Everything you need to know about brand identity for startups



The development of brand identity presents both similarities and divergent challenges for large corporations and startups. The crux of a brand identity is the core principles it embodies - the perceived image it presents to its stakeholders. However, the path to molding that identity is significantly influenced by an organization's size, ethical commitments, and operational processes.

Need help with a brand book for a startup? Feel free to jump into our article on it right away.

Navigating differences

Large corporations often come with a legacy, which can be both a blessing and a burden. Their established brand identity can provide a robust framework to build upon and offer immediate recognition and trust in the market. However, it can also stifle innovation and make pivoting or rebranding a substantial challenge.


The size of the corporation has significant implications on the processes involved in shaping the brand identity. Changes to the brand identity must be carefully coordinated across various departments, ensuring all touchpoints consistently reflect the new identity. Moreover, large corporations often operate in multiple markets, requiring them to cater to a more diverse set of customer expectations and legal regulations.

Startups, on the other hand, operate in a more agile and volatile environment. They often begin with a clean slate, allowing for a greater scope of creativity and innovation in developing a brand identity. However, they may also struggle with establishing credibility and recognition in the market. For startups, brand identity isn't just about differentiating their product or service. It's about establishing trust, communicating their vision, and making their mark within a competitive landscape.


Ethics play a crucial role in the shaping of brand identities for both types of organizations. For large corporations, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are often an integral part of their brand identity. These initiatives aim to demonstrate their commitment to various social, environmental, and economic issues, thus enhancing their public image. However, the ethical stance of a corporation can sometimes be questioned due to past transgressions, which can tarnish their brand identity.

Startups, especially those born in the age of increased social consciousness, often prioritize ethics right from their inception. Their ethical stance becomes part of their DNA and an intrinsic part of their brand identity. They can leverage their commitment to ethical practices as a unique selling proposition (USP), making them stand out in the crowd.


Large corporations usually have well-established procedures and hierarchies, which can slow down decision-making and the implementation of changes to the brand identity. However, the thoroughness of these processes can also prevent hasty decisions and ensure consistency across all aspects of the brand.

Startups often have more flat structures and flexible processes, enabling quick decisions and the ability to adapt to market changes. However, this agility can lead to inconsistencies in the brand identity if not managed carefully. Thus, it's important for startups to establish guidelines early on to maintain consistency as they grow.

What should you know about creating a brand identity for startups?

Because startups can often change their brand rules more easily, they can have more fun and be more daring. Let's think about the main things to remember when creating a brand look for a startup, no matter what kind of business it is.

Candor storytelling

A brand identity serves as a powerful tool for capturing the essence of a real startup's story beyond visual guidelines. By incorporating honest storytelling elements, such as mission, values, and unique selling propositions, startups can create a strong emotional bond with their peeps. The more complex the products or services, the more compelling and immersive the storytelling should be.

Imperfection equals authenticity

Embracing the genuine and imperfect aspects of a startup fosters relatability. Recognizing and showcasing the quirks, imperfections, and unique personality of the brand helps establish an authentic connection with the audience. By presenting their true selves, startups invite others to engage on a deeper level, fostering a real bond.

Rules can be flexible

We often contemplate the importance of sticking to certain visual rules and staying within the industry's boundaries. For instance, when we picture tech startups, we usually think of those cool blue tones that give off a serious vibe without being too flashy. But here's the thing: every startup, no matter what it's about—finance, tech, beauty, you name it—has its own special blend of characteristics that come together to create a brand identity that really grabs people's attention.

No sector categorization needed

In the realm of branding, it’s crucial to shift the focus away from categorizing businesses by sector. The truth is, it's not about the industry itself. What truly matters is the beautiful blend of values and ideas that the creators infuse into their brand. It's this unique concoction that sets a brand apart and gives it that special glow.

Why all that?

