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How can you 'brand' 5 different websites that live under one parent company that are all very similar with the exception of the demographic? Stack Exchange is a very good example because they sites are all a similar function but with different demographics.

How can I create graphical elements that all relate to each other, but are somewhat different between the sites. They should all still be visually recognizable as part of that 'family'.

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2 Answers

There's really no single approach to creating sub-brands, but here is how the process might go...

  1. If you are creating the parent identity, then you're also taking into consideration how the sub-branding might work/look
  2. You experiment with slight modification of fonts, colors, imagery, etc of the parent brand and use your judgement to know if you've gone too far
  3. You submit your ideas to the client and rely on their feedback to know if you've gone too far; sometime they might be wrong, and sometimes not
  4. Repeat from step 2 if required

The exact changes to fonts, colors, imagery, etc should not be so extensive as to contradict the parent brand, but they should definitely have their own flare.

I have seen some companies adjust their logo for sub-brands by simply shrinking the icon, and adding some colorful text below the company name. Sometimes the text is a similar style to what the parent is using in its name, and sometimes the style is more customized towards the target audience (e.g., a more playful text for kids).

If you're dealing with printed materials, then it might be a good idea to create a master layout, and customize rather than reinvent for each sub-brand. Again, you have the same tools: fonts, colors, imagery, etc. You should also think about referencing the parent company with their logo somewhere, possibly near the bottom/end of the document.

For websites, you can use sub-domains (e.g., graphicdesign.stackexchange.com, vector.tutsplus.com). And once again, you have the same tools and you might want to create a master layout as well as include the parent company logo somewhere.

I think the key is to make sure that the result achieves the goals of the project. Sometimes companies actually want to distance the parent company from the sub-brand so they can enter new markets that the parent company would never be successful in. So the degree of changes will depend largely on the objectives of your client.

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Start with the excellent answers to this question, which is closely related. If you follow the steps I outlined in answer to your other question, then look at DAO1's and Lauren Ipsum's responses to that question, you should have all the ammunition you need.

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