Communicating Lasting Impressions

3 Brand Identity Lessons to Learn from Nature

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flowers teach brand identity lessonsAfter record cold temperatures this winter, I’m more than ready for spring and it’s kaleidoscope of colors. As Mother Nature puts on another brilliant show, she also teaches schools, colleges and nonprofits some lessons about creating and managing their brands.

Before sharing nature’s wisdom, let me first clarify that a brand is more than a logo. It is the expectations that stakeholders have for an organization, its programs and services. It is the sum of all interactions they have with an organization and its people.

Brand identity, though, is the visual and verbal representation of the brand. Because design plays an essential role in creating and building a brand, the logo is often the point of entry to the brand.

So what can nature teach us about brand identity?

Shape Matters

When it comes to visual perception, the brain first registers shapes, then reads color, followed by content. Trees, flowers and birds possess unique shapes that make them easily identifiable. Colors and other details differentiate the species.

Think about some of the world’s top brands. While many of them use wordmarks as their brand identity, consider those that use symbols, such as Apple, McDonald’s, Nike and Pepsi. Even without the company name, their marks reveal the brand.

Contrast Creates Interest

Can you imagine how dull nature would be if everything was the same size? It’s amazing how the layers of the forest – from the canopy to the floor – contain all sizes of trees, shrubs and grasses. Likewise, elements in a brand identity – from the mark to the institution’s name – need the proper visual weight to create a contrasting relationship between sizes.

Size is but one facet of contrast. Consider color. Volumes exist (rightly so) about the psychology of color, contrast creates interest in brand identitiesbut don’t forget about color contrast. In the Formosa azalea, a favorite of mine pictured here, the large lavender flowers are accented with darker purple blotches. Additional contrast is added with the green leaves.

When it comes to brand identities, high color contrast gives them a clean, crisp look. Invariably, a time will come when schools, colleges and nonprofits must print their brand identity in black and white. If a grayscale logo is not available, high color contrast in a CYMK brand identity will improve its reproduction.

Consistency is Critical

Just as day follows night, consistency in the use of colors and fonts is a basic tenet of branding. So is consistent placement of graphic elements. In fact, this need for consistency is why brand standards guidelines abound in the world of marketing communications.

One more point to consider in regards to consistency. Just as there is a dominance hierarchy among animals, most schools and colleges, and some nonprofits, require secondary brand identities. These logos recognize divisions, departments and programs while allowing the primary brand to dominate. Consistent use of these secondary logos is also critical.


Mother Nature has many more lessons to teach us about building brand identities. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.