Table of Content
How to perfect your visual identity
What is visual identity and how is it different to branding?
Visual identity is the tangible, visual element of your brand. If your company or business were a person, their personality and values would be their brand, whereas the clothes that they wear would be their visual identity.
Why is it important for your start-up to perfect its visual identity?
Using the same metaphor, you’d hardly want your brand to go walking around naked, would you? Anyone in business knows how important professional image is, and as a new brand visual identity is a key component in crafting your overarching brand identity and establishing yourself from the get go.
You consume brands' visual identities all the time, every day. Printsome recently experimented by swapping the colours of some famous brands. This shows just how ingrained certain brand’s visual identities are in our brains.
Even with the names swapped, both of these brands are still easily recognisable. This is the ultimate aim when crafting a visual identity. It should be compelling, of course, but above all it should be recognisable as your brand. It is what differentiates you from your competitors at first viewing and, if possible, give an insight into your brand mission, values, and goals.
What elements make up your visual identity?
Your brand’s visual identity is one of the immediate ways you’ll get your brand’s message across. As such it is important to have a clear idea of how you want your brand to present itself. There are four key elements to think about when crafting your visual identity:
- Brand colours
The logo is perhaps the most important of these elements. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that’s the case then a logo is worth at least double that. It should be the first thing that comes to your customers’ minds when they think of your brand. The most effective logos are relatively simple.
Two of the most iconic logos of the 21st Century are Apple and Microsoft. Both are simple and, above all, recognisable. When you are crafting your visual identity, don’t overthink it, but make sure it makes sense.
Colour helps define your brand in a very particular way. Above all, it helps to create a unified look when used across multiple platforms. Look at Spotify as an example.
The three-colour palette Spotify uses may look basic, but it is incredibly flexible. Moderation is key; more bright colours do not always make a brand more noticeable, sometimes they have the detrimental effect of distracting customers from the actual content of your work.
Brand colours are often derived from the logo, yet additional colours, in particular monochromes, can be very useful in making the primary brand colour stand out.
In the Spotify example the green logo is the main focus, and it is easily adaptable to different formats, with options for both light mode and the dark background of the actual app.
Font can be a surprisingly expressive way of displaying the visual identity of your brand. What is important to know is which fonts to stay away from. Anything too goofy or out there may seem out of place in a professional format. There are certain fonts which you should know to avoid, e.g. Comic Sans and Jokerman. A good idea is to look at your brand name in different fonts until you find the one that you think fits your brand best.
Similar to brand colours, you want your font to be understated and complement your brand, rather than being the only thing your customers can focus on.
Every image is an opportunity to display your brand’s visual identity. Depending on your business, you may need images for catalogues or your app. They can also be useful in helping with product design—especially when used as mood-boards.
You can use images as an embodiment of your brand’s unique point of view. Make sure to avoid images that look like stock photos or that lack any sense of personality relating to your brand. Use of imagery will be dependent on your business itself, but don’t discount it as an aspect of your visual identity.
Consistency is key
To help build trust with your customers you should consistently present the same visual identity across multiple channels. This has the added benefit of boosting brand visibility and making your brand more easily identifiable.
All of your content should contain an element of your brand’s unique visual identity, whether that’s a social media post with your brand colours used as a border, or internal documentation using your brand’s font. Consistency helps to solidify your brand, and the brand messages that you’ve worked hard to develop.
Be sure to use all four key elements of visual identity discussed earlier on everything, from your website and social media accounts, to print advertisements and packaging.
Simplicity is effective
Remember, simplicity in visual identity is crucial. Your brand’s visual identity should make sense. Until you get to Apple level renown, people won’t want to have to try and decipher exactly how clever your logo is with its 14 separate meanings and relationship to obscure literary references. They want to know you, even if they can’t remember your name. “That car brand with the black and gold logo of a bull” is as recognisable as the name Lamborghini.
Don’t overcrowd with too many colours and try and stick to one or two fonts. Your logo should be simple and have flexible utility.
Large brands such as those mentioned earlier have huge budgets to spend on advertisements to ensure their brand is consistently in the public eye. As a start-up you probably have a smaller budget than Coca Cola, so fewer ways to cut through with ad spending. A strong visual identity which draws viewers in is one of the best ways to combat this.
There are lots of companies and ‘consultants’ out there looking to take a lot of money from you in return for several hours of your time and a hundred page long ‘business plan’, including everything from first year projections through to a painstakingly detailed—and no doubt overly complicated—visual identity.
Although visual identity is important, there’s no need to go writing up 30 pages of visual identity in intricate detail, and how each aspect relates to your brand. Instead, make sure you have considered your brand mission, values, and goals. Being able to write five slides on these topics is a good indicator.
Once you have decided on your brand identity, think of ways to present that visually. This is a good opportunity to get a mood-board together. Try out different options and don’t be afraid to seek out a professional. At Small World we specialise in helping start-ups and scale-ups master their marketing and putting you in touch with our pool of perfectly matched talent. Everything you need, nothing you don't.