Corporate identity is the visual means by which organizations, businesses, and manufacturers are recognized and distinguished from each other. It is also a means of conveying the ways in which they carry out, and values inherent in, their activities. Although corporate identity is often closely linked to logotypes, at its most effective it also embraces other aspects of corporate expression such as architecture, interiors, furnishings and uniforms, stationery, publicity, even codes of company behaviour. Some writers have looked to what they see as early exponents of the idea, such as the army of ancient Rome, the Catholic Church, or the railway companies of the 19th century with their distinctive liveries, mainline stations, carriage interiors, dining services, cutlery, and menu designs. Corporate identity schemes may be used to make large corporations appear less dominant or threatening through the creation of positive individual identities for their subsidiaries, or to give related smaller companies greater global presence through the development of some readily communicable aspects of shared identity. Many design historians have pointed to the work of Peter Behrens for the AEG in Germany in the years leading up to the First World War, although it is in the world of the large American multinationals that corporate identity is at its most recognizable with the architecture, signage, uniforms, and food at McDonald's providing a potent contemporary example of the ways in which both the positive and negative aspects of identity can be read. Other notable examples of effective corporate identity include office equipment manufacturers Olivetti and IBM, and furniture manufacturers Knoll.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.