Written by Adam Fitness.
“I only need a logo”
Any seasoned brand or identity designer would have heard this a thousand times.
Your client is starting a new business and is under the assumption that all they need is a logo.
Now, I’m not faulting them for thinking that, it makes sense – the logo is the face of the business, the obvious first touch point of brand recognition and what most people will overtly recognise as their business’s identity. But, in this modern day and age, there are so many places, platforms and moments where consumers interact with your business or brand.
That’s a lot to ask of your simple logo – to be flexible enough to be present, clear and readable across all of these individual touch points. From social media to printed flyers, to online videos all the way through to your website. With just a logo these communication pieces can feel disjointed, or even bland and lacking character or personality.
A fully developed visual identity system supports your logo so it’s not left doing all the heavy lifting on its own.
“Okay, so what is a visual identity system?”
It’s there to help support your logo, helping your audience quickly identify your brand in the marketplace, whether that be a poster on your local notice board, or a social post on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. It gives consistency to the way your brand looks and is presented overall.
A well-developed visual identity system is a purpose built design system that works alongside your logo and brand. It’s essentially a full visual language for your brand to use when communicating to the world.
Let me give you an example…
You should still recognise these brands, even without a logo, thanks to their visual identity.
What colours comes to mind when I say Cadbury? Or Coke? The purple of Cadbury and the red of Coke, as well as the feelings they evoke, are instilled in your mind because of these brand giant’s excellent visual identity system. There’s a reason all the budget cola brands decide to make their bottles red as well.
If Cadbury and CocaCola decided to ‘just create a logo’, their brand recognition would’ve been lost. Yes, these brands have been developing their identities for over one hundred years, but the same principles and lessons still apply.
The visual identity system is usually communicated through a Brand Guidelines or Visual Identity document and includes the logo (and rules around its use), colour palettes, typefaces and fonts, and can also include templates for all kinds of stationery, internal/external communication documents and any other visual devices like icons or illustrations.
Outside of the visual identity system, a Brand Guidelines document should also outline your brand’s Tone of Voice, Brand Values & Beliefs and Brand Story. All of these are important elements to help flesh out who you are as a brand and create a fully coherent and consistent brand identity. But that’s another story.
There is so much more to these brands, visually, than just their logo.
“I’m only a startup / small business. Why do I want all of that?”
TRUST. Trust is the key to everything in branding. To be trusted means that the audience will interact/purchase/use your brand’s product or service without much hesitation or thought.
Trust happens when the values and beliefs of the brand and consumer’s align, through shared experiences, opinions or mindsets.
Think about it this way. You’re on the other side of the world, in a city you’ve never been to, that you know no one in, and you bump into a stranger at a bar. You get talking, and discover you’re from the same town in regional Victoria, and even went to the same high school.
Or maybe it’s something more trivial like you listen to the same obscure band, or have the same favourite movie. Either way, a bond is created and trust begins to form, you have shared thoughts, opinions and experiences. Now you’re much more likely to hang out with them, and take their recommendation on the restaurant around the corner more seriously, as opposed to a random someone on the street who you haven’t spoken to or have shared experiences with.
Your visual identity should do the same for your brand. It should speak to your values and beliefs through the use of specific shapes, typefaces or colours, helping you connect with your audience. They will then better identify with your values through the feelings and emotions their interactions with your brand evokes for them. This will lead to a greater connection with them, if they share the same values and beliefs. Creating trust, an ongoing relationship, and willingness to buy without hesitation or thought.
“I think I get it now…”
So if you’re a founder of a new and exciting business, or someone with a grand plan to influence the globe through your new venture and you’re wanting to develop a new logo, maybe take it a little further and consider developing a visual identity system to position your brand as a trustworthy, consistent and professional product, service or whatever else you might be offering to your audience.
Some tips to build trust through branding
If you’re not in a place to rollout and execute on a fully developed visual identity here’s a few small steps you can take to give your brand a bit more consistency and professionalism in the meantime.
Typefaces Selecting the right typeface is an important step in developing a considered identity. It’s important that it’s clear and easily readable (probably not a crazy/fancy script font), but also appropriate, aligning with the expectations of your industry segment. (I spoke about this in my previous blog regarding logos, but this also applies to fonts and typefaces). Finally, try using a custom font from either Google Fonts (They’re free) or Adobe Fonts (if you have an Adobe CC subscription). This will help set you apart even more (a lot of small business or startups won’t go to the trouble of using unique and custom fonts).
I’ve come across a few instances of brands not having a consistent primary colour or colour palette. They would always use a blue colour, for example, but it would be a slightly different blue on every piece of communication. Your colours are one of the main points for brand recognition, and even small variations in colour can lead to something looking inconsistent, and therefore