Design components including hues, textures, forms, typefaces (typography), and functions make up visual branding. Branding and visual identity are not the same thing. A company’s usage of all branding components, including user profiles, videos, social media postings, logos, content strategies, and brand awareness, is referred to as branding.
Conversely, a company’s visual identity or branding conveys its personality and ideals through images. Using colors, forms, and fonts in a company’s logo, website, and business cards helps create a visual identity that aims to evoke strong feelings in the eyes of the public.
An effective visual brand leaves the customer with a positive impression, builds their trust, and, in the case of a positive experience, encourages recommendations and repeat business. One of the strongest tools at your disposal for customer communication is visual branding.
What Is Visual Branding?
Visual branding is an important facet of your marketing strategy. It consists of all the visual elements used to represent your business, from your logo to the font on your business cards. Each component works together to create the overall look and feel of your brand.
Your visual branding serves several purposes.
First, it’s there to convey your brand personality and make an emotional impression on your audience.
Next, your brand’s visual identity will help your audience learn about your business. Potential customers use visual cues to understand:
- Where your business fits in the market.
- What makes your brand unique.
- What they can expect from your products or services.
Finally, your visual branding approach will help unite the many fragments of your brand through consistent images. Whether your target customer looks at an email newsletter, Instagram post or brochure, shared visual branding elements will signal that it’s your business speaking.
5 Essentials of Visual Branding
In a few seconds, a visual brand impression is formed. Then, at every interaction, audiences look for affirmation. Five essential visual components must cooperate to form a unified visual language in order to help viewers understand your brand.
A brand mark, color, typeface, graphics, and imagery are these fundamental components of visual brand identification. What you should know is as follows:
1. Brand Mark: Your Unique Signifier
You see a swoosh and you know the billboard is from Nike. You see a red target on a commercial and you know the ad is not for an archery camp but for Target, the retail chain. That’s the power of a logo or typographic brand mark (and a large ad budget).
Your brand’s unique signifier — aka your logo or typographic brand mark — is your identity in its simplest form. It should immediately call to mind your organization — and (as importantly) call to heart the distinct emotional appeal at your brand’s core. However simple they appear, logos are painstakingly thought out and strategically designed, refined and revised many, many times in the design process.
Every organization needs a unique signifier and the more people see it, the more they’ll come to automatically associate it with your business. Use it everywhere. However, a visual identity isn’t just your one little mark. It is a foundation but only the beginning of your visual identity, the full package that truly breathes life into your brand.
2. Color Palette
Why do opposing teams wear different colors? Why is a suit for a financial job interview suit usually dark and subdued? Why does the construction worker wear day-glo?
As with clothing on a person, the colors of your organization speak volumes. Color can differentiate you from your competitors, showcase your belonging to an industry and trigger a response from your customers — all at the same time.
The right selection of colors —your brand color palette— can carry different connotations and can elicit different emotions. Some colors are even culturally specific. When choosing your color palette, think carefully about what emotions you want to evoke, what audiences you’re addressing and all your needs: website and online social presence; corporate, employee and investor communications; reports, brochures, sales tools and presentations as well as print materials.
What color is your star and who is the cast? Do the colors in the palette complement each other? Think about the colors in use.
Typography is your brand’s visual voice and tone conveyed through the shape and style of your text.
There are many font choices. Some fonts are tried and true and classic (Garamond’s origins are from 1500s France), and other fonts are trendy or techy. Choose font families that reinforce your brand attributes. Ideally, you’ll use your brand fonts consistently and, in addition to color, the typography will serve as a unifying element to your brand.
A picture can speak more than 1,000 words when chosen carefully and aligned with the other elements of your brand’s strategy, look and feel. Clean and spare? Then your photographs should be, too. Cozy and homey? Same with your photographs or illustrations.
Read Also: How to do Rebranding Right?
Whether you create imagery or purchase stock, you should opt for a consistent style or treatment that complements the tone of your other elements.
When deciding on your photo source, weigh the options carefully. Stock photos are convenient and inexpensive. However, anyone can access them— including your competitors. Sometimes a photoshoot is the most efficient use of resources when you’re building a visual brand identity.
5. Graphic Elements
Each element and aspect of your visual language should create a cohesive system is spread across your company’s physical and virtual presence. The use of graphic elements— icons, color blocks, chart styles, infographics—can signal and reinforce your brand.
The amount of white space versus content, the size of the images and where the elements are placed on the page grid all work to prioritize the information for the audience by drawing their eyes to different areas of the page.
Choose a few standard options for graphic element treatments. Ideally, these should be visually unifying while also flexible enough to work in a variety of situations and layouts.
The five aforementioned components, when combined with skilled creative directors and designers, will produce a unified visual language that uniquely represents your company.
The guidelines for utilizing your trademarks, colors, typefaces, and visuals, as well as how they should be combined, should be defined, just like any other language. By disseminating, upholding, and enforcing these brand principles, all organizational divisions as well as external stakeholders will experience uniform usage.
The visual language of your brand will extend throughout the online and physical spaces of your business, becoming connected to it.
You must regularly maintain your visual identity. Updates to your guidelines are part of this. You should not consider your visual identity to be static. It is a living entity, much like your business. Your brand’s visual identity should vary over time as a result of acquisitions, shifts in emphasis, and philosophical shifts. Even 100-year-old companies, like Lufthansa, update the visual appeal of their identity by refining its aspects. Maintaining your core values while making necessary adjustments to your visual identity can ensure that your branding is consistently effective.
Why is Visual Brand Important?
Every facet of a firm should be imbued with a robust sense of brand identity. It ought to have an impact on how executives and lower think about their goods and services as well as how they do business. It ought to influence and motivate how marketers discuss and write about the company via broadcast, press releases, social media, blog entries, and other forms of media. Additionally, it ought to direct the company’s visual components, which are crucial to branding.
All these components come together to create a clear and unique business concept that works both inside the organization and outside its walls in a really effective brand identity.
Visual Brand Identity Helps You Stand Out
Your company’s visual brand identity is critical to your ability to help customers and potential customers recognize and choose your products and services in a highly competitive and crowded marketplace. Consider these sobering statistics:
- It only takes people an average of 7 seconds to form an impression of your brand.
- 55% of brand first impressions are visual.
- Consistent presentation of a brand across platforms can increase your revenue by up to 23% on average.
- Color raises brand recognition by up to 80%.
Smart marketers understand that crafting an effective, strategic visual brand identity takes a mix of both art and science.
Visual Brand Identity Evokes Emotion
A solid brand strategy leads to a brand identity that represents your company’s unique personality. Your visual branding can prompt the positive emotions you want customers to feel.
One size doesn’t fit all; visual branding (like branding in general) should be unique to your company. Is your brand personality hip and trendy yet practical, like H&M? Forward-thinking and modern, like Google? Outdoorsy and adventurous, like REI? Each company presents a specific visual brand identity that matches its personality and values and speaks to its audience.
Your brand identity should likewise evoke specific feelings for current and potential customers and support their perceptions of and aspirations for themselves. Your ads, your packaging, your color palette, your logo, your buildings, your vehicles and so on should spark a positive emotion in anyone who sees them.
But does this actually work when it comes down to buying decisions?
Picture yourself searching for pasta at your grocery store. You’ve got lots of options! The only way to distinguish among them is through visual brand identity — logos, colors, fonts, and designs.
Which of these pasta brands would you pick off the shelf?
Few people will buy on brand identity alone; many variables factor into every purchase. Here in pasta land, though, buyers might:
- search out the cheapest option.
- want to enhance cred as a gourmet cook.
- want a pasta that incorporates spinach or carrots for color and a bit of nutrition.
- only eat organic.
- need a gluten-free option.
- have recently seen a commercial for a particular brand and want to try it.
- have tried a brand before and had either a good or poor experience.
Even within these narrowing criteria, options exist, and packaging and design can play a big role. Buyers might pass on reading ingredients or other label copy and reach for the most appealing design based on how the design makes them feel. And that design might not always relate directly to the product.
- A buyer inclined toward the latest trends might go for a sleek, modern design.
- A more simple, traditional design – one that goes back decades – might trigger just-like-mom-used-to-make nostalgia.
- Beautiful, hand drawn images of grains with soft, natural colors may appeal to someone who wants to be perceived as elegant and refined or a believer in natural foods.
Seem a little crazy? Next time you’re out shopping and you pick a product off the shelf — even a product as simple as pasta — ask yourself, Why this one? Or , consider why you always shop at the same clothing store. You’ll probably find that careful price/quality/quantity analysis did NOT drive your purchase. It’s more likely that the product or merchant appealed because of a correlation with how you think of yourself and how you want others to perceive you.
Savvy brands and their marketers know this. Through brand strategy development, they understand their core strengths and values, what appeals to their ideal customer, and how to message effectively to build affinity. They also know, through strategic brand identity and messaging, how to evoke the emotions that create strong positive associations with their brands.
We’ve established that highly effective brands approach brand identity strategically. But is that all that’s needed to succeed? Nope!
Think of hugely successful, strategic consumer brands like Apple and Nike, or Target and Anthropologie. What do they have in common? Striking, recognizable, consistent visual brand identities.
Every ad, regardless of medium (TV, print, digital, outdoor), for any of these companies is immediately recognizable, regardless of the product being touted and usually even before a logo is displayed. That’s the power of consistency coupled with a strong visual brand identity. Strategy is Job No. 1, but once you’ve created your brand identity, consistent application is critical to making it stick as a highly recognizable, stand-out brand.
Your whole brand strategy, which is fundamentally founded on your company identification, should naturally inform your visual brand identity. You won’t have enough knowledge to create an eye-catching, persuasive visual style and feel that boosts sales, improves brand affinity, and fosters long-term growth unless you’ve done that.