Having a strong visual brand is a must for any business. Whether large or small, online or local mom and pop shop, your visual brand makes an important first impression on potential customers and clients. Many people mistakenly think their brand stops at their logo, but that’s far from the truth. A complete visual brand encompasses much more than that.
Before even thinking about logos or colors, however, it’s crucial to ask yourself some questions. Firstly, who is your ideal customer? Brands like Nike and Bath and Body Works are completely different because (for the most part) they have different audiences they’re trying to reach. Next, what else does your ideal customer like? It can be helpful to come up with a profile detailing what age range they fall into, what gender they are, and what their interests might be. Once you answer these questions, you can move on to the fun part – visuals!
If you’re thinking about having branding done for your company or are unsure if your existing brand is complete, read on to find out the essential pieces that make up a strong visual brand.
Once you’re ready to get started working on your brand, the first thing to do is gather inspiration. I always create an inspiration board for my branding clients, either with photos I pick based off of what my client has told me their inspiration is, or photos they pin on Pinterest. Basically, pick whatever stands out to you or reflects what style you want your brand to exude. Usually, I’ll start to see a pattern of colors or design style emerge and it makes it easy to get a feel for the kind of brand you want. Once I have a solid inspiration board, I’m ready to get to work on the branding elements.
While a logo shouldn’t be the only piece to your branding, it is an important one. Above all else, a good logo is recognizable. Brand awareness is key - and what better way to stand out then with a solid logo?On top of being recognizable, logos should be
1 | Legible. Scripts and handwritten fonts are popular these days, but many of them just aren’t immediately easy to read. It's also important to make sure it's still visible at smaller sizes.
2 | Timeless. Ok so styles come and go. In the mid to late 2000s it was grunge, today it's crazy scripts and hand lettering. It's not always possible to completely avoid designing a logo that will at some point become outdated but use caution when it comes to fonts and illustration styles that seem really trendy.
3 | Versatile. Can your logo be used in different settings such as signage, a shirt, business cards, and more? A way to ensure more versatility is to have a primary logo AND a secondary logo. It’s helpful to have a secondary logo design for use in other ways as well. It could be a matching monogram that you use for stickers, or a simplified version of a more complicated logo, such as just the text without the icon that goes with it or the other way around. A perfect example of this is (again) the Nike logo. Oftentimes the swoosh is used on it's own, the Nike is used on ITS own, but the actual logo is of them together. Either way it's used, we easily recognize it.
Another important brand element is the color palette. It’s important to pick colors based on your audience and what you want to convey - and stick with them! (Check out this post on tips for picking colors). The number of colors you need really just depends on the brand. Generally, I pick 2-6 colors and include at least one neutral (even if that’s just white).
Usually the fonts used in marketing materials, website, and social media graphics will match what’s in the logo (but not necessarily). One to three fonts is the general rule for consistency, but I typically choose only one or two. It’s helpful to use a font that has a variety of weights to create interest and contrast. For my site, I've found it necessary to use only one.
While I’m still a firm believer that print design is important and still has a place in the world (don't even get me started!), having a website is super necessary. You need to have a place with your products or services neatly laid out. Blogging is also really beneficial - it helps people to get to know you and view you as an expert in your field. Having a website makes it easy for people to view what you’re offering, decide they want it, and connect with you.
The types of supporting graphics you need depends on your company. Some examples include social media graphics, cons, photos, brochures, infographics, business cards, letterheads, and flyers. Regardless of which kind of graphics are needed, the rest of your brand should be reflected in them (your logo, colors, and fonts).
Overall, consistency is key. It's crucial to use the same colors, fonts, logos, etc. in order to maintain a strong visual brand. Having templates for items like blog post graphics, social media banners, email headers, and brochures will keep your brand uniform. Utilizing a style guide will also help if you stick to it!