In branding, just like in life, it’s all about the first impression. And shaking a bad one isn’t easy, especially when you’re competing against a few million other online businesses.
So how do you make sure you hit the mark right from the beginning? It all starts with a great visual identity.
Designing brands people truly care about means thinking about more than just your logo. Branding & identity go hand in hand. They’re intertwined and co-dependent, and your visual identity is where brand strategy meets creativity.
From your logo to your social presence, a strong visual branding instantly tells people who you are, what you’re doing, and why they should want to engage with you.
If you haven’t defined your visual identity yet or want to know how to improve the visual content you’re creating, buckle up.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about defining the brand identity of your dreams, from why it works to how to do it the right way.
What Is Visual Identity?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then your visual identity is worth a million of them.
A brand’s visual identity is what makes them utterly unique and instantly recognizable. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses every visual element of a brand.
Your visual identity is a combination of several graphic and visual elements that, when put together, create a cohesive and memorable brand story–one that current and potential customers will come to associate with your brand’s offering and values.
In other words, it describes everything your customers can physically see, from your logo to that fancy new billboard.
At the core of this visual identity are your brand elements: logo, typography, color palette, imagery, creative design graphics, and physical assets.
Let’s take a closer look at each brand visual component.
A logo is how your brand identifies using a particular symbol, type design, or both. Every element of your logo contributes to your brand identity, including your font choice, colors, and other imagery.
Creatopy logo variants
Your logo needs to convey what you do and have imagery that sticks into the minds of the people who see it. It can also change as your brand identity evolves.
Typography is the shape or styling of the text you use in your branding. Beyond what your words are saying, the scale, font, and arrangement of your text can also impact your visual identity.
Ciprian Robu from Brandient, presenting the Creatopy signature typeface
Most brands choose two to three fonts, including the wordmark to their logo, a headline font, and a body copy font.
Brands use a color scheme of very specific hues, shades, and tints to generate a powerful emotional response from their audience. The logo is often the starting point for the color palette, which should then be repurposed for all brand materials.
An overview of the Creatopy base typography and color palette
The types of photography and video content you use should fit with the rest of your brand identity, its colors, logos, and messaging. This can include photos and videos of your products, team, workspace, and other things relevant to your business.
Creatopy’s visual language & brand imagery
Creative design graphics
Graphics are a huge part of building a unique identity. Every icon, illustration, animation, and button is a chance to showcase your brand and shape the way it’s perceived.
An example of Creatopy’s illustration guidelines and artwork
The best graphics you can use are the embodiment of your unique point of view. They represent how you want to be seen when people think about your brand.
These are brand assets and material objects such as flyers, posters, and even billboards that contribute to your brand’s visual identity. Your brand consistency can also extend to the layout and design of your store and uniforms.
Office posters at the Creatopy headquarters
And here is a selection of the newest addition to our physical assets—our branded stickers.
What makes a great visual identity?
Think of a visual identity like buying your first bike. You might go all out on a top-line model, or you might just need a basic one to get around town. One that you can upgrade for your off-road weekend adventures.
With visual identity, there’s no one-size-fits-all template. It’s really about assessing your specific needs. With that said, let’s talk about what makes a great visual identity.
A strong visual identity is meant to be purposeful and long-lasting. You aren’t just designing for today. You’re designing for your brand’s future. A great visual identity is:
- Specific: First and foremost, it’s a tool to communicate your brand essence: your personality and values. Make it count.
- Intuitive: It should be designed and constructed in a way that each element complements the other.
- Flexible: It should be able to grow with your brand, whether you’re branching out into new products or rebranding.
- All-inclusive: Make sure your brand designers have all the graphic design tools they need to do what they do best.
Why Visual Identity Is Important in Building a Brand
Brands with a well-developed visual identity will find that amazing, and converting customers becomes easier. On the other hand, having a disconnected or inconsistent visual identity means you aren’t telling a cohesive brand story.
That makes it harder for your brand to connect with and establish a relationship with the people you’re trying to reach.
Throughout your career, you may have heard the terms branding or brand visual identity. The truth is, they’re not exactly the same and should, in fact, be used together, not interchangeably.
- Branding is a strategy that refers to the process of creating a brand. This includes defining its values, brand voice, communication strategy, visual identity, and more.
- Visual identity sets the guidelines that promote consistency in a brand’s use of visual elements, including logo, colors, fonts, images, and more.
