Top 5 Branding Agencies In The World — January 2022
A list of the world's best brand design agencies, brand identity and graphic design firms from NYC, San Francisco, London.
Updated January 8, 2022
Innovative branding firms know that logos and colors no longer define brands. It's all about a holistic brand experience, where digital and physical touchpoints are intricately intertwined to create a future-forward brand.
Traditional graphic design firms try to catch up to the new connected reality. While any forward-thinking branding agency will always start with brand strategy and only then execute, only digital branding firms understand that user experience is the crucial component of any brand these days.
We've put together a list of brand design firms that get it. Some come from the traditional graphic design background, while others are digital natives who break the boundaries of a brand.
The World's Best Branding Agencies & Brand Design Firms for 2022:
They're the most prominent independent branding agency globally, with an extensive portfolio ranging from government and non-profit to crypto and tech. The brand design studio is run by 23 hands-on designers (who are partners), thus ensuring the utmost quality and commitment. No surprise, they've been in the graphic design business for over five decades.
This San Francisco-based UX design and branding agency approaches brand design from the UX design angle. They believe that modern brands are all about customer experience, so they focus on ensuring that people enjoy every interaction with the brand and remember the most delightful moments. We already highlighted Clay in our web design article, but we think they deserve a spot here as well.
Boasting a very descriptive name, the British creative agency creates brands the world loves and does so globally with four offices in the US, UK, China, and Australia. This branding agency became world-famous after working with Airbnb on their radical rebranding. Since then, their client base has been primarily digital products and services, and they've become a full-service digital design agency covering all aspects of the brand experience.
Collins is a strategy and brand design agency behind such prominent rebrands as Spotify, Sweetgreen, Robinhood, and Medium. Founded by graphic designer Brian Collins the branding firm has two outposts in NYC and SF. Their approach to branding is systematic, where brand communications are equally important as logo and visual identity.
5. Kurppa Hosk
The only Swedish branding agency on our list, Kurppa Hosk, came into prominence due to its refined Scandinavian aesthetics and tasteful modernism-inspired graphic design. Their most notable clients include Pinterest, Stellar, and Superlative. They position themselves as a strategic partner that helps transform businesses, not just a plain old creative firm.
Ready to jump in and hire an agency for your branding project?
We recommend that you read the tips below first.
Why is Branding Such a Big Deal?
There is more to a brand than simply a well-designed company image. A brand is the company's identity in visual and verbal forms. It communicates a story about the company itself and why it is unique to potential or current customers. Good branding is well understood and recognized, two factors significant to a company's success.
Brand recognition means somebody is seeing a brand and knowing right away what the company is and what it does. Recognition is nearly universal for some of the largest brands out there. One critical branding goal is to increase recognition beyond the current users or customers of the product or service and spread this recognition further afield.
Some of the best-known brands include Adidas, Apple, Pepsi, and Microsoft. Nearly everyone who sees one of these brands can recognize it straight away. It is recognition that makes a brand into a household name. This keeps the product or service of the company circulating, which in turn leads to an increase in sales.
What are Branding Experts?
Branding experts and brand designers are not simply graphic designers or illustrators. They need to understand every step of the branding process. Branding can be expensive, time-consuming, and delicate, so it must be done accurately and precisely. If a brand does not come out well the first time around, this means money and time are wasted. A branding expert is someone who makes sure every step during brand creation is professionally planned as well as executed.
Although a new company is likely to have founders with a clear brand vision, they don't have the experience or skills to turn this vision into reality. That is where the branding experts come in. These experts can organize the necessary details and steps in the branding process, the three pillars: brand development, brand strategy, and brand positioning. There are more detailed steps in each of these three sectors.
In addition, branding experts can actualize conceptual visions in real-world conditions since they are familiar with many brands and know why some fail and others succeed. Branding does involve designing a logo or creating an image, but there is much more to it than that. It is about being able to situate a brand in a resonating, effective way for the relevant audience and the relevant market.
A branding professional also has to be an excellent communicator. This expert will be able to discuss visions and ideas with the client throughout the branding process and also be able to explain what is working and what is not clear. Being a master of communication is essential for a branding professional, as this is important to create brands close to the client's original vision.
Working with a Branding Agency: FAQs
Find out more about how to hire the right branding or creative agency for your business.
Q: What is the price of branding company services?
This depends on your requirements. A brand design price could be $10,000 or $100,000 or even more. The more brand design iterations you want, the more it will likely cost. After finishing the branding tasks, you should be given all the source materials by the agency.
Once you factor in all of these, $100,000 might not even be the top price. Some of the biggest and best digital marketing firms might charge $100,000 for the brand strategy alone. Include research, messaging, visual design, tone of voice, and other brand components, and you might end up with a high 6-figure amount.
However, if you don't have that much to spend, it is still possible to hire a smaller company that will offer excellent, thorough branding services for much less.
Q: What deliverables do I get from a brand agency?
It is important to know exactly what will be supplied by the brand design firm you hire. These are some of the things you should expect to get in a branding package:
Naming: Brainstorming sessions are usually used by digital marketing firms to help them develop exciting, fitting names for the client's business. To begin with, you will get a list of names to consider. Think about narrowing it down to the ones you prefer or requesting a second brainstorm if none of the agency's suggestions appeal to you.
Developing a visual identity: Once you have a name picked out, the design team will talk to you about the vision for your business. It is essential to give them plenty of honest input at this stage. Next, the branding firm will conduct more research and deliver initial design concepts. You should participate in these research sessions to help get the aptest results. Ask how many revisions you get in the package and how much extra every new change would cost.
Design Production: After concept approval, the agency will give you the final artwork for the logo in agreed-upon formats. They will also give you the files in various formats, so you can use them for different purposes.
Extras: The basics are naming, deciding on visual identity, and design production. You might also get some extra elements, such as:
- Brand guidelines: This brand bible has specific details about your business's branding, with a bare minimum of your logos and information about how they will be used, colors and their codes, plus typographic details such as fonts.
- Print material: Some signage will be necessary if you have a physical storefront. You'll most likely need things like business cards, company letterhead, and other offline materials.
- Email and social media templates: Your business should customize social media and email marketing templates. However, it might be a good idea to start with standard templates to leverage your new branding.
Q: Is it better to hire a branding company or a full-range digital advertising or marketing company?
The great thing about a branding agency is that it will look at the brand's big picture, including the reputation, value, image, or philosophy behind the company. A customer can think about it as their perception of a business how they are experiencing it, then decide whether it adds something meaningful to their life. A thoughtful brand is supposed to connect the product or service and the end customer.
So think about branding as a 'why' and advertising as a 'what.' That means marketing is the 'how' of the company. Advertising is all about concept development that will draw customers to your business, and marketing should convert your company's goals into sales.
You can add in later elements since branding supports the whole infrastructure. It often makes the most sense to work on one thing at a time, so first branding and then marketing and advertising.
It is a critical investment to hire a branding agency, but it is not an investment that will bring in immediate returns. Even so, it is still a step well worth taking during the early days of your company.
Q: How long is the branding process?
It is crucial to define precisely what you require. For example, suppose you want an all-encompassing, comprehensive branding service. In that case, you should start with consumer insights and strategy development before moving on to the logo's look, feel, and design. Such a project might take up to a year if you deal with a brand new service or product. If you are redesigning an existing brand, expect it to take 6 to 9 months.
Also, think about brand identity, which is your logo, fonts, colors, and other style guide elements. This can take up to 3 months to finish. If you're creating a new brand, it might take up to 6–9 months from A to Z.
Q: How much does brand identity matter?
Brand identity is critical for how well your brand will stand out from the competition. Recognizable, unique brand features to promote a business are the best-known elements. Various parts of a company play a vital role, with a brand name, tagline, and logo.
However, brand identity goes one step further, encompassing all visual and verbal aspects involved in the whole brand experience. Each of these plays its role in brand identity:
Identity: This is the company's expression for the outside world and how your target customer will perceive your brand. Visual identity is significant for a company because its brand image will be based on.
Consistency and continuity: Consistency is perhaps the most crucial part of branding-related. Creating an outward expression and keeping it consistent is vital to generate the correct perception for the brand in question.
Uniqueness: A brand stands apart from the competition using differentiation, which is also fundamental for positioning strategies.
Personality: The brand's personality is visually communicated by the brand identity. Brand identity is used to create a brand image that audiences will relate to consistently, always associating the brand with whatever products or services it provides.
Q: What skills does a branding agency offer?
You can expect a wide range of skills and services from most creative firms. They will often have new, developing capabilities alongside core skills. You might like to take a closer look at the company's employees to give you an idea of where the company's specific strengths lie. Explore the agency website or check out the employees on LinkedIn to see how many employees are in each specialty and what skills they offer.
For example, how many brand designers and strategists at a senior level are in the agency? For instance, if there is only one visual identity designer or copywriter, the agency is stronger at development and building instead of offering creative services.
Q: What are some tips for choosing the best branding agency or creative firm?
Making the best choice is critical since it will affect the success of your business. For the best results, consider the following factors before making a final decision:
Do your due diligence: Look at how they rank, which companies are highest ranked in your region, and tap into your network. You can rule out any which are way beyond your budget.
Consider your objectives: You should be specific about the objectives of your project. Map out these goals before getting in touch with the management team from the agency.
Have a realistic budget: Prices fluctuate from agency to agency. This means it's a good idea to figure out your budget for branding services from the beginning to the end. This also means the team at the branding agency will understand what services they should offer you.
Consider the timing: It is essential to communicate with the branding agency about your timing expectations.
Narrow down relevant creative companies: Discuss your branding requirements with a few brand design agencies and shortlist those with excellent reputations and strong portfolios. Perhaps compare several agencies with different approaches to your branding project's requirements.
Choose a Top 3: Narrow it down to just three agencies if possible and give each one the same information about your project. Compare the proposals, prices, and timing from each to make an informed decision.
Let them pitch you: Pick 2 of the 3 agencies and make them pitch to you. Whichever you prefer in terms of seeing eye to eye and feel they understand your needs is the best branding agency for you and the one you should ultimately pick.
A Closer Look at the Process of Brand Identity Design
Designing a brand identity should be rewarding as well as intricate. Although a brand designer will try to create the best brand identities, things go wrong on occasion. All branding designers and most creative agencies will follow a similar process to ensure the results meet the buyer's requirements.
It is essential to know there are various methods to handle this process. Nearly all companies will approach the process based on the team and skillset specialties and other elements.
There are two significant elements in the branding process, which are, first of all, the client onboarding process and then the creative aspects. We can look closer at both of these:
Client Onboarding: What to Expect
Although client meetings do vary, there are a few things in common with each client, no matter who your appointment is with.
The brand design agency will do some research before meeting with the client. This research includes a thorough investigation of the client's business, social media accounts, projects, products, and easily accessible information. This research is used for questions, observations, and possible solutions encountered at such an early stage to get a good idea of what the client is requesting or looking for.
The client will have the opportunity of reviewing this research during the meeting, along with any preliminary prep work the agency can share. During this first stage, trust can be built between the client and the agency.
Neither the client nor the agency will want to waste time only to learn the price was too high to begin with. For that reason, during this initial meeting, the digital agency team will suggest an estimated schedule for project completion. If you feel your project should not take so long, bear in mind, these timing estimates are typically longer than they end up being.
The first meeting between branding firm representatives and the client is helpful to discover common ground for both parties before diving into a more serious discussion of the project.
The Design Brief
If the initial meeting is a success, the next step is usually the brand design agency team discussing what they learned about the client's wishes and expectations and the project before preparing their final offer.
This is when the agency creates a design brief. No two design briefs are the same. The agency might create it using an online form tool, or they might prefer to email a separate document to you.
The information you give the digital creative agency in the design brief will affect the outcome of the project as well as the work itself. You might accidentally give inadequate or too-short answers to some design brief questions since you are not a designer yourself. For this reason, you might be asked to answer more specifically. Everything must be clear between the branding firm and you before the project kicks off.
The Brand Design Proposal
During this stage, the branding agency creates a document called a design proposal. This well-designed document will help guide both you and the agency and covers these points:
- Agency services and other relevant information
- Personal presentation of the agency
- Agency's top work case studies pertinent to your project
- Scope of work for your project
- Timeline, deliverables & budget
Once you receive this document, you will need to approve it. At this stage, you can continue discussions if you need to clarify anything between yourself and the branding company. If you think it is priced too high, you can still discuss and negotiate. To speed things up, be as precise as you can be when talking about the scope of the work and the budget so that you can forgo endless back and forth discussions.
If you only want to separate brand identify from the digital agency and you need to design, for example, a website, ensure you talk about this before the actual project commences. If not, it will come up as a separate issue apart from the current scope of the agreed-upon work. To sum up, you must clearly understand what is needed to design your brand identity and describe it precisely and accurately to avoid misunderstandings.
You have to have a contract. It will ensure accurate results and professionalism for you and the creative team. You usually have to pay a percentage of the project cost upfront before starting any project work. You can look at contract templates that have been written as well as vetted by designers.
After discussing and agreeing with everything in the document, the next stage is to sign the contract and transfer the deposit, so the brand design firm can start working.
How Exactly the Branding Process Works
It isn't possible to detail the exact branding design process the agency will use simply because each design firm has its way of doing things. However, some points are similar for all agencies.
The following represents how branding agencies typically approach projects, but it is not necessarily accurate for every brand agency.
Brand design professionals will proceed with research when they are clear about your company's personality and the goals that have been set. Whether creating a website or logo, this step is a vital part of every design project.
It is critical to have a comprehensive brand strategy to map out the path enabling growth. Developing this successfully requires a combination of creativity and logical thinking because brand strategy creation has to work both externally and internally. A solid brand strategy will clarify the following:
- Brand vision & values
- Advantages over competition
- Target markets
- Brand personality
- Brand proposition and promise
Visual Identity Design
The branding team will review the strategy report and analysis and then use creativity and experience to convert the brand strategy into a visual identity. Different branding agencies have their ways of conducting this kind of work, but they cannot rush a visual identity design. This process requires time and patience and typically means many ideas will be presented to be narrowed down into one concept.
During this part of the process, the visual identity concept is applied to various mediums serving as a contact point between your business and your clients. The brand assets might include some of the following items:
- Social media assets
- Business cards, leaflets, signage, brochures, and other print material
- Presentation templates
- Physical and digital product design
- Corporate merch (t-shirts, hoodies, backpacks, etc.)
The visual identity can now be tested in real applications in this part of the process, rather than just the hypothetical ones from before. When it is clear that everything works well, all the touchpoints can be finalized. Next, the creative agency will prepare all brand identity deliverables in all required and necessary formats in addition to brand guidelines.
Thanks for reading!