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Defining Your Brand Identity: The Is/Isn’t Chart

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When you first think about it, defining who you are should be pretty easy. You know where you work, what your goals are, and what you’re going to do when you sit down at your desk every day (or stand, as the case may be). You set quarterly and yearly goals and evaluate them along the way. All of these things can tell you who you are.

Your personal brand is an important part of that—it’s how “who you are” is presented publicly to prospects and customers, and internally to your team. But it’s more than just a list of attributes. Take an is/isn’t chart, for example. When it comes to defining your brand identity, creating an is/isn’t chart isn’t just a list of antonyms that describe your company, it’s a guiding path for how to think about your culture and your approach to problems. Read on to discover how to create an is/isn’t chart that works effectively as part of your brand positioning, and how it helps to define your brand.

The Is/Isn’t Works Together

The is/isn’t chart is not just two lists that run parallel to each other. Each row is a pair of descriptors that work together to create a framework of who you are. These pairs are not necessarily just the opposite of one another. They complement each other in a way that creates clarity on where you stand, ultimately aiding in defining your brand.

For example, Element Three’s is/isn’t chart defines us as “Curious.” If we were going about this simply by choosing antonyms, we’d end up with “disinterested,” “average,” or “ordinary” in the other column. All of those things would be appropriate, but they don’t tell us anything new. Instead, we use “Complacent” as its partner. By doing this we’re able to say “we are marked by desire to investigate and learn, but are not marked by self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This is more informative than saying “we’re very curious and not disinterested” – which would really just be repeating ourselves.

Is/Isn’t Incorporates Your Personality

Your is/isn’t list should be more than the high level facts about your company. It should be documentation of what makes you and your employees unique. There can be a lot of gray area within specific adjectives, so finding a word that complements but clarifies the first word is key.

For Element Three we say, “We are full of contributors but aren’t full of egos.” While we certainly have some amazing employees with Bold Stories, we don’t let ego get in the way of the work to be done. A lot is required from everyone and we know that it is a lot of people who share the work. The personality of our organization reflects this in that we all contribute and celebrate in a team.

The Is/Isn’t Chart Reflects How You Do Business

The is/isn’t chart is more than your personality – this chart can tell your employees how they should be presenting themselves and what your approach to business is. There are so many methodologies and theories on how to solve problems within a certain industry, why not define it to show where you stand?

This can be helpful not just to create clarity, but also as a permission-giver. In our chart we say “We are a unique, tailored solution and aren’t deliverables.” For us that means we approach every client and project as needing a different approach. While we have resources to pull from, looking at every client and brand as unique allows us to get rid of preconceived notions of what the most relevant solution might be. By defining that attitude within our brand positioning, there is clarity across the organization that everyone is expected to treat everyone who walks in the door as unique.

The Is/Isn’t Chart Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

As part of the branding process, defining who you are internally can help clarify your message externally. Using ideas that work together and reflect your personality and business approach will create a clear picture of who you are as a company and how you solve problems. In tandem with a larger brand exercise, this chart should be considered an important step towards defining your brand identity.

theresa behrens goodall

When she’s not creating award-winning designs, you can probably find her either running, reading or spending her weekends traveling around. She also tells us that she can be really sarcastic at times, but we're not sure if she's kidding. Or just being sarcastic.