What is a Brand System and 5 Steps To Create One

As a business owner or marketer, having a strong and consistent brand identity and brand messaging is crucial for standing out in a crowded market and building customer loyalty.

“A Brand System provides a conceptual and visual framework for your brand. It helps everyone communicate a consistent brand narrative and identity.”

But what is a brand system? A Brand System is a comprehensive set of guidelines that defines the visual and verbal elements of your brand, ensuring consistency across all touchpoints. In this post, we’ll explore what a brand system is and provide five simple steps to create one for your business.

What is a Brand System?

The terms “brand system” and “brand identity” are often discussed together. While both concepts are similar, the main difference between them is that a brand’s identity typically focuses on the visual identity. A brand system, in comparison, is all-encompassing, including both textual and visual elements as applied to the whole brand.

A brand system therefore is a detailed document (or set of documents) that outlines the core elements of your brand’s identity, and a pool of assets that can be used to express it, including:

  • Verbal Elements: Brand mission and vision statements, brand voice and tone, messaging guidelines, and taglines.
  • Visual Elements: Logo, color palette, typography, iconography, imagery, and other design assets.
  • Brand Guidelines: Rules and best practices for applying visual and verbal elements consistently across all marketing materials, products, packaging, and digital platforms.

A well-designed brand system ensures that your brand remains recognizable and cohesive, regardless of where or how it’s represented. It serves as a valuable resource for your internal team, as well as any external agencies or partners involved in creating brand-related content.


*Apple’s brand system is one of the most recognizable and iconic in the world. It includes the minimalist apple logo with the distinctive bite mark, a clean and modern sans-serif font (San Francisco), and a simple color palette of white, black, and shades of gray. Apple’s brand guidelines extend to product packaging, retail store design, and the user interface of its software and devices, creating a cohesive and premium brand experience.*

*Starbucks’ brand system is known for its green and white color scheme, the iconic siren logo, and a warm, inviting brand personality. The company’s brand guidelines cover everything from the appropriate use of the logo and color palette to the design of retail stores and packaging, ensuring a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints.*

5 Steps to Create a Brand System

1. Define Your Brand Strategy:

Before diving into the visual and verbal elements, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your brand’s purpose, values, personality, and target audience. This strategic foundation will inform the rest of your brand system.



Patagonia, the outdoor apparel and gear company. Patagonia has a very well-defined brand strategy that informs every aspect of their brand. Purpose: Patagonia’s purpose is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. This purpose is deeply embedded in their brand. Values: Patagonia’s core values include environmentalism, sustainability, quality, and social responsibility. These values guide their product design, manufacturing, marketing, and overall business practices. Personality: Patagonia has cultivated a brand personality that is rugged, adventurous, and environmentally-conscious. Their marketing and visual identity reflect this outdoorsy, eco-friendly persona. Target Audience: Patagonia targets outdoor enthusiasts, environmentally-conscious consumers, and people who value high-quality, durable products. Their branding and product offerings are tailored to appeal to this target audience.

By clearly defining these strategic brand elements upfront, Patagonia is able to consistently translate their purpose, values, personality, and target audience into a cohesive visual identity, messaging, and overall customer experience.

This strong brand system foundation is what has allowed Patagonia to build such a loyal following and distinct brand image in the marketplace.

2. Define Verbal Elements:

Craft a brand voice and tone that resonates with your target audience. Develop messaging guidelines, including taglines, value propositions, and key messages to ensure consistent communication across all channels.


Nike’s verbal elements revolve around its famous “Just Do It” slogan and motivational messaging. The brand’s tone is inspiring, energetic, and focused on pushing athletic performance. Key messages center around themes like determination, perseverance, and defying limitations.

Nike print ad for the Chinese market 2011

(Nike print ad for the Chinese market 2011)

Airbnb’s verbal elements focus on fostering a sense of community, belonging, and authentic travel experiences. The brand’s tone is welcoming, inclusive, and conversational, with messaging that highlights human connections and local immersion. Phrases like “Belong Anywhere” and “Live There” reflect Airbnb’s verbal identity.

Lego’s verbal elements emphasize creativity, imagination, and playfulness. The brand’s tone is fun, whimsical, and encourages open-ended exploration. Key messages revolve around concepts like “building amazing things,” unleashing creativity, and fostering learning through play.

3. Develop Visual Elements:

Work with a professional designer or agency to elevate your brand system with a memorable logo, select a color palette that resonates with your brand, and choose typography that aligns with your brand personality. Establish guidelines for using imagery, iconography, and other visual assets consistently.


Mcdonalds tagline before

(Historic McDonald’s signage still recognizable today even if some of the details have changed)


  • Logo: The iconic golden arches
  • Color Palette: Red, yellow, and golden brown
  • Typography: Rounded, friendly fonts like the McDonald’s Ultrabold typeface
  • Iconography: Stylized illustrations of food items and characters like Ronald McDonald
  • Imagery: Vibrant, mouth-watering food photography


  • Logo: The minimalist Apple logo with the distinctive bite mark
  • Color Palette: White, black, and shades of gray
  • Typography: Clean, sans-serif fonts like Apple’s San Francisco typeface
  • Iconography: Simplified, geometric icons for various apps and functions
  • Imagery: Product photography with a focus on clean lines and minimalism


  • Logo: The distinctive Coca-Cola script logo
  • Color Palette: Coca-Cola red, white, and black
  • Typography: Cursive and script fonts that evoke classic Americana
  • Iconography: The iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle shape
  • Imagery: Refreshing product photography and lifestyle imagery

4. Document Brand Guidelines:

Compile all visual and verbal elements, along with detailed guidelines for their usage, into a comprehensive brand system style guide. This document should serve as a single source of truth for anyone creating content or materials for your brand, both in print and digital formats.



(Photo of Airbnb’s Brand Book)

Airbnb’s “Brand Book is a comprehensive overview of their brand system, including guidelines for their logo, color palette, typography, and overall brand expression. You can see this here at Manual Creative

5. Develop a Digital Style Guide:

In today’s digital age, it’s common to have a dedicated set of digital style guidelines for applying your brand system consistently across digital platforms, such as websites, mobile apps, and social media. This digital style guide should cover topics like responsive design, user experience, and accessibility, ensuring a cohesive brand experience for your customers online.

In Summary

Creating a brand system may seem like a significant undertaking, but it’s a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends in terms of brand recognition, customer loyalty, and overall business success.

By following these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing a strong, cohesive brand identity that resonates with your target audience and stands out in a crowded market.

Additional reading

Happy branding :)


What is a Brand System and 5 Steps To Create One

Brand system is crucial for standing out in a crowded market. Learn what is a brand system and find five simple steps to create one for your business.

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Statistics above last updated 1 March 2024