Think about some of the most recognizable brands out there. What do you picture when you think of them?
What do all of these things have in common?
In many cases, visuals are more memorable than words. That’s why, when we’re talking about branding, it’s important to talk about look and style.
Your visual brand extends beyond just your logo. A strong, recognizable visual brand will clearly communicate the brand’s values in both their internal and external communications, their product design, and virtually every part of the business.
This guide will outline five foundational steps that any business should follow when developing their visual brand.
Before you can even begin to think about creating visuals, you need to lay down the groundwork.
Start by identifying your brand personality. The better you understand your brand personality, the clearer you will be able to communicate it through your content. Your brand personality will inform the tone you use in your content, your design choices like your brand colors and brand fonts, and the types of visuals you use.
This applies to both bigger teams and one-person operations. Often, we may be inclined to think of a brand as a product or company, but establishing a brand personality is equally important for individuals. Adam Enfroy puts it nicely in his guide to personal branding: “As an individual, you are a personal brand that is wrapped up in the content, persona, and achievements you share online.”
So whether you’re building out your brand as a team of one of twenty-one, know who you want to be.
A good place to start is to list some words that describe your brand. There’s a couple of ways you can do this:
Then, compile the adjectives in a list like this one:
From there, you can pick a few of the words that you think resonate best with your business mission and goals. Those adjectives will help guide your visual branding choices.
Once you’ve identified your brand personality traits, you can use those to guide your design choices. One of the defining visual branding choices you will make is picking your brand colors.
You’ve probably heard of color psychology. While there’s debate about how much stock should be put into color psychology, there’s no denying that color can be one of the most memorable aspects of a visual brand.
If you look for it, you will probably start to notice some color trends within different industries. For example, financial and tech companies tend to have blue brand colors:
You have a choice when picking your brand color to either try and align yourself with industry trends, or to try and set yourself apart.
Return to your list of adjectives describing your brand. Are you the type of brand that wants to radically disrupt the space? Or do you want to inspire confidence in your customers by being more traditional?
Your personality will help you determine whether or not you want to go with or against industry trends.
Once you’ve got your colors, it’s on to the next major design decision: what will your brand font be?
Brand fonts aren’t something to be taken lightly. After all, look at how much hype there was around Netflix coming out with their own custom font.
Your brand personality will also help you narrow down your font choices. Generally speaking, you will want to pick two to three fonts.
Pick fonts that convey the voice you want your brand to have.
For example, if your brand personality is quirky and ahead of the curve, you could use a font like Economica or Ubuntu.
Or if your brand personality is classy or luxurious, elegant font choices like Lora or Playfair Display could be good picks.
Just remember, never sacrifice readability for style!
A face-to-face approach can really help your brand stand out in a digital space.
One of the best ways you can put faces to your brand is through video. If you’re sleeping on video marketing, this is the year to consider trying it out. As of 2018, 81% of B2B marketers reported using video in their content marketing strategy.
If you’re worried about not having the budget for video, here’s the secret: you don’t need a big budget.
If you’re a solopreneur trying to get your face out there, your videos don’t have to be polished. They just need to offer value to your audience (and, ok, not be super low quality).
One way you can offer value is by taking a personalized approach and creating custom videos for segments of users, or even individual users. New Breed take a cool approach with their video marketing – after attending a webinar of their, I received an email with a personalized video from one of their sales team members (hi Ben!):
And if you don’t have a huge audience yet, why not take that as an opportunity to really connect with your users? You can include videos featuring team members (or you, if you’re a one-person business) in landing pages, blog posts, and emails.
But if video isn’t an option you want to explore, you can at least begin to build out a brand by sharing photos of behind-the-scenes at your company on social media. Often, you brand personality will be born from the internal culture of your business, so look at the people on your team for inspiration.
Consistency is key. In order to create a brand reputation and gain recognition, you need to use consistent visual content and messaging across any customer-facing platform.
To create consistent branded content, you need to think about more than just using your brand fonts and color schemes. You should also strive to use images and illustrations that follow a style that’s in line with your brand personality.
MailChimp is an example of a company with a strong and consistent visual brand. Their bold, saturated color palettes and quirky illustrations are immediately recognizable. These visual quirks are carried through in their social media posts, blog headers and annual reports.
Even though the tweet on the left is an illustration while the blog header on the right is a photo, both visuals have a consistent feel.
But consistent visual branding goes beyond using a consistent style in your social media graphics, although social certainly does play a big part.
For example, you can create a visual signature. This will help your emails be more recognizable when you send email newsletters, support emails or do cold outreach. To do this, you can simply include your logo in your signature. It’s simple, but little reminders like this can go a long way to create more brand recognition.
The main point to take away is that whatever content you’re creating or whatever communication you’re sending, think about how your audience will perceive it. Is it in line with your brand personality? Will it help your brand be more recognizable?
This is just a basic framework for developing a visual brand. Ultimately, you will have to test and adjust as you go along.
I can’t stress this enough: customer feedback is incredibly valuable when developing your brand. Ask your customers what resonates with them and what really stood out about your business. Then, hone in on the key differentiators you discover there.
What has your visual branding experience been like? What wins have you experienced? What difficulties? I’d love to hear in the comments!