The Ultimate Technical Overview for Crafting Great Nonprofit Brand Identities

By Contributing Author
Reading Time: 6 minutes

How does Goodyear make their logo show up crystal clear on the side of a blimp? When should color values be represented in Hex, CMYK or Pantone? What’s the difference between a brand and a brand identity? Whether you’re developing a new brand, or strengthening an established one you will inevitably encounter questions similar to these.

As with every industry, knowing the correct jargon and when to use it is important to avoid miscommunication. Technical concepts can be confusing and cumbersome, but they don’t have to be. Let’s dive in.

First, the difference between brand and identity

The terms brand and identity are often used interchangeably, but they have very distinct meanings. When working with the two, it’s important to understand their differences and how they relate. The term brand is usually accompanied by flowery language and misguided descriptions. For example,

“a brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers,”

Descriptions such as these make it difficult to distinguish between a brand and an identity. Jeremiah Gardner, author of The Lean Brand, has one of the most clear definitions of a brand:

A brand is the relationship between an organization and an audience.

Once you understand that a brand is a relationship it’s clear how brand and brand identity relate. A brand identity includes any cue (i.e. visual, auditory, touch, taste or smell) that is used to project the relationship between the brand and the audience. A common component of a brand identity is the logo, but don’t discount the sweet cinnamon aroma from a Cinnabon in the mall.

As a brand’s identity is defined, the most critical piece of the equation is consistency. The color, size, spacing, balance, feel, typography, literally everything must be consistent. Without consistency it’s difficult for your audience to develop the association between the brand identity and the relationship you’re working to establish.

For a deeper dive into this topic, read Jeremiah Gardner’s post on the difference between brand and identity.

Hint: no one likes a grainy logo!

When it comes to brand identity, consistency is king.

When it comes to logos, a vector logo is the only way to maintain consistency at scale. The real benefit of a Vector graphic over Raster graphic is obvious once an image is scaled larger than its original size. For example,

So what exactly is a Vector graphic? The Wikipedia definition sums it up well:

Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon(s), which are all based on mathematical expressions, to represent images in computer graphics.

That’s quite a complex explanation, but in short, vector graphics use mathematics allowing them to be scaled large or small without losing quality. There are several Vector graphic file formats, but the ones most commonly used for logo design are:

  • EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)- Adobe’s EPS format is the most widely used Vector graphic format.
  • AI (Adobe Illustrator Artwork)- Adobe Illustrator’s native format is AI which is a modified version of the EPS format. The AI format is fairly common, but is less universal than the EPS format.
  • SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic)- SVG is the W3C Vector graphic standard. SVG is gaining in popularity as modern browsers increase their support of the format. SVG is becoming increasingly important as the various screen resolutions that websites need to support continues to broaden.

To be on the safe side, brands should always keep an EPS version of their logo readily available. EPS is the most widely accepted and supported Vector graphic format for brands.

If you want to validate your logo and make sure it’s in the property format, try our Brandisty’s logo validator. And for more info on vectors…

The Crazy World of Color

For something so critical to everyday life, it is amazing how complex color can be to work with. I have spent a fair amount of time researching color, and the numerous ways to represent it is mind numbing. For the most part, when working with branding you will need to be aware of the following colorspaces:

RGB (digital)- RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and refers to the user of color generated by light. RGB values will typically be represented with three digits between 0 and 255; though you will sometimes encounter three values between 0 and 1 in decimal form.

For example, 139, 25, 155 where R=139, G=25, B=155

Hex (digital)- Hexadecimal format is just another way of representing RGB values. Typically you will see Hex values starting with a hash (#) followed by either three or six alpha numeric characters ranging from 0-9 and a-f.

For example, #8b189B produces the purple below.

CMYK (print)- CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black) and is the most common print color space. CMYK can be a bit inconsistent from device to device as the color is being blended at the time of print. CMYK values will typically be represented with four digits between 0-100; though you will sometimes encounter four values between 0 and 1 in decimal form.

For example, 56, 99, 0, 0  where C=56, M=99, Y=0, K=0

PANTONE (print)- is a proprietary color space used primarily in the printing industry but also has been used with manufacturing colored paint, plastics and fabric. When brands will be used in print, it’s a really good idea to select PANTONE colors.

The main advantage of PANTONE over CMYK is PANTONE colors are premixed, where CMYK colors are mixed during print. PANTONE color values can be represented in various ways, but typically start with either PMS or PANTONE and end in either C for Coated or U for Uncoated.

For example, PANTONE 2602 C, is the ink code for the purple below.

Here is a quick representation of a color converted to various print and digital colorspaces:


It’s important to have all of these values on hand, and readily available so you can keep your brand colors consistent across both print and digital mediums. For further info…

Typography, Fonts and File Types

Due to its effects on the context of communication, understanding typography is especially important when developing a brand identity. There are a few key terms to know when discussing typography.

Typography the art and technique of arranging type in order to make the language it forms most appealing to transparent learning and recognition.

Typeface- the overarching style of a group of fonts. For example, Helvetica, Arial or Times New Roman. Each typeface has distinguishing characteristics which are represented in its fonts.

Font- a specific variation of a typeface. For example, Helvetica Bold 12pt.

Type family- a comprehensive collection of all sizes and styles (bold, italic, medium, etc.) of a single typeface.

When developing a brand identity, you need to consider how typography will fit into the overall brand architecture. All communication in association with your brand will utilize your typographic decisions. Your typography can be simple and non obvious, or it can actually enhance your communication. For example,


Once you have decided on your typography, you will need to maintain copies of the fonts in specific file formats. Here’s a list of the most common ones and some background on them.

.TTF (TrueType Font)- developed in the 1980s by Apple and Microsoft, .ttf is the most common font format on Mac OSX and Windows operating systems.

.OTF (OpenType Font)- announced in 1996 by Microsoft in conjunction with Adobe, .otf built on the .ttf file spec with some key advancements including: cross platform support (Windows, OSX, Unix), Unicode support and the ability to support up to 65,536 glyphs which is important for international character sets.

.EOT (Embedded OpenType)- a variation of OpenType fonts developed by Microsoft for embedding fonts on web pages. This .eot file format is used exclusively with the Internet Explorer web browser.

.WOFF (Web Open Font Format)- developed in 2009 and now a W3C Recommendation, .woff is a variation of OpenType/TrueType fonts that supports additional metadata and compression. The .woff file format is used in numerous modern web browsers and is gaining in popularity.

Typography is one of my favorite topics to research. We have covered a lot in this section, but didn’t touch on licensing. For deeper info…

Parting Words

Brands and brand identities are fairly involved. Most of the above components are always evolving and so do the various strategies to manage them. Whenever I think about brands, I love to reference a quote from a speech I saw by Tony Shea, CEO of Zappos:

A great brand is a story that never stops unfolding.


As your brand’s story unfolds, use your newfound knowledge on the technical side of brand identities to make sure it’s represented correctly.

This post was written by Alexander Rolek. Co-founder of Brandisty.

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