Brands are more than the sum of their parts. So why not build them that way?

Creating a brand from the ground up is a daunting task, so people often want to break it up into smaller design tasks; logo creation, color selection, voice and tone, and brand design “look and feel.” But breaking down a new brand that way can be short-sighted. When you craft a brand with individual bits you are making a scary assumption that they will all fit together nicely in the end. This denies clients – and the entire agency team – the opportunity to consider everything as a whole and to let each component influence the other.

Think about it this way. Breaking down brand development into small, bite-size chunks is like asking a food critic to judge a meal with a blindfold and their nose plugged. (SIDE READING:  How does sight and smell affect taste Give that study a quick read with your brand hat on, and you will see how important the entire experience really is.)

A brand is more than just the sum of its parts. We use this philosophy in all of our brand development. To illustrate what this looks like and why it is so valuable to our teams and clients, we wanted to share our latest work for Santa Maria Valley. After our research was completed, we built their brand platform – you can check that out here. This platform has countless execution possibilities, all on-brand and all on-strategy. This is where the process can go one of two ways. The execution could be a singular task, going step-by-step and choosing a direction at each milestone. Or it could be the creation of several distinct and complete approaches. The latter gives the client ample opportunity to digest the entire feel of each option, complete with logos, color, photography, tone and voice. Take a look at the choices below (you can view the full pdf here):


  • Option one – A blue collar experience
  • Option two – Wild and free
  • Option three – Funk and punch
  • Option four – Historically unique
  • Option five – Down home goodness

When you look at how different these choices are, you might think, were all of these based on the same brand platform? Yes. But they all interpret the brand platform differently. Working on logo, tone, colors, typography, and photography together allows our creative team to think about and explore the entire Santa Maria Valley experience. And seeing brand options as a combination of each component, lets our client evaluate each option knowing what the new Santa Maria Valley will feel like if they choose “Option One” or “Option Three.” It helps them imagine the bigger picture – to think about how everything will come together – instead of trying to evaluate a logo in isolation.

This process also helps avoid ‘gut’ visual preferences because you are seeing a brand come to life – you can imagine its entire personality and are able to see the logo as just one part of that. We have all seen this happen before, an amazing option is halted simply because of a personal bias or preference. But when the entire vision is presented, those will never be strong enough to kill an approach entirely, they are just details to be ironed out after the direction is made.

But because nothing is ever finished for us at KPS3, there is one more step that we have started adding to the above process, and that is the physical state. For each of these brands we also printed the logo on books and etched it onto milk jugs and cutting boards. This gave the client one more way to experience the brand in their own hands, to spin it, to hold it away and to see it up close and personal.


In the end, we all know that a brand is more than any one of its parts. Yet in our need for structure, we end up creating them in too many steps. So every time we are tempted to present just a logo in its “pure” form (black and white), we like to pause and remember that even a trained sommelier can drink dyed white wine and think it is red.

If you want to see the entire Santa Maria Valley brand – check it all out here.

Special thanks to @juliakruper for helping with the post.

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