We started looking into the branding of your startup, we build our brand story, and we gave our company a name. In this post, we will be looking into creating the visual aspects of your brand identity.
The first thing which pops into the minds of people when talking about a brand are the visual aspects of that brand. Although we learned by now that a brand is so much more than just the visuals, it’s visuals are the items which help people to recognise you easily on a first glance.
Why Your Visual Brand is so Important
The way you visually present yourself in all of your communication is more than just merely a design. It’s a reflection of your company.
Brands who have a consistent visual identity are resonating better. This identity will, in turn, give you the benefit of spending significantly less money in the long run on your advertising and marketing materials. The less consistent you are in your visual branding, the more brands have to get their material in front of their customers to be recognised.
The visual presentation used in your communication is more than simply design; it is a reflection of your company. You want to make sure that your visual presentation speaks the same language as what’s being said in any text, audio or video. If your visual presentation doesn’t match the conversation, it’ll lead to inconsistencies in your communication.
That’s why you want to make sure that the visual representation of your brand speaks the same language as what you’re telling via your brand story in things like text, visuals, video or even audio. If the visual presentation of your brand doesn’t match your brand story, it will lead to inconsistencies in your overall communication.
The Key To Having a Unique Visual Brand Identity
Just like when you’re building your brand story, and you’re figuring out your unique personality, positioning and promise. You need to translate that same story into a visual story. Visual content and graphics are always a strong strategic part of any marketing plan. If used correctly and consistently, fresh, original and informative content and graphics can be a very effective way to capture and keep your customers attention and build a reputation for you as a brand.
Creating elements that are visually appealing and consistent will help you gain more recognition. If you don’t have the people within your organisation to help you create your brand visuals, there are a lot of different places online where you can get inexpensive logo’s and other brand related items. But as “The Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy would say:
So don’t look at your visual brand as an expense, but look at it as an investment. It will help you brand’s long-term success and overall marketing initiatives. Successful branding doesn’t happen overnight. Successful branding is a long-term investment that can be measured in regards to its long-term impact. Your brand’s visual identity plays a role in the way your organisation presents itself to both the people working at your company as your customers.
The brand story you created earlier though will help you dictate the look and feel of the direction you need to take for your brand.
Let’s dive into five steps easy steps you can take to help you start a strong visual brand for your business.
The Five Steps to Getting a Strong Visual Brand
#1 Get Inspired
First things first, before you can start to make any part of your visual brand, let’s first get inspired.
One of the easiest ways to get and get a good feeling about visuals, colours, logo’s, etc. Is to have it physically available to you. That’s why we would recommend setting a space aside on the wall of your office to stick all the different inspirational items you can find. No worries, if you don’t have space for this available you can always do this exercise online, of course, using something like Pinterest for example. The beauty of having it stuck to the wall though is that with every little moment that you’re mind is wandering behind your screen and you look around; you can have a look at your inspirational wall and think about your brand’s visual identity. It also makes it easy to group individual items together and re-arrange them, in other words, to play with them!
So what things do you need for your inspiration?
– All the elements which make up your brand story and which we came up with earlier;
– The brand personality adjectives you used for creating the name of your company;
– Your competitors’ sales material, logos, colour palettes and imaginary (this will help you spot colour trends in your industry for example);
– Screenshots of the social media profiles of your competitors and visuals they created and posted;
– Ads from magazines that you think could work for your brand;
– Your companies Unique Value Proposition;
– Colour palettes that you find attractive
In other words, everything that you think could relate to your brand. During the preparation phase, you can also put the doodles and sketches, you create on this wall. You can find lots of inspiration online for this using, for example, Pinterest, Dribble, Behance, or Colour Lovers.
Now that you’ve got your inspirational wall (or Pinterest board) up and running, and you start to get inspired, what is it that you will need to create for your brand? At the basics, any brand will need:
- A simple colour palette, this should feature 1-3 primary colours and 2-3 secondary colours (and yes black and white count as colours);
- A primary logo and word mark;
- Fonts, this can be anything ranging from Helvetica to Gotham, or they can be custom build. Our tip would always be to go with a web-safe font. This way you’re sure your font always looks the way it should be when viewed on any computer
Next to these three essential items you can dig a bit deeper if you want. Some brands also come up with:
- A secondary logo mark and/or wordmark, this can be used instead of your primary logo, for example on your company swag;
- Textures, these can be used to turn any random photograph you might need, into something visibly recognisable for your brand;
- Tips for photography, what type of photography is still “on-brand” for you? Do you want people in your photos, and if so do you want to see their faces? Should pictures be “posed” or more dynamic?
