Building your brand: Visual Identity
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Part 9 in our series on building your small business brand.
Your brand’s visual identity is the graphic and visual representation of your brand – particularly its values, positioning and personality – across all media. This is the part where you may want to work with a graphic designer, since bad design can sink your brand in seconds. But even when working with a graphic designer, it’s good to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
On the other hand, if you’re visually adapt and know your way around design a bit – and if you enjoy it – you can give it a go. But since this isn’t a design course, I’m only going to give you a general overview.
Why it’s essential
To be recognized and remembered, your brand needs to be identifiable, not only by its name, but also by its appearance. Just as importantly, people form their first impressions and make their buying decision within the first seconds of interacting with your brand. You want to make sure you’re first impression is the right one.
As I said in the earlier post on copywriting, people may not notice when something is perfect, but they sure do notice when it’s less than perfect.
What it covers
Your brand’s visual identity includes your logo, logotype, fonts, colors and style guide.
How you’ll use it
Your brand’s visual ID will appear everywhere the brand appears, both online and in the real world.
How you’ll create it
Your logo is the graphic element that represents your brand, e.g. Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s apple. They’re iconic because the brands are iconic, but as you can see with Apple, they don’t necessarily have to have anything to with the product. Apple’s logo, however, does a great job of summing up its brand personality and origins.
Nike’s logo, on the other hand reflects the motion inherent in the brand’s original product, running shoes.
In the same way, your logo should reflect something about your brand – whether its origin, personality, vision, values, products, benefits – and do more than just look cool. In this way, your logo is like your visual UVP.
To create a logo, you can use any of a number of online logo makers. Those will give you a good enough logo to get started with. They won’t win any awards, but they won’t turn customers off.
If you’re more advanced and know your way around Adobe Illustrator, you can create a logo that will start to look more professional. To help you, check out any of the loads of YouTube videos out there about creating a logo.
Or higher a logo designer on Fiverr or Upwork to create a logo for you. Good designers are expensive, but if you’re sure to be able to find some that will meet your budget.
The key, as always, is to think within the context of your brand. So, basically, everything I said about creating your UVP and USP holds true here too.
Here are some examples of famous logos without their logotype.
Most people don’t know this, but logotype – also known as a word mark – is name for the alphanumeric representation of your brand’s name, which may or may not include a graphic element as well.
It’s perfectly ok to not have a logo, but you’ll definitely want a logotype that differentiates your brand in some way, rather than just typing it out in, say, Helvetica Bold.
You can also have a combination mark, where you combine a logo with the logotype. As with your logo, the logotype should reflect your brand. I’ll give you an example from our own logotype.
For starters, we opted not to have a logo, just a logotype. Basically, we felt that our name says it all and we wanted to keep it simple. Our main message at Mongrel is that marketing isn’t about the brand, but about the customer, so we wanted to minimize ourselves as much as possible without making us invisible.
To make sure we still made a mark, though, we chose a strong, modern and elegant font that we stretched out. Then we brought the letters together so they’re either overlapping or barely touching. This, together with the bright red color, gave us the bold statement we wanted. But we also chose to use lower case, partly because it looks nice but also because it plays down the boldness.
But what was missing was the fun and playfulness we consider integral to our brand. We achieved this by tilting the “o” in Mongrel. Basically, we wanted to show that we’re a bit off kilter, but in a good way.
Here are some examples of famous logotypes:
And here are some examples of famous combination marks.
Once again, when creating your logotype, you may want to work with a designer to get a truly professional look.
Fonts refers to the fonts or typeface your brand uses. This isn’t the same as the font you use for your logotype, but rather for headlines, sub-headlines, different types of text, whether on your website, in brochures, in presentations or in documents.
To find fonts to use, check out databases of fonts online and choose a main font that reflects your brand’s personality or positioning. Then work from there to choose complementary fonts, either from within the same font family or other fonts, and create a system for which fonts are used for what purposes, e.g. headline, sub-headline, body copy, testimonials, CTA buttons, etc.
Here’s an example of how this might look:
Like with every other step in the section, you may want to work with a designer on this.
Colors refer to your brand colors. This will start with your logo or logotype design, but it doesn’t end there. Your brand should have a palette of colors to choose from that you can use throughout your marketing material
When choosing your brand colors, once again take into account your brand’s origins, values, benefits and also what different colors represent. For example:
Next, consult a color wheel to select either complementary colors– that is, colors that sit across from each other on the color wheel – or analogous colors – that is, colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel – for your color palate.
A great online resource can be found at https://www.sessions.edu/color-calculator/
A style guide is the set of rules for using your logo, logotype, fonts and colors. The guide is essential for making sure your brand is consistent and always looks its best, no matter where it appears or who uses your brand.
When you hire a professional designer, he’ll also create a style guide for your visual identity. But if you create your own logo, you want to make sure you yourself and anyone working with you uses the logo consistently. This Includes:
The dimensions and proportions of the logo
The amount of space around the logo.
What color background it can appear on
Whether it can be used as a transparency
How it looks in monochrome
How the logo can be used when separated from the logotype and vice versa
Or if the logo and logotype are inseparable
How the logo is used on images
How it’s used as a favicon
And so on. You don’t need to copy a professional style guide, but it’s good idea to write these things down.
Ok, that’s it for your visual identity. This alone could cover an entire course, which I’ll leave up to the designers out there, but it should be enough to get you started.
In the last post in this series, we’ll look at the final and most important step – your execution strategy.