The startup's niche doesn't dictate its brand identity. On the contrary, a strong brand identity is what sets a particular startup apart from the competition within its niche. In essence, the purpose of a brand identity is to stand out amidst the multitude of choices in the market, rather than blend in with the crowd. Therefore, it's crucial to establish a memorable brand, give it a distinct personality, and create a compelling visual and emotional presence that captures attention like a captivating billboard.

Brandbook for start-up guidelines

A brand book is a comprehensive guide that defines a startup's visual and verbal guidelines, ensuring the consistency of its brand identity. It is more than just a document; it serves as a reference manual that fosters trust and integrity. Furthermore, as startups grow and expand, the brand book provides a solid visual framework to guide their upward trajectory.


In a brand book, it is crucial to thoroughly outline the communication aspect. Who is the client of this startup? Who are they speaking to? How should they communicate with this client? This is often overlooked by founders because they interact with a multitude of stakeholders, ranging from co-founders within the team to investors.

Creative component

The creative component of brand identity is crucial. Why is it designed this way? What values and meanings does it convey? What insights are they based on? All of this should be included in the brand book to ensure clarity and transparency for anyone who opens it for the first time. It is also essential for immersing new employees in the marketing process.

Scalability element

It is described when and to what extent flexibility is possible. A startup is a living organism, and the brand grows alongside the company itself. This should be reflected in the brand book. It should be clearly understood what can be experimented with and what should not be.

Don’t forget it’s 2023, baby

We're living in a time when we can create objects of any shape and color. The connection between color, texture, and meaning has been shattered, giving rise to an era of experimentation. 

Bold brands of our time, like WISE, show us just that. They break the rules and bring fun and playfulness even to the world of banking. Who would have thought? But hey, they don't let conventions hold them back because everyday services like banking shouldn't bring us down. They should inspire and keep us positive!

The new Wise identity combines boldness and freshness with a vibrant green palette and modern typography. Operating in 170 countries, Wise has broken the code and become truly local by actively responding to the unique countries and cultures they serve. It's an authentic and tailored experience that sets them apart.

bold brand identity of wise

Here's another example: Nothing phone. Instead of hiding, the company exposed the inner workings of their devices at a time when everyone else strives to conceal them, even with a massive competitor like Apple dominating the world of tech aesthetics. Once again, this reaffirms that it's so necessary to challenge the rules, especially in industries that can appeal to everyone as being universally boring.

bold brand of 2024 nothing phone

Brand identity for startups in a nutshell

Let’s summarize the major outtakes and add a few more to our list

- Challenge the norms when needed

- Think and design the opposite

- Dare to be different and imperfect

- Tell real stories

- Keep scalability in mind: A robust brand book for startups should consider scalability from the get-go. It anticipates the potential growth of your startup into a larger ecosystem. Therefore, it emphasizes the use of graphical content and patterns that can serve as a solid foundation for future graphics

- Visual scalability is important too: When it comes to the visuals, think of them as the ABCs, the foundation upon which your brand identity can grow, and adapt as your company expands. It's like those pants you buy for a kid, knowing they'll outgrow them in no time. It's like buying pants for a child with room to grow. Always keep in mind that your startup's identity is on a journey and will need flexibility to thrive

Bolder agency startup case


Raiseway makes crowdfunding easier for entrepreneurs by providing everything they need. It's a one-of-a-kind product (no direct competitors!) that offers tools, support, and guidance for a successful crowdfunding campaign. 

With its new identity, Raiseway breaks the mold. It switches to a joyful color palette and uses friendly graphics. They communicate in a caring and understanding way, putting themselves in their customers' shoes and focusing on their success rather than just talking about platform features and merits. 

Raiseway's new identity style is a breath of fresh air, especially in the fintech startup world - and their brand book speaks volumes about that.  While analyzing indirect competitors, we noticed that most of them stick to the corporate shell, using cold and impersonal graphics along with complex communication.

riseaway brand identity
riseway brand identity

Check out the full brand book on Behance. Be friendly; give us a thumbs up!

Yours truly,

Bolder agency team

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