How to Create a Visual Identity that Best Represents Your Brand

 
Visual Identity
 

By Gina Morin, Design Intervention

Visual Identity and Messaging are part of what's called the Identity Level of branding. This is the second phase of branding—after developing the elements of the Core Level. We'll be exploring Visual Identity in this post and Messaging next month.

I like how Sarah Durham, author of Brandraising, breaks out the Visual Identity pieces. This is a great book that digs deeper into each level of branding. She makes it very clear for those new to logo design. So let's dig in.

What does the Identity Level Include?

  • Logo
  • Typography
  • Color Palette
  • Imagery 

These elements work as a team to reinforce your Visual Identity. While most people only think about the logo, the other components can communicate on an unconscious level. Color, typography, and imagery can all reinforce your brand's personality with your target audience. 

So let's break these four pieces down so you can understand why each is so important.

Logo: Three Types

1. Typography Only: This one is self-explanatory. Facebook is an example of a logo that only uses typography.

 
facebook logo
 

2. Altered Typography: This type of logo alters the typeface to create a mark or icon within the type. An example of this would be the Staples logo.

 
 

A Typography Only or Altered Typography logo (also called Logotype) relies on the name of the business instead of an icon to communicate who they are—which can create a powerful visual brand that is easy to identify.

The only time you may want to reconsider a logo like this is if your brand needs to be translated into another language or if you are using acronyms. Acronyms (when used without the full name of the business) may not convert into an effective logo. Audiences not close to the brand may not understand what the acronym stands for, or they may confuse it with another brand that has a similar acronym. There are exceptions, but these exceptions are reserved for brands with a large advertising budget or a high level of media attention like AT&T or PETA.

3. Icon with Typography
This type of logo uses a symbol or mark. Sometimes this mark is used alone and sometimes with typography. If you are a new business or one with a small budget, using typography with your icon is essential. Your symbol alone will not be recognizable to the public without a large budget to push it out to the masses. Target is an excellent example of this. Their bullseye logo became so identifiable that in 2006 they dropped the use of the word "TARGET" from their logo and now only use the bullseye. 

 
 

These marks can be strong for a small business when paired with typography, but you must be careful not to let your mark become cliché or look too similar to the marks of your competitors. 

Typography

A typeface can communicate the personality of a brand and should not be ignored. A traditional serif typeface might be great for one business, while a clean, modern sans serif typeface might be great for another. You should always use professionally designed fonts and use no more than one or two consistently across all of your marketing materials. This article digs deeper into the psychology of typefaces if you want to learn more. To see how type can quickly change the personality of your business name, check out the Adobe Typekit website and type your business name there. You'll see how different each one can feel when placed in a separate typeface.

Color

Bringing color into your logo adds personality and can create a strong emotional connection with your target audience. Red can convey intensity, while yellow can convey joy. This link has a great infographic about color and emotion. Like typography, you should limit your colors to no more than two in your primary palette. A secondary color palette of one or two colors can be created for use on things like paragraph copy, supporting graphics and accents. For some color inspiration, check out this site.

Imagery

Imagery refers to things such as photography, icons, or graphic elements like patterns, shapes, etc. These are supporting aspects of your Visual Identity and can tell more of your brand story. Choosing images that have cool, monochromatic tones will tell a different story than photos that are bright and colorful. It's up to you to decide what pictures and graphics best represent who you are as a brand. Be sure to avoid using Google images. These are not for public use, and you should always use original photos or purchase royalty-free stock photos. For more info, check out this article.

In Conclusion

First impressions are everything. If the first touch point your customer has with your brand is your logo, having something that looks professionally designed is going to make you stand out from your competition.

Some things to consider when choosing your logo concept:

  • Work with your designer to determine the best type of logo (Type Only, Altered Type, Icon) for your business.
  • Which design best communicates your vision, mission, and values most efficiently?
  • Do the concepts meet your brand objectives?
  • Put your personal preference for color or style aside and think about what colors, typography, and style will connect with your target audience. While you still need to feel secure about your logo, your audience is whom you are ultimately trying to reach.
  • Which design concept best reflects your brand positioning and personality and why?

There is a credibility factor that comes with having a professional Visual Identity and wasting time trying to do this step without the help of a professional designer or agency may only cost you more time and money down the road. If you find you need some help at this stage, let's chat!