products doesn’t fall short.

Customer Experience Vs. User Experience

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post  the boundaries between design disciplines in the development of a digital product are fading from view. 

A big part of planning a successful digital strategy goes into understanding the relationship and differences between Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX). 

The first (CX) groups all the interactions that an individual has with a brand, through all its possible touch points.  The second (UX) focuses on the interactions of people with a specific product. The latter informs the former. 

Digital products require a holistic design approach that considers all possible interrelations of different disciplines at once – Visual Design, UX Design, Service Design, among others.  Customer Experience is what ties them all together.

Branding is in the DNA of the project, not just in the skin

So how does this affect the way products are created? Having analysed a client’s Customer Experience, UX designers will get the raw materials that informed that investigation – user needs, scenarios, personas, requirements, etc – and use these to give structure to the digital products that are being created. 

It is also during this initial inception stage that designers gather as much information as possible about the client’s brand. We all know that a brand is not just a visual element, don’t we? 

UX from the roots up

Let’s look at the job of a UX designer from the roots up….

Jesse James Garrett, information architect and founder of the well-known design consultancy, Adaptive Path, summarises the elements of User Experience in a diagram that aligns them with the different stages within a project:

Diagram excerpt from Garrett, Jesse James. The elements of User Experience, 2000 AIGA

Diagram excerpt from Garrett, Jesse James. The elements of User Experience, 2000 AIGA

In the diagram above we can easily identify the surface as the entry point into a product. It’s a common mistake to assume that the brand is a visual element that stays solely at the surface – and it’s an even more dangerous error to think that this means it can be either added in at the last minute or reformulated any time during the process.

The truth couldn't be any further from that: branding is an inextricable element of the User Experience process that spreads transversally across all levels and influences them equally. 

Knowing that, why would we leave it aside when developing a digital product?

A logo is not a brand

A logo with an associated colour palette and a chosen typeface does not represent a brand in isolation. In fact, a logo is just the tip of the iceberg. Those elements – colour, typography etc – belong to one of the many dimensions of branding, usually tagged as Visual Identity.

A lot has been written about Branding and User Experience, so I won’t get into further detail here, other than stating that a brand is a complex structure that encompasses many intangible elements that feed into each level of the User Experience in Garret’s diagram.

Integrating brand development into the product development cycle

At Chelsea Apps Factory, the branding particularities that we encounter are quite diverse.

On one side of the spectrum, large organisations require fluid communication between marketing departments and designers in order to keep consistency and ensure new products are aligned with inherited brand guidelines and legacy processes. 

On the flip side, clients that approach us who are at earlier stages in their service life-cycle – such as Start-Ups or Innovation Labs – bring us the opportunity to either develop their brands in-house or in collaboration with external partners.

Objective, flexible approach

Taking an objective, flexible and open-minded approach to each project helps us keep our client’s brands consistent along all consumer touch-points, while our expert and experienced designers simplify the complex process of developing and showcasing a brand.

At Chelsea Apps Factory we ensure that branding is central to any digital agenda, regardless of the maturity of your business or your propositions. We know that your brand must be the beating heart of every product – old and new – and this is an essential aspect of our value contribution.