The Trade Dress

On Visual Identity

The role of the designer is in its ascendancy in the ever-evolving marketplace. The self-selection revolution proved to be a dramatic development for all stakeholders within the retail industry. Large format supermarkets started replacing the role of the traditional grocery, and suddenly, the retail dynamic started changing; brands stood on their own; packages had to sell themselves. Thus, package goods manufacturers were early adopters of the principle that strong brand identity supports growth (Kathman, 2002).
Branding goes beyond the retail industry; the benefits of a strong brand identity far exceed the narrow interpretations of previous ages. By way of definition, brand identity encapsulates the visual elements unique to an organisation or product, which may include any one or more of the following: symbolic imagery, stylistic treatment of name, colour, typographic specifications and any other accessory visual elements designed to prompt association. Sometimes also referred to as ‘trade dress’, or ‘visual identity’, “brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible” (Wheeler, 2018, p.4). Thus, a visual identity is the interface that across all touchpoints delivers the brand promise.

For the global mobility platform Uber, the brand vision lies within a set of ideals: safety, accessibility, and global ambitions. The 2018 rebrand project, led by design agency Wolff Olins, forced a positive shift in the brand—from a Silicon Valley start-up to an international outlook, from growth-focused to people-focused. Uber’s brand identity, described as ‘beyond-simple’, as complex as it may seem, is based on three key elements: the bespoke typeface ‘Uber Move’, the ‘U-frame’ composition that features throughout all brand communications, and the Safety Blue addition to the colour palette, which complements the overall narrative of care and connection.

The latest Uber visual identity designed by Wolff Olins

To flourish, a brand must be continuously nurtured, supported, and vigilantly guarded (Knapp, 2000). It is crucial that all internal employees and creative partners follow the brand vision diligently, be it with content creation or physical communication. Brand guidelines, also referred to as brand standards, serve a vital role in brand management—Andrys (2015) described it as “an owner’s manual on how to use a brand.” It highlights the brand values and overall strategic direction, sets out detailed instructions and rules on a brand identity and all its elements and presents templates and a showcase of brand collaterals for ease of reference.

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