Why development teams should talk about identity.

A brand, or identity, is all about the feeling you get when you encounter a product. Identity designers work with logos, packaging, advertisements and more to form a desired feeling in the hearts of a brand's customers. So then why am I, a UX-designer working on IT projects, writing an article about identity design? Aren't these two separate fields?

3 min read


By Arne Magnus Mykkelbost


December 3, 2019

As UX and interaction designers, we use our craft to make digital products as useful as possible. But do users love our products? Developers find stunning solutions in code, but is that code generating cash for your client? Does it provide the desired feeling in our customers' hearts? When making decisions in the product development team, what information are they based on? How do our choices reinforce our client's brand, or send it in a new direction?

What is branding or identity design?

A common interpretation is the visual identity, but branding is much more. It deals with how we perceive things and the personality of our products. For example, how would you describe a friend's identity? Perhaps by the characteristics of her personality, or more specifically the small things she does - her quirks or the way she handles various situations. It is the same with the identities of our products. It follows then, that the choices we as product development teams make as to the behavior of our products is essential to that products identity.

Why should development teams talk about identity in their daily process?

The answer is simple: to provide clarity of direction and purpose for the product. Branding is so much more than a logo or visual identity. We need to stop thinking of identity design as a separate discipline that some other designers take care of. While you need to have dedicated resources to establishing a visual identity, the daily decisions of developers, product owners and business advisors directly affect the brand of your product. The personality of our products lies in its interactions, functionality, code quality and architecture. A development team with a common understanding of what, why and how they should make things will cooperate better. As a result, the team can intentionally reinforce and build the desired perception of the brand to their users.

How can we gather the whole team around delivering products consistent with the company's identity?

For the past two years, a small group at Bekk has been developing an identity tool kit for digital product development teams. We call it the "Brand History." The kit, consisting of strategic and hands-on tools, identifies the foundation an identity is built upon. It helps your team develop a foundation for your brand; a clear direction. It is based on The Google Brand Sprint with some additional tools making it a two days sprint. It invites the whole development team to contribute, creating a common understanding and ownership of the identity. Optimally, the Brand History should be established at the beginning of a project. It will save you time later when the team has a common understanding from the beginning and it will make decision making easier, create fewer and more focused discussions and give a clear direction for the product. It does not need to be perfect; it can be adjusted along the way to incorporate what you learn during the project.

Start talking about identity!

A brand is not built by visual designers alone. The contributions of all roles on development teams contribute, so start thinking of yourself as an identity designer, or identity advisor. An identity developer, or an identity owner. Because we are not just building functionality in our products, we are building identity.