Whether you’re building a new brand or simply refreshing an old one, your brand’s visual identity is the most important factor. Brands with a consistent visual identity resonate with their customers more effectively and get the added benefit of having to spend significantly less money in the long run on advertising and marketing materials. Brands with more scattered visual identities, on the other hand, have to spend more and more to get their brand in front of customers as it changes so frequently.
So how can you create a visual brand identity that will help your business in the long run? Simply follow these checklists, and you’ll have an effective framework to build a visual brand identity that will last.
What Does My Visual Brand Identity Need?
Here is a simple list of items to include while building your brand’s visual identity:
- A simple color palette – This should feature 1-3 primary colors and 2-3 secondary colors (Black and white count).
- A primary logo mark and word mark.
- A secondary logo mark and/or word mark – This should be designed to be used in place of your primary logo, like on a t-shirt, hat, or pencil.
- Fonts – These can be as simple as Helvetica or they can be custom-built. If you’re looking for ease of use, pick a widely-distributed font that is available on all computers. If you want something more distinct, you can pick a lesser-known font or even build your own.
- Some sort of texture – This can be a complex pattern or a simple color overlay that you put on top of photography. No matter what you do, make sure the textures you include can be used on everything from printed pieces to your website.
- Tips for photography – These don’t need to be in-depth, but give a general idea of what type of photography is “on-brand.” Do you want people in your photos? Should you see their faces? Should pictures be posed or more dynamic?
Once you have these items, your brand’s visual identity should be fine. Anything above and beyond this is extra credit. Doing the above items well is the foundation of any branding work, but a lot of people focus on other items that may not be necessary for you.
What Does My Visual Brand Identity NOT Need?
If you’re looking for items that you can cut out of your brand’s visual identity system, it’s not hard. Take a look at examples of great brand identity guidelines and see what they omit. The following items aren’t meaningless. In fact, many brand’s visual identities hinge on these items, but if you’re looking to control costs or create a “Minimum Viable Brand Identity,” these items may prove unnecessary:
- Email Signature – While some companies need a great, consistent email signature to survive, others may just need something that looks presentable. In that case, take your font and your color palate and whip something up. No need to overthink something that Gmail will probably cut off anyway.
- Headshots –To some, these are a necessity, but to others, they’re a luxury. Know which one you are. If you need a consistent brand image across social media or you want your team featured on your website, then headshots are vital, but don’t splurge for them if you’re not going to use them!
- Backgrounds – Too many brands pine for items that will never be used. “Can you create an iPhone lock screen with our logo on it?” No. Unless your business is conducted on an iPhone and customers will see the lock screen, these types of designs are utterly meaningless.
Once again, for some brands these items are necessary, but don’t treat them as necessities for your brand unless they make sense. If you don’t know the business purpose of these items, just skip them and focus your time and energy on the parts of branding that matter.
Now What Should I Do With My Visual Identity?
Once you’ve built a great brand identity, it’s your job to use it! Without effective implementation, a great brand means nothing. So what can you do to ensure that the rest of your company can embrace your brand?
- Throw your brand a party – This is my favorite part of the branding process. You’ve put in all the hard work of building a brand, now you need your salespeople, product designers, and executives to buy in. Best way to do this? Throw a party, invite your team’s friends, family, clients, and communities. Then, share your brand’s vision. Raise a toast to your new brand identity!
- Give your brand a voice – Want to start blogging? Posting on social media? Going to trade shows? Now that you have a visual identity for your brand, you should develop a voice to match it. This is how you develop consistency within your brand that reverberates through every consumer touch point.
- Give your brand a job – Once your brand looks and talks like a winner, it’s time to give it a winning job. Your brand should be your organization’s best salesperson, so use it for things like inbound marketing or outbound marketing at trade shows. An effective brand is only effective if it makes you money!