Designing your digital badge – a handy checklist of visual elements

badge list

Creating one digital badge is relatively easy – creating many can get quite hard, harder still if you want to roll out the ability to give badges to others within your organisation.

If you’re creating more than one badge, you’ll find you need to define your digital badge guidelines – it’s like having a brand book but for badges.

One organisation that’s an expert at badges is the Girl Guiding association – their guidelines on how to create a bespoke badge are worth reading to see how it’s done.

pb 60It’s quite common for organisations to leave badge design to their visual design team, however it is important that business users are involved in the strategic visual decisions – what stays the same for each badge, and what differs. Badges once given can be displayed anywhere so are an important visual marker of your success tracking program, getting them wrong or designing them badly can undermine confidence in your core program itself.

Adventure Badge
While a visual designer can make the same badge look very different, it’s up to the business leader to define what elements of the badge remain standard for each different badge and what can be changed.


In this post, I want to signpost some of the key visual language decisions you need to make when designing your badges. Your written guidelines should  then state clearly which of these can be changed and which need to remain the same for each new badge.

pb 60Shape

Shape is important in badges – while the most common are circles, squares and shields, any shape can be the canvas for your badge, even a star!0023_free_vector_graphics.jpg


The border can frame the badge by being a different colour from the main shape. It could even support text within it.


Banners are often placed inside, above or below the shape. The banner will usually include text to explain the badge.

Central Icon

Badges often have a clear icon that summarises the activity for which the badge was awarded.


Many badges include quite a bit of text to explain what they are for, the font you choose should reflect your brand. Be aware that badges are often shown at small resolutions so readability is important.


For me colour shouldn’t be used to mean too much – digital badges are inherently global and colour can have a very subjective meaning – that’s not to say it won’t be appropriate to use it in some circumstances.


Adorning your badge with a serated edge, a repeating background pattern, an extra icon or perhaps a double border can give your badge a different feel.


Rating stars are often used within badge design to denote achievement level.

pb 60

In terms of text / icons that you need to fit onto a badge consider the following:


The stamp of the institution awarding the badge.


Badges may be awarded for all time or they could represent achievements for a certain time period.


The achievement or the activity for which the badge was earned.


The level at which the badge was earned


Your overall categorisation for the badge.


The region, locality for which the badge was earned.

pb 60So, there’s plenty of permutations for your digital badge design!

Spending some time in advance defining what you keep standard and what you change each time will help you.

Don’t forget, once your badge is defined you can use them at scale by hosting the badge itself on and use to automate distribution based on your scoring criteria.



5 reward priorities in gamification

I wonder whether it would be helpful to think of  gamification rewards in priority order – designing what you what to be considered first in player’s heads.

I think that would help gamifiers and their clients get the focus right:

  1. Epic Win – why do I ultimately want to be involved in this activity?
  2. Intrinsic Reward – the intrinsic satisfactions from the activity
  3. Personalised Feedback – knowing how I am really doing against my goal
  4. Non-Financial Extrinsic Rewards – for example, recognising personal bests, social feedback such as a rank on a leaderboard, or a beautiful badge that enhances my online reputation.
  5. Financial Extrinsic Rewards – anything transferable and could conceivably have a financial value to others – status, access, power and stuff (SAPS).

My point is this, us gamifiers need to start our thinking around rewards in gamification program design at priority 1 and work down to 5. In gamification, priority 5 should be the place of last resort. If absolutely necessary I recommend providing financial extrinsic rewards on a surprise and delight, variable-ratio-reward basis in miniscule amounts. It’s both the most costly and the least sustainable reward, as well as being most prone to creating unwanted distortion effects.

I find the classically trained marketing mind approaches gamification by starting with these financial incentives and imagining that gamification is somehow bolting on priorities 4 downward i.e. tactically ‘Slapping on points and badges’ to ‘increase engagement’.  This is just not true and if we change our thinking to consider gamification rewards in a sequence, the pitfall should now be obvious.

How to distribute badges via Leaderboarded and Credly

Leaderboarded and Credly have partnered to provide a way of giving elegant badges to players on your leaderboard.

While you can read the press release in full, the integration guide on Credly or the help content on Leaderboarded to find out more, you might prefer to watch one of the videos below:

In these short step by step videos I demonstrate how to distribute badges, firstly via email (if the Player Identifier for your board is email) or via Twitter (if you’re using Twitter accounts as the Player Identifier).

I look forward to seeing some badges distributed in this way very soon.