Here are seven ways visual identity is critical to building a brand:
1. Enhances brand recognition
Think about your favorite brand. What’s the first detail that comes to mind? It’s likely either their logo or their product’s distinctive design. Brands like McDonald’s, Nike, or Apple owe their success–at least in part–to brand recognition. It’s what allows users to recognize your brand’s logo, name, and other visual elements and relate to it.
2. Increases trust in your brand and business
Visual identity elements are helpful ways to use content to establish your knowledge and credibility. And high-value, quality content is the best way to build a relationship with people and turn them into long-term customers.
Your audience will trust and relate to your business on a higher level if they see that you’re taking your visual identity seriously.
3. Creates a sense of business continuity and brand consistency
As your brand evolves, your values and visual identity will support its growth, keep it grounded and familiar. Some of your loyal consumers may be emotionally attached to your brand’s visuals since it gives them a sense of belonging. Aim to keep your visuals consistent, with a degree of familiarity and continuity.
4. Drives more sales and better leads
If your graphics, website, social media posts, and promotional material send a uniform message about your brand identity and its core values, you are more likely to cash in.
5. Builds a better, closer relationship with the customer
Your target audience can relate to your company more meaningfully through a visual brand identity that they find appealing and easy to understand.
People that recognize your brand don’t necessarily have to be your customers. Brand awareness, however, increases the chances of successfully engaging with your audience, driving conversions and sales.
6. Sets your brand apart from the competition
It’s brutal out there. A distinctive visual identity creates an eye-catching, striking, and memorable branding effect that helps you distinguish yourself from your competition.
7. Helps with employee retention
Successful brands are built around a solid team of engaged employees. And in a competitive job market, you always need ways to connect with current and potential employees.
A great visual identity uses content to showcase your company’s personality, culture, and values in creative ways. This helps people get to know and participate in your employer branding.
3 Examples From Brands With a Great Visual Identity
This mindfulness and meditation app has a visual identity that pops with personality. Their latest redesign features a blend of soothing but cheerful color palette that delivers on their mission: less stress, more joy.
Image source: Headspace
What they do very well is to ensure a cohesive experience with every piece of content. With hand-drawn illustrations and animations, their visual identity brings a sense of comfort to everything from their website to their Instagram. The latter is packed with fun illustrations and unique digital collages that play with the brand colors in creative ways.
Image source: Headspace Instagram
Medium is all about simplifying the reading and publishing experience. As such, their identity is simple and clean. Light colors and people-centric photography make it feel welcoming and accessible–just like their reading experience.
Image source: Medium
Their recent rebrand included an updated logo with tighter tracking and smoother lines and an expanded color palette. The site features a minimalist design, a Transitional typeface on headlines to convey an approachable but trustworthy tone, and a warm and inviting Humanist sans serif font (Freight Sans), with simple illustrations and well punctuated through colorful accents that keep the focus on the product.
Dropbox started out with a minimal design but unveiled a fresh rebrand in 2017 that injected the brand with a little more personality. Its vibrant, colorful, imagery-heavy identity brings a sense of endless creativity and functionality.
Image source: Dropbox
From their website to their Twitter, their visual cues celebrate what’s possible when unexpected combinations of ideas, color, typography, art, illustration, and photography are brought together.
It was a drastic change, but one that worked and turned their brand into a treat for the eyes.
How to Define Your Own Strong Visual Identity
Your visual identity is reflected through an entire ecosystem of media, which can include a website, social media presence, advertisements, blogs, videos, infographics, e-books, and more. And it all starts with your audience.
Here are the key factors that will help with the creation (or evolution) of your brand’s visual identity:
1. Know your audience
The power of visual identity is its ability to instantly spark affinity and speak with your audience. Knowing who your customers are and their pain points, desires, and personality can help you build a visual identity that they can better relate to.
2. Define your brand’s purpose
Defining (or redefining) your direction and long-term objectives can provide a valuable insight into the essential qualities you’d like your brand’s visual identity to have.
3. Evoke emotions through a brand story
Your visual identity is a way to show you understand your audience’s emotional needs and share their values. A brand story is a powerful tool that can help you evoke an emotional appeal with your customers and set the standard for your visuals and imagery.
4. Use the right tools to define visual identity purposes and roles
If you’re just getting started with your visual identity, having a system that helps you keep your brand assets always on hand (and is easy to manage) can help you deliver a consistent and compelling message across all your channels.
From logo, color palettes, typography, and licensed elements such as photos, jingles, ready-made designs, illustrations, or vectors, the Creatopy Brand Kit helps you keep your visual identity consistent.
If you’d like to see just how much time you can save on creating on-brand designs, upload your brand assets, and start your free trial to explore the full potential of your visual identity today.