After creating your brand story, it's time to consider the visual side of branding. Your visual identity is not just a logo: your brand needs a colour palette, brand fonts, brand imagery (photographic & illustrations styles), brand patterns & textures, brand layout styles, & even brand sounds or characters.
All of these need to be used consistently from the outset. If over time, youre changing the look and feel of anything you put out into the public, it will look like a messy hodgepodge of design and will not look professional at all. Many brands make the mistake of not spending enough time on branding early on.
Consistency is key
You probably recognized this brand in less than half a second, despite the many images. Coca cola always uses the same colour palette, the same flowing lines in their illustrations and marketing (which match the flowing lines in the logo), they repeat the same kind of imagery including the iconic shape of their glass bottle, and the net result is that everything is visually consistent wherever they appear. Your brand has the power to build trust and evoke emotion in your customers. You want them to feel those same emotions every time they see your brand — across multiple mediums!
This is not to say a brand can’t evolve over time. It absoloutely makes sense to change your brand identity as your company evolves and design trends change. You don’t want to be stuck with a logo that looks like it was designed in 1985. For people creating new brands, this is less of a concern - your most important branding concern is creating a visually consistent look and feel to everything you do that matches your brand story, your product, your company values, and brand voice, but be prepared to keep up with the times as your success grows!
Branding Guides & Style Guides
Most people are familiar with brand books and logo guides, which tend to be around 20 pages long. We do the same when we create brand mascot style guides, clearly defining brand colours, fonts, Do’s and Dont’s of how characters should be used etc. Style guides also function as libraries of pre-approved creative assets - illustrations, patterns, graphic designs, verbiage, packaging - and the result is they can be up to 200 pages long!
Designing a visual identity: The Creative Brief
When we design a visual identity guide for a brand, we always begin with a creative brief to guide us in our choices of style, colours, fonts etc. so we can come to the best possible creative solution. Some of the key questions we ask are:
How would you describe the personality of your brand? How are you currently perceived and how would you like to be perceived? eg. fun, modern, creative, simple, sophisticated, corporate, natural, traditional, high-tech, retro, serious, reliable, playful, masculine, feminine, youthful, sincere, exciting, rugged, elegant, welcoming, exclusive
Who is your target audience? On which platforms will you be most visible? eg. We are targeting 23-29yr-old fashionable office women with a medium-level disposable income that are interested in XXX and ZZZ on WeChat, Weibo and Instagram
Who are your main competitors? eg. Our top competitors are XXX, and our second-level competitors are ZZZ. What differentiates us is ______________
Do you have any references of successful and/or unsuccessful of brand identities that (don’t) reflect the kind of visual identity you'd like your brand to have? eg. We really like the character style of XXX, for example on www.xxx-mascot.com, but what we don’t want to see is the kind of illustrative style used for for ZZZ on www.zzz-mascot.com
What business challenges / pain points are we aiming to solve? What are the measures of success? What do we want the user to do? eg. We want to increase our fan base by 5,000 followers and increase our conversion rate from 5% to 10%
After considering these questions, you'll have a head-start on your competition, and it will speed up the process of design, saving time and money. No matter how small your company, your goal should be to have a 20+ page brand book that clearly defines how your branding elements should be consistently used across marketing materials, websites, products and presentations. One note of caution: never share your brand book with anyone without them first signing an NDA.