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This is an image of the Data Soapbox icon embossed in turquoise leather.

Why Your Research Project (or Lab) Needs a Brand Guide

“Branding” dates back thousands of years, to when people first burned identifying marks of ownership on the rumps of their livestock.* In modern times, branding generally refers to the identifying elements of companies, schools, individuals, and causes. Apple has its bitten apple logo and streamlined product designs. My undergraduate alma matter, The College of William & Mary, uses rich green and gold, and formal fonts, to echo its colonial history. Mark Zuckerberg has his casual and efficient uniform of gray t-shirts and jeans, and breast cancer has its pink ribbon.

If you’re employed by a decently-sized organization, it probably has a brand guide. A brand guide is a reference document that defines an organization’s visual identity. A brand guide typically includes elements like logos, colors, typefaces,** and layout for products such as slideshows and business cards. Here’s the Data Soapbox Brand Guide***:

This is the DataSoapbox brand guide. It shows 4 versions of the company logo, the 5 company colors (teal, orange, chartreuse, medium gray, dark gray), and the 8 company typefaces (Montserrat in light, regular, semi bold, and bold weights, both regular and italic).

If you want to check out more extensive brand guides from large organizations, check out the guides for Penn State and NIH NINDS.

Even if your organization has a brand guide, there can be benefits to creating a separate or supplemental brand guide for your own research projects or lab:

Reflect unique identity. Your work may prioritize values that are somewhat different from your parent institution. For example, maybe your employer’s or funder’s branding has a very clean, high-tech, corporate feel, but your work focuses on more emotional or natural topics, like families or botany. Having a separate brand guide can allow you to carry over some elements from your organization’s visual identity while also reflecting the unique focus of your work.

Brand recognition. When a team uses the same visual elements, like colors and fonts, that “look” becomes associated with your team. If people have seen enough of your products, they will recognize your new products (and have all of the feels they have for your project or lab) before they even read a word.

Efficiency. Design takes time, from selecting colors and fonts, to laying out content, to fine-tuning drafts. When you develop a brand guide, you make many of these decisions, and do much of this work, once. You don’t need to repeat that work for every product.

Quality. Your team likely varies in their design instincts and skills. A brand guide helps even your most design-challenged teammates create attractive products.

If you’re interested in developing a brand guide for your research project or lab, Data Soapbox would love to help! Contact us for more information.

* Shout out to AKuptsova for the on-brand leather photo at the top of this post! (No animals were branded for this post. :) )

** You may call them “fonts.” :)

*** Shout out to Angie Scala, who did the design work for the Data Soapbox brand!

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