There are of course always more things to add to the list. Depending on the industry your working in, you might need a presentation template or other items. Add them to the list if needed and see if you’ve got enough inspiration hanging on your wall to start creating your visual elements. If not, don’t worry, take some more time to get some more inspiration.
If the previous two steps were already a lot of fun, you will for sure be liking the next step. If you don’t have the design expertise in your team, no worry there are a lot of good quality places online to outsource this part. Places like 99designs, designcrowd, or crowdspring can be good places to help you with the outsourcing of this step.
When you’re outsourcing the design of your visual elements, be sure to try to give a proper briefing to manage the expectations correctly. Item’s to include in this briefing are:
- The first five P’s of your Brand Story (positioning, promise, personas, personality, product);
- What you want to get designed (logo, colour palette, typography, slide deck, etc.);
- Inspirational items you love (based on your inspirational wall);
- Inspirational items you hate (based on your inspirational wall);
By giving the designer all the background information related to your brand story, and the items you love and hate. He or she can form a good idea to know in which directions to go. Of course, if you’ve got all the talent in-house it’s a different story. A fun way to then start is, by just taking post-it’s and start drawing graphical symbols around four groups of items which can all draw inspiration for your brand. These four items are:
- Your brand name;
- The situations in which your product or service is being used;
- The problem/need/aspiration that your brand is trying to solve (in addition to to the main pain points, you can also think about the emotions that the problems/needs/aspiration is bringing about with your customers);
- The core activity of your brand.
Using all these doodles on post-its together with the colour schemes you love, your designers can now get to work to start creating your visual brand identity. Be sure to document every step of your brand’s design and, of course, keep your brand identity consistent by using the same colour codes, font styles and other design elements for all items created. By documenting every step, you’re also making sure, that with every visual item you will need to create in the future (like brochures, ads, or any other piece of branded material), you stay consistent.
Of course, the most important item for your visual brand identity is your logo. It’s the first thing people will see, and it will be the first thing they will remember.
“Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English–but are great in remembering signs”
― Karl Lagerfeld
So how can you test if your logo is going to work? First of before showing it to anyone outside your company, ask yourself the following six-question:
- Is this logo flexible? (Will it work on different background colours and images, will it work in a square format for your social profiles, will it work in a “rectangular” way as you might need for some headers);
- Is it simple? (When someone sees your logo at a glance, will he or she understand it?);
- Is it “me”? (Is it in line with your brand story, and moreover the brand personality of your story);
- Is it friendly for the web? (Can it easily be used in all sorts of different web situations, like a favicon for your website, or places where you need smaller icons or versions?);
- Is it scalable? (Just like for the web it could be used in small places, like icons, can you also use it on bigger surfaces like business cards, or even posters?);
- Is it differentiable? (Will you stand out from your competitors?).
#5 Learn and adapt
If you can answer yes to all six questions above, it’s time to “get outside the building” as they would say within the Lean Startup Methodology. Show it to your ideal personas and see if it resonates, leave the word mark out of the logo and see if they understand what the company is about by just viewing the logo. Remember that the goal of your brand is for your customers to associate the symbol, the design, the tagline and colours with your defined set of values, attitudes and attributes instantaneously.
While you might assume that your brand’s visual identity sends out a clear message, your customers might think otherwise. It’s important to understand how your brand comes across to those who matter most – your customers.
If by talking to your customers you reached the conclusion that your visual brand story is telling a different story than the one you want it to say. If you invalidate the effectiveness of your brand’s visual story, it’s time to learn from these conversations and adapt your visuals where needed. It’s still better to take the time now while it’s still early before you’ve got to spend a lot of time, later on, a rebranding campaign 😉
It’s time to start creating, use the above tips to get you started building your visual brand. What will be the first impression you leave behind to your customers?