Every brand has multiple intangible dimensions to it, such as your personal expectations, memories, values and preferences, and those together with a brand’s visual look & feel create a subjective brand experience. One of the most crucial, tangible elements of a brand is the visual identity. It’s a sum of many things: what are the brand colours and how they should be used, what is the typographic style, what kind of logotype it has, what kind of photos are used and how the print materials or your website would look like. What kind of feeling does the brand have: energetic, professional, modern, high-tech, young, traditional and so on.
Visual guidelines are a set of rules and examples of how to use your brand visually in different touch points. In short, they guide the visual identity of your brand, and so every company, even a starting one, should take the time and create visual guidelines.
We summed up three main reasons to help you understand why:
1. Do it for your customers
Think about some brands you know. What they probably have in common is specific visual looks – meaning that you can see a poster and recognise the brand even if the logo is missing. This might be easy to imagine with brands like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Ikea. These examples are from bigger companies but the same idea goes for all brands, no matter if they are big or small.
Clients and consumers often form a personal relationship with the brand and relate to the feeling of the brand. Sort of like relating to a brand like if it was a person. This relationship is easier to form if the brand has a recognisable and relatable visual identity.
2. Do it for the brand
Visual identity is visual communication. It too tells a story of your brand, and thus it should be consistent with your verbal and written communication. What are the company values? Why do you do this? What is the core message? What is the way the brand talks to its audiences?
Having a high-quality, professionally crafted visual identity that is used consistently generates the brand competitive advantage. It makes the brand stand out from the crowd and easier to recognise and remember. It gives the brand credibility and makes it more trustworthy. And moreover, when it comes to communication, repetition creates value. With having clear visual guidelines you can make sure the same core messages are repeated with the same style, over time and throughout different campaigns. Even if the style and emphasis may vary depending on the campaign, the core of the brand identity should be repeated.
3. Do it for the money
Yes, however noble reasons there are for you to run your company, it should always be cost effective. So no matter if it’s a non-profit organisation or a business aiming for high profits, every company should have visual guidelines since it can both create value (bring money) and save some money for you. Having visual guidelines is a good investment: it sets the right (art) direction from the beginning and ensures all brand materials will be consistent. Otherwise the “idea” for the brand has to be reinvented in every material creation process which requires much more time and money. And, moreover, all the material might end up looking different every time which is harmful for the brand. So get it right once, before creating all the materials for the brand so you don’t have to go back and forth with different styles.
In addition to making sure you have the core idea for the visual identity, having it written down in guidelines makes sure the information can be shared to anyone. If the visual guidelines are created well, they should communicate clearly how the brand should look like so that this information isn’t tied to any person or agency in specific. This will also save your time as you don’t have to present and explain your brand each time to third parties (such as advertising agencies or design studios).
Now that you have your guidelines, you are free to work with anyone you’d like to, anyone that matches the needs of the moment. When designing a new campaign posters you might want to use a design agency but when there’s a need for specific digital marketing campaign, sometimes it makes sense to use a different agency who are specialised in this field instead. If you’re thinking of introducing a new digital service, it’s then smart to hand the work over to a digital design studio who do UX & UI design. Proper visual guidelines open up more possibilities to get the best people working on your brand where-ever the needs be.
An example of the Pixels brand guideline on logotype usage and colours.
Identity first, guidelines second
What is the process of creating visual guidelines? Firstly, you should start from (or go back to) the very core of your business, from what the company does and, moreover, why you do what you do. Then you can move to thinking of how things are done, thinking of who you are as a brand and what values come together to from your brand identity. Only after that you can start planning of how you want to look like and what is the visual identity like that communicates those core messages. Finally, when all that work is done, you can put these findings into visual guidelines.
Sometimes it can be really eye-opening to have an outsider look at your brand holistically and see if the visual identity reflects your true brand identity in the way you’ve imagined it. In case you’d like to get a simple brand audit done, send us an email and let’s talk. 🙂