You’ve invested a lot into your business’s messaging, but how do you communicate it visually?
You have a strong vision for your business with a solid mission behind it. You’ve more than likely spent time developing your positioning and your value proposition as well. All that work – collectively “brand messaging” – is invaluable, and yet… on the visual side of things, your efforts are missing the mark, and feel disconnected from that messaging.
You’re worried that all of your efforts on the front end of developing your messaging are completely lost in design. And you’re certain it can translate better visually. But you haven’t the slightest idea of what is needed to accomplish that.
You don’t know what a Brand Identity involves. You think it might involve creating a logo for your business, but is that all that there is?
Imagine producing well-designed and intentional graphic assets that do the work FOR YOU.
Whether you’re getting ready to launch or you’ve been in business for 2-3 years – familiarizing yourself with just how powerful having a solid, strategically-informed, and well-designed identity can be to the bottom line of your business is critical.
What exactly is a Brand Identity?
First, let’s talk about three important words:
- Brand Identity
You may think these words mean the same thing, but they don’t. Here’s what they mean:
- Brand: Your “brand” is intangible. It is your audience’s perception and emotional RELATIONSHIP with your business.
- Brand Identity: Your “brand identity” is the tangible visual DESIGN elements that convey your messaging.
- Branding: Your “branding” is the PROCESS of bringing everything together to build awareness, trust, and loyalty.
In this article we’ll be focusing on your “brand identity,” but all three are intertwined. Look at it like this:
You need a “brand identity” (design assets) to establish your “brand” (relationship with your audience). In doing so, you’re “branding” (utilizing strategy and design to build awareness, trust, and loyalty) your business.
Your brand identity is not your logo.
When starting out, it’s not uncommon to think that your brand identity consists entirely of your logo. Yet a logo is only one part of it. At minimum, your brand identity should include:
- Logo and variations/lockups
- Brand colors
- Brand fonts/typography
- Brand guidelines
In other words, your business’s visual brand identity is a set of graphic assets. These assets include your logo, typography, and colors, as well as guidelines for how your brand should be presented visually.
A fun way to think about your visual brand identity is that it’s the clothes and accessories your business wears – IE: how your business presents itself, visually, to the public and its audience. There are SO many styles and trends to choose from. Would a classic, time-tested look work best for you? Or is a more current trendy style more for the style you should aim for?
This is where a BIG dose of strategy comes in.
Making design decisions based on research and data gives you a solid and informed foundation. You don’t want to make stylistic decisions based on random preference. It’s not about what looks pretty. It’s about creating assets that WORK.
What styles speak to the audience you’re trying to reach? Do you see common elements in other products or services they’re attracted to? How about trends to avoid – is there something that will turn your audience off? How can you best convey your messaging visually – are there colors and fonts that will have a greater impact? These are just a few questions you’ll want to explore in your strategy.
Unfortunately, developing a visual strategy is the most overlooked part of the process of developing a visual brand identity. Many business owners solely focus on design execution when they are ready to create their brand identities – a costly mistake you can avoid by taking the time to invest in your visual strategy.
Messaging, data, research, psychology, and more will inform design decisions.
Each business’s visual strategy is informed by data including, but not limited to their messaging, core values, data about their target audience, core values, current industry data and trends, and more. That information is used to intentionally choose design elements that connect with their audience, build brand recognition, relay messaging, and much more.
Color psychology is a popular part of this process and one that many enjoy. For example, yellow and red have been proven to trigger appetite – an intentional choice and one of the reasons you see those colors throughout fast-food chain branding.
Another design element that has an impact on your audience is something as simple as the style of your brand fonts. For example, the most basic choice of whether to use a sans serif vs. serif font for body copy affects how easily text can be read in different environments and also sets the tone in terms of the feeling you are trying to convey.
For example, using a more traditional serif font can subconsciously give the reader feelings of elegance and trustworthiness. This is not to say you can’t achieve similar feelings with sans serif fonts – but they are generally used for their clean and modern design. Whichever you use, they should be informed by your messaging, your audience, and the effect you’re trying to achieve in your branding.
The clothes or style that look great on your business, generally won’t work as well for another.
You can see that getting caught up in making things simply look pretty isn’t helpful. This is why making strategic choices in how your visual brand identity is designed and executed is an integral step to the process. It will affect your bottom line in terms of engagement, brand recognition, how your business connects with your target audience, and overall how it is received.
It’s SO important to be armed with a full suite of strategically created and well-designed branded assets that can be used throughout your designed communications and collateral. Once you do, you’ll be on your way to creating gorgeous graphics that are instantly recognizable that will make a more powerful impact with your target audience. And once you have a solid set of branding guidelines on hand, most anyone on your team who has access to design software will be well informed to create cohesive graphics with ease!
The arguments for and against DIY design sites:
DIY sites can be a great way to experiment for those of you who aren’t ready to work with a professional. Those sites have their place, but it’s important to note that using templated designs makes for less than original visual content. It’s apparent by how many small business social media graphics, etc are starting to look the same aside from color or font choices. By investing in custom design, you’ll be working one-on-one with a strategist and designer who will get to know your brand, its needs, its messaging, and personality – knowledge and process that is invaluable to the life of your company visuals.
There is absolutely no shame in using template design sites when you’re getting up and running. Most of our clients come to us in year two or three after they’ve experimented with the DIY route – it’s then that they realize they’re missing key strategy in how their visual branding was developed. But think of the boost they’d have gotten had a strategic design plan been implemented from day one! Now, they understand the value of professional custom strategy and design and its power to better communicate with the audience. Plus, just how critical that investment is to the life of their business.
My aim in writing this series of articles is to help you understand the core visual brand identity elements, why you need a brand identity, how you might DIY some of this if you’re not quite ready to hire a professional, and how working with a professional can take your visual branding to the next level.
Read the second article in this series, “The Features of a Well-Designed Logo – An Assessment” and evaluate whether your logo is on the right track and includes five very important features.
Are you ready to take the next step in your business’s visual brand identity?
Want to work with us? Book a complimentary 30-minute consultation where we can get to know you and your business. We also have an option to review and give feedback on elements of your current brand identity with one of our Light Brand Identity Audits (coming soon – but if you’re interested before its launch, please contact us here).
By booking an audit, you’ll get
- An understanding of whether or not your messaging is aligned with your current visuals
- Insight on how you can improve your design assets to better convey your brand messaging
- Suggested ways design elements can be used to engage your target audience
- Tips on how to adapt visuals to improve brand recognition
A PDF Report Outlining:
- What’s done well
- What needs work/pain points
- Areas of opportunity for better visual execution
- Our recommendations
- Suggested Next Steps
PLUS: A bonus credit:
A credit in the amount of your chosen package to apply to one of our custom Visual Brand Identity Strategy and Design packages.