How to create a strong visual brand

Sandra Busch
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Branding can get a bad reputation. But I’m telling you, don’t listen to the haters.

They’ll have you believe it’s bullsh*t when in fact your visual brand is what sets you apart from your competitors and tells the story of who you are (without even saying a word).

Perhaps you’ve already chosen the right words to describe who you are (if not, check out our blog post on brand words).

You probably have a vague idea of whether your brand is “adventurous”, “flirty”, “book smart”, “avant-garde”, or “humorous”. But nothing answers this question quicker than a visual.

That is why color choices, fonts, images, and illustrations are so important. Because they tell the story of who you are. If the visuals don’t match your values, you’ll end up confusing – perhaps even alienating – your audience 👽

For example, how would you feel about hiring this attorney to represent you in court?

The font makes the brand feel like a joke. That’s fine if you’re in the cartoon industry trying to be amusing, but there’s nothing funny about needing your lawyer present.

Bottom line is: what works for Disney probably won’t work for you.

Why is my visual branding important?

On the web, your competitors are never more than a few clicks away.

That’s why it’s imperative for your brand to convey a strong, visual presence. You want to engage your audience and grab their attention straight off 🚨

It’s true that having a strong visual brand won’t singlehandedly sell your products. But it will make you relatable and make people connect with you on an emotional level.

This is important because, given the choice between two products with roughly the same price point, people will always choose the stronger brand. It’s as simple as that.

It’s about telling a story. Preferably a good one. And then creating a coherent user experience across your marketing channels – starting with your website.

Get to the core of it

Every brand has a story to tell 📚. Yes, even yours. Case in point, IKEA is making a better everyday life for the many people. Apple is motivating people to think differently. And LEGO is inspiring and developing the creators of tomorrow.

No matter what your story is, it is important that you define it in simple terms so that you know what kind of narrative you want your visuals to convey.

You might find it useful to do a mood board of words and ideas to describe the core of your brand.

Collect the typographies, images, colors, and texts relating to your brand and use it as a way of visualizing the concept. This will help align your thoughts and feelings about the brand.

Make sure you look at it every time you create a new visual – it will help you stay focused on the core.

The visual patterns

Patterns help with the consistency of your visual brand.

The two that matter the most are your colors and your typography, so start by defining these.

Once you’ve made your decision, don’t change your mind from page to page just because you feel you need to jazz it up. Consistency is key, my friend.

A word of advice on coloring: be very specific. “Green” cannot be your brand color. But #2c932f might be.

You should also think about stuff like margins, paddings, spacing, imagery, secondary colors, and icons – but one thing at a time.

Patterns are good but don’t be afraid to create something unique from time to time. That may sound counter-intuitive now. But. Imagine a rug. With its perfectly predictable and repetitive pattern. Now imagine it has a flaw. You wouldn’t be able to look away.

This is exactly the kind of effect you want for, say, your call-to-action button 😎

You’ll soon realize that creating a consistent brand is paramount (and powerful) – it’s not just about making your new site look “neat”.

Creating brand guidelines

You’ve come this far; I might as well lay it all on you. To ensure consistency, you really should create a proper brand guideline document that clearly states all of your visual elements.

Here’s what it should include (as a minimum):

  • Logo: sample usage and vector formats of different versions (black background, white background, etc.)
  • Colors: hex code, RBG, CMYK, and Pantone
  • Fonts: both desktop and web versions
  • Imagery and mood board
  • Iconography: sample icons

Your brand guide document will serve as a cheat sheet for your team and ensure you steer clear of inconsistencies and design mistakes.

If you lucky enough to bring in an in-house designer, share this guide with them to ensure you preserve your new visual brand.

Start building your visual brand today

So, how do you feel about your visual brand as of right now? Maybe it’s a little all over the place?

My best advice is for you to really consider your overall brand story and start paying attention to how you want people to respond to it.

So, take a step back. Are you telling the story you want? And are you using it consistently across all of your marketing channels?

The best brands are stuck in our brains because they’re defined by the consistency of the same logo, colors, fonts, and imagery. When people see it enough it becomes recognizable at once, giving a sense of familiarity and trustworthiness.

Need inspiration? We’ve collected a few awesome visual brand guidelines for you to use as inspiration for your brand work.

Spotify

See their brand guide here: Spotify

MobilePay

See their brand guide here: MobilePay,

Urban Outfitters

See their brand guide here: Urban Outfitters

Cisco

See their brand guide here: Cisco

Dropbox

See their brand guide here: Dropbox

Slack

See their brand guide here: Slack

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