When your company is trying to identify its visual identity, it always helps to start from the beginning. Your brand must first tackle what makes it unique to determine its visual identity. Your brand’s visual identity is more than just a logo, it’s the intangible visual associations your audience makes in relation to your brand.
Visual identity is essential to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Your visual identity is the sum total of your brand’s physical manifestation. It is how consumers subconsciously view your relevance and trustworthiness, influencing their experience with your brand at every touchpoint.
But before you create a visual identity that garners the desire of consumers to engage with your brand, you must have a solid understanding of exactly what your brand is and what it represents.
To walk you through the process of creating a visual identity, here are five things you need to clarify first.
1. Do your research
When embarking on a brand design project, remember that your brand does not exist in a vacuum. Acknowledging your existence in a competitive market will help your brand avoid some common mistakes that occur when building design ideas.
The last thing you want your brand to do when considering what’s appropriate for your visual identity is to mimic an existing design (see the plagiarism accusations regarding the Tokyo 2020 logo as an example).
Whether you’re developing the visual identity for your brand by yourself or using the services of an activation agency or freelance creative, a little research goes a long way. The research you do will be your anchor throughout the design process.
When researching, be sure to make a note of common visual traits shared by your competitors such as colors, font styles, and graphics.
As you design your visual identity, refer back to your research. Your design should share similar traits to your competitors to appeal to the wider commercial market while being unique enough to stand out.
2. Focus on your USP
Your unique selling point (USP) will be an important factor in creating your brand’s visual identity. While your market research will guide the foundation for your brand’s visual identity, your USP will be the differentiating factor. It will enable you to exploit the market in a way that stands out and differs from that of others.
If you’re struggling to define your USP, it helps to understand the values of your brand. Knowing your core brand values will determine the visual elements that will go into the design process.
To help start you off in discovering your brand’s true values, start with idealizing things you don’t like. Think back to your experience with other brands. Expressing negative emotions will allow you to articulate the opposite values you would like your brand to project.
Understanding how a negative brand experience has affected your relationship with that brand will lead you to the specific positive values you need to cultivate in order to discover your brand’s true values.
3. Ask questions
To find the answers you’re looking for, it helps to know what questions to ask. A key list of questions that seek to define your visual identity will create a comprehensive picture of the visual language you want your brand to convey.
Understanding how the questions below play a role in determining your brand’s visual identity will ensure you find the right visual elements that will elicit a strong emotional response.
To discover your brand’s visual language, first ask yourself these questions:
- Who is the audience?
- What are the existing brands?
- What is your brand’s mission statement?
- What pain points do you solve?
- What are the benefits your brand offers? What are its key qualities?
- How does your brand make your clients feel?
- Why do your clients trust you?
- How are you different?
- Which five adjective or words best describe your company?
While these questions are not an exhaustive list, they do run the gamut of competitive analysis and customer feedback. The information these questions provide will inform your visual ideation process that you can then translate into visual concepts, and eventually, a visual identity.
4. Understand your visual language
Most businesses approach visual identity as simply their brand logo creation. While your logo is an important aspect of your visual identity, it is only part of the bold and distinct statement you desire out of your visual identity.
To get truly noticed in a competition-rich environment, you must determine your brand’s visual language.
Beyond your logo, defining your visual language requires understanding the importance of typography and color association. Consumers engage with brands through emotions. Typography and color association do more than simply communicate letters or color hues.
Both are emotive experiences that impart feelings which resonate with your consumer audience. Understanding the types of emotion you want your typography and color to express will serve to guide your brand’s visual style guide. It’s important that your brand aligns its typography and colors to its core values.
5. Scrutinize your brand
The moment your brand and its visual identity goes live, it will be placed under extreme scrutiny. The power of the Internet and tools like social media mean brands are often subject to over-analysis.
In today’s connected world, where things can quickly get blown out of proportion, make sure your visual identity cannot be misinterpreted in any way.
Brand misuse or misrepresentation can truly compromise your image and identity. To avoid damaging your brand in any way, be sure to thoroughly examine your brand alongside its visual identity before completing the design process.
Identifying your brand’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities is important in keeping your brand’s integrity in check.
Examine your visual identity through various mediums. Ads will display differently on traditional media such as billboards as they will on social media or your website. If any aspect of your brand can be interpreted in a suggestive and inappropriate manner, it will be called out.
Be extra considerate when running a global campaign as different cultures have different standards and reactions to visual cues and representations.
A final word
Creating your brand’s visual identity is an involved process. Your visual identity is the first interaction consumers will have with your brand. Long before they go online to research your brand or step into your retail space, they will have formed an opinion through how your brand visually represents itself.
As a vital part of your branding, it’s important to get it right.
And to create the right emotional appeal that conveys your brand’s core values, you must clarify your brand and how it engages with consumers at every touchpoint. The key points above will help elevate how you understand your brand, instilling a great sense of confidence in your brand’s role and impact in today’s competitive marketplace.