Your visual identity is simply a tool to help you execute your brand strategy—to communicate who you are and what you’re about. Like anything in life, the better your tool, the more success you’ll have. Unfortunately, when it comes to building a strong visual identity, we see brands all over the map.
Some have a weak identity that doesn’t really communicate who they are. Some have no identity, resulting in content that is totally inconsistent. The worst, however, is a brand whose visual identity is so meticulous and complicated that no one knows how to use it; thus, they end up with the same inconsistencies as a brand with no identity.
We hate to see brands plagued by these issues, which is why we’re determined to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to create a beautiful and practical visual identity that works now—and in the future.
If you’re getting ready to create your visual identity (or thinking about revamping your existing one), it’s important to know what hurts and what helps throughout the process. To make things easier on yourself, just follow these seven tips to design a better visual identity.
Your visual identity is the visual manifestation of your brand strategy. But it isn’t just about creating nice visuals; it’s about strategically communicating who you are and what you do. Thus, you need an intimate understanding of not just who you are but what you’re trying to achieve.
Download our Brand Questionnaire below, and follow our guide to conduct a brand audit. This will help you dive into your brand and gain the insights you need to build a visual identity that works.
You visual identity is a tool kit to help brand designers (and any content creators) communicate on behalf of your brand. Whether they’re creating quote cards for Instagram, animations for a brand video, or a new infographic, your visual identity should empower them to do their job well.
If you don’t know already, talk to your brand team to find out what types of content you’ll be creating, as well as any challenges you’re facing with your existing identity. (For example, your current logo may be clunky or challenging to work with on smaller screens.)
Depending on your brand’s needs, you may want to add specific elements to your visual identity toolkit, but these general basics are a good starting point:
Above all, remember that each of these elements should also be designed for maximum impact.
Example: We created a comprehensivevisual languagefor Avalere Health, including a flexible design system, iconography, and more.
A good visual identity is flexible enough to grow with your brand. This means it evolves with your business, whether you’re branching out into new products, services, or industries. This also applies to the type of content you’ll be creating. New platforms and mediums are likely to emerge (for example, Instagram didn’t even exist when we started our agency), and your brand has to be ready to adapt.
Consider how things like mobile-responsive design, web-friendly typefaces, and even brand colors can affect your brand experience, and make sure you’ve accounted for these in your design.
Consider the people you’ll be catering to. This is especially relevant when it comes to things like disability accessibility online. If you’re not sure who you’re designing for, find outhow to create personasthat give you better insight.
Example: We collaborated withUCI’s Applied Innovationto create a visual language that worked in multiple mediums, including a static and animated logo.
Your visual identity should accurately represent your brand: who you are, what you do, what you believe in, and what you care about. Communicating this is a challenge, but it is crucial to do it—and do it well. (When there is a visual disconnect or any sense of inauthenticity, people clock it quickly.)
Think about your brand personality and how you can bring that to life through your design tools (such as color, shape, etc.). If you don’t have your brand personality officially documented, follow our guide to find it in 5 steps.
Example: We created a new visual identity for theExpanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN), a WHO organization on a mission to eliminate five specific tropical diseases. To bring their mission to life, we created a symbolic logo that features a rendering of the African continent, made of five bars: one for each disease they’re battling.
In addition to representing your brand accurately, you want your image to be distinct within your industry. Thus, you should avoid hopping on design trends or mirroring your competition. This is especially important to be aware of, as many brands within a single industry will start to homogenize subconsciously.
To understand what others are doing, download our competititve analysis template below. This will help you audit your competitors to identify ways that you can differentiate.
Example: Buffy is a comforter brand with a very distinctive visual style. For more inspiration, take a look at these 15 brands with a strong brand identity.
A good visual identity isn’t just beautiful; it works at every level. If any part of your design clashes or feels out of place, you make it harder for your team to create beautiful, cohesive content—and ultimately risk diluting your brand.
Make sure your design is:
Example: When we were brought on to helpUSA Todayrebrand their infographic and data visualization design, we crafted a visual language that fit seamlessly with the paper’s overall aesthetic.
If you’re a growing brand that creates a lot of content, it’s likely that you already use outside freelancers (or will in the future). With that many hands on your content, it can be difficult to keep quality at a certain level.
Make your visual identity easy to use by creating comprehensive brand guidelines. This helps keep everyone on the same page, assures that guidelines are applied appropriately, and makes life easier for the whole team. As you build out your guidelines, make sure they’re:
Example: For inspiration, you can check out Column Five’s interactive brand guidelines.
There are many elements that contribute to a strong brand. You need every element aligned if you want to tell a consistent, cohesive brand story at every touchpoint. To help your brand do this successfully:
And if you get stuck at any stage of the process, consider bringing in expert help. We’d love to talkwith you.