Bridging Brand Intention and Brand Interpretation
Summary: Branding elements and interaction design guidelines can bridge the gap between how a company constructs its identity and how its customers experience it.
It’s up to designers to use branding elements and interaction design guidelines to bridge the gap between Brand intention (the way a company attempts to construct its identity) and Brand interpretation (the way customers experience a Brand).
“Brand” vs. “Branding”
Though often equated, Brand (with an intentional capital “B”) and branding are different concepts. Brand is concerned with what value a company offers to its customers. Branding is concerned with who delivers that value (i.e., the identity of the company offering said value). (I’ve described this differentiation in the past as reputation vs. representation.)
To make these definitions more concrete:
Brand (with a capital “B”) is a promise about what a company stands for, or, the value it offers its customers. For example, a specific Brand could represent a promise that its associated products might be "healthy,” “sustainably made,” or "durable."
Branding can be defined as the controlled manifestation of the Brand’s identity through application of logo or other guidelines to advertising, communications, packaging, and so on.
For an example of these two concepts in action, let’s take a look at Google’s Material Design. Google’s intent behind this set of design specs and design elements was to extend its Brand mission, “to take the world’s information and make it more accessible,” to a growing range of devices and ways of communicating with its users.
The visual language outlined in Material Design included an updated brand mark and logotype, as well as design elements, such as the set of four dynamic dots — components that evolved Google’s branding, and help express its brand identity.
Designers extended these elements to create user interactions that aligned with Google brand attributes. The dot animations that reflect the “expressions” of listening, thinking, replying, incomprehension, and confirmation not only serve as a way to indicate system status (remember, this is one of the 10 usability heuristics), but they also help reinforce the Google Brand itself. The friendly, assistive nature of these interactions evoke brand attributes associated with Google—being helpful, efficient, and simple to use.