A brand’s identity is the sum of all of its moving parts – the things it sells, yes, but also the way it speaks to customers, the message it carries, and the customer service it provides. It’s the place, the people, and the product. It’s also the perception.
A visual brand identity is a purposefully created visual representation of a brand. It helps support the brand’s written content (the explicit message) by conveying things through imagery, style, and nuance. It also provides coherence – a strong visual identity follows a set framework that ensures that all elements complement each other and are consistent throughout its applications.
A brand’s identity can and should be woven into everything. The logo should be unique; this is fairly straightforward. The importance of having and utilizing a unique colour combination is not lost on many. But did you know that the fonts your brand uses are equally important? Their size, shape, and colour relative to each other can give the audience clues about the brand; consistent use of these things builds trust in the business and can help create brand champions.
Customers should see a business brand identity everywhere the business is. An obvious example the logo, which is placed on business cards, letterhead, social media profile photos and posts, among other things. The brand identity is also found in the business’s value proposition to potential customers through its personality, character, and tone of voice.
Here is an (incomplete) list of places that a brand’s identity should appear:
A strong brand identity is:
In business, presentation is everything. In retail, for example, companies work hard to ensure that the products they are going to sell are well-designed, clear about their purpose, and are placed in the best place possible in a brick-and-mortar store. Service companies ensure that their staff have detailed bios, professional photos, and testimonials galore.
In this way, companies hope the potential customer will come to the following conclusions:
The latter is especially important for companies using the internet to forge and maintain meaningful customer relationships.
Cohesive, consistent brand identities shows the audience that a company takes itself seriously enough to put effort into ensuring that its brand’s identity is presented consistently, in all interactions, on every platform and in every medium, at all times.
The key to building a strong brand really comes down to consistency. In order to do that, you need to create a list of the following:
If you’re just starting out and don’t yet have a brand, you can be a little bit more creative with your list. If you have a brand already, you will want to stick to what you currently have, unless you intend to overhaul certain aspects of your visual brand and create a new version for use going forward.
Once you have your list of visual brand elements, organize them into categories: Logo, Colour Palette, Typography, and Imagery. Add more categories, such as Icons, if necessary.
Keep this information easily accessible so that you can reference it whenever you need to update your website, print materials, or create something new for social media.
After you outline the components of your brand’s visual identity, you should write down guidelines to ensure that all of the content you create/post/print is consistent (remember, this is Rule No. 1 of visual branding!). Here are some examples:
You may want to create a digital package with your visual brand identity and guidelines and include some examples for easier reference and implementation. Knowns as a “Brand Guide” or a “Style Guide,” this information is incredibly valuable in this format because it can not only help you create consistent content but makes it incredibly easy for you to outsource work to someone else without having to worry about whether or not it will be on-brand.