In middle school, I tried to go through a goth stage. My goth idea was to wear black tee shirts with sarcastic sayings on them and have a chain on my wallet. The problem was that I was a very bubbly and giggly twelve-year-old.
I remember a teacher questioning how I dressed and how it didn’t fit “me.” I thought the teacher didn’t get it, but I realized they were correct. Like many people that age, I was trying to find a way to express myself through my style, but it wasn’t matching my personality and who I was.
Brand identity vs. visual identity
If you think of your business as a person, visual identity is their dress and style, whereas the brand identity is the core of your company’s personality. The brand identity informs your visual identity. If your business is a “person” who’s outgoing and creative (brand identity), then wearing eccentric outfits and jewelry (visual identity) would match that identity.
If you don’t understand who your brand is, your visual identity can flounder from a lack of direction and cohesion. Before designing your visual identity, have some of the following brand requirements decided: values, voice and tone, persona, and mission statement.
Visual identity is a part of brand identity, but its focus is on how a brand is visually represented. It requires a different approach from brand identity, yet it needs to complement the brand. This is why designers and creatives are usually in charge of visual identity, whereas marketers and branding teams control brand identity.
Defining the visual identity
A brand’s visual identity is the visible representation of a brand made from a system of symbols made up of forms, shapes, colors, typefaces, layouts, and moving or still images that capture and communicate your brand values to internal and external audiences. From the logo and colors to the website and design of physical stores, it involves everything you can see in connection to a business.
What makes a great visual identity?
What outfit should you be shopping for if your brand is a person? You might go all out on a designer dress or fancy suit, or you might want jeans and a tee shirt. Maybe you want an adaptable outfit where you can throw on some shades, wear a trendy hat, and add some accessories to evolve the look.
With visual identity, there’s no one-size-fits-all template. Instead, you need to be prepared to assess your needs, and how effective your visual identity achieves your strategic direction for your brand. So, what makes a great visual identity?
A solid visual identity is meant to be purposeful and long-lasting. You aren’t just designing for today. You’re creating for your brand’s future.
A great visual identity is:
- Specific: It is a tool to communicate your brand essence: your personality and values.
- Intuitive: You should construct your visual identity in such a way that the elements synch up.
- Flexible: You need to grow with your brand as needed, which could involve new products, rebranding, or other directions with your visual identity.
- All-inclusive: You need to consider (and use) the graphic design tools you need to accomplish your ideal visual identity.
The visual assets of your brand
The list of elements of your visual identity will largely depend on your business type. Your visual assets will differ depending on whether you are selling a product or offering a service, but there are some common elements:
- Color palette
- Creative design graphics
- Physical Assets
Each can carry so much meaning on their own, but when they are all from the same place and utilized together, they can empower your brand.
A logo is a symbol, type design, or both that represents your brand, contributing to your brand identity with its use of font choice, colors, and other imagery. Your logo reflects what you do, but it’s also compelling and memorable enough to resonate with your audience. As your brand identity evolves, so does your logo.
Your brand can use a color scheme of shades, hues, and tints, influencing how your audience responds. That color palette may start with your logo, but it should also be represented throughout your brand guidelines and marketing materials.
Creative design graphics
Graphics are a huge part of building a unique identity. Every icon, illustration, animation, and button showcase your brand and shape the way it is perceived. The best graphics you can use embody your unique point of view. These visual elements represent how you want to be seen when people think about your brand.
Typography is the shape or styling of the text you use in your branding. Beyond what your words say, your text’s scale, font, and arrangement can also impact your visual identity.
Most brands choose two to three fonts, including the wordmark to their logo, a headline font, and a body copy font.
Photography and Film
The types of photography and video content you use should fit with the rest of your brand identity. These visual elements can include photos and videos of your products, team, workspace, and other things relevant to your business.
Brand assets and material objects such as flyers, posters, and billboards contribute to your brand’s visual identity. Your brand consistency can also extend to the layout and design of your store and uniforms.
You can begin your visual journey now that you have tips to help you understand your brand identity. But remember that a visual identity is a powerful tool for telling a brand’s story and connecting with customers. However, the wrong message can have a serious (and unintended) side effect. It can also be an effective form of communication. The best way to get a compelling visual identity is to work with a branding designer and strategist.