Design, Photography, & Fashion

Diane von Furstenberg's Tips for Designing a Brand Identity

Written by MasterClass

Nov 16, 2018 • 4 min read

When it comes to establishing a strong brand identity, it’s hard to think of a better example than Diane Von Furstenberg, who created her eponymous multimillion-dollar clothing empire with a single dress.

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Diane von Furstenberg’s Journey to Building a Brand

Diane is a Belgian-American fashion designer who came to New York City in 1970, and shortly after launched her eponymous label. Known for the iconic wrap dress, Diane has built her company into a creative and daring leader within the industry offering a variety of ready-to-wear collections and accessories.

But Diane didn’t think of herself in terms of a brand until recently. She felt authentically connected to the generations of women who bought her clothing, rather than as a brand with loyal customers.

Today, people call themselves a brand very casually. Diane believes that to have a brand, you must have an identity and a precise personality–or DNA–for your product. Develop your product first and its “reason to be,” and then build a brand from there.

Four Ways to Develop Brand Identity

Here, Diane shares her four brand identity design secrets to help any small business or new brand develop their core values, identify their value proposition, and find their target audience.

1. Find Your Story

The first step to figuring out your brand identity or brand DNA is working out your story. Your brand’s story is crucial to building a successful brand. It can be as simple as outlining a beginning, middle, and end. Your beginning outlines the problem, or area of opportunity within the market. This is your “Why?” The middle details your solution, or how your product fits that gap in product offerings and gives your target customers something they need. The end tells of your success, giving customers a satisfying feeling knowing your brand will serve their needs.

Your brand story is in part about brand design, but truly the goal is to connect on a deeper level with your customers. Diane says her clothes are the “friend in the closet,” and this is the familiar feeling you want to develop with your customers. How can you emotionally connect your brand to others?

2. Differentiate Your Products

What does it mean to build your brand DNA? Diane has mentioned how it comes down to the personality of your product and how easily distinguishable it is from competing products in the marketplace.

As an example, the wrap dress stood out because of Diane’s use of printed jersey fabric, its ability to be fashionable for work and play, and how it spoke to the culture of the time for women. Diane’s company is now producing clothing and accessories beyond the wrap dress, but the wrap dress is still a core part of the company’s DNA, and of course, part of Diane’s own story.

As you work toward creating your own brand identity, ask yourself: What’s my wrap dress? What’s the item my brand can hang its hat on?

3. Create a Visual Identity

The name and logo of your company is a major part of your brand identity.

For Diane, it was a simple choice to name the brand after herself—she embodied everything that her wrap dress and her brand stood for. However, not all brands need to be named after the founder. For example, Polo is a brand that evokes a distinct sense of east coast American culture, and its logo embodies that sensibility.

For the DVF brand logo, Diane started by using her name and signature. As her brand grew, her logo evolved. Diane shares how her logo changed styles, and eventually to initials, so that it
could easily fit into global markets. Think about the ways your logo presents your brand and if it possesses the ability to evolve as you do.

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4. Create a Brand Portfolio

In order to build a brand identity around a product, Diane suggests you begin with your brand portfolio.

What Is a Brand Portfolio?

Your brand portfolio is comprised of different key elements that will help focus you in your mission to building a brand:

1. Mission statement
Your mission statement should clearly state why you’re building this brand, where you come from, and why now.

2. Description and photographs of product
Your product presentation, from the production of the garment to the packaging or positioning in the store, should be unlike that of your competitors

3. Product and market research
This is information like hard data on your competitors, as well as a list of marketing and sales opportunities and channels.

4. Business plan
Your business plan should have a thoughtful distribution and marketing strategy.

5. Visual brand identity
You should also include the full visual identity of your brand: logo, fonts, and color palettes.

Together, the top five elements become your brand personality.

How to Make a Brand Portfolio

If you want to make your own brand portfolio, start by putting together your company name, logo designs, market research, and business plan as well as brand style guide into one cohesive and aesthetically pleasing package.

Your mission statement should tell your brand’s story, explain what gives your brand its DNA, and explain how your products are connected. It should include what makes your brand unique, but be sure to avoid buzzwords that do not add meaning to your mission statement. Words take up valuable real estate on your website or on any printed material, so use them wisely.

The brand portfolio should also be inclusive, so that the average consumer can easily see themselves in your products and as a promoter of your brand.

For a final touch, it never hurts to design business cards and keep those in your back pocket (or purse)—whether you name your brand after yourself, like Diane, or not, you are the brand’s first advocate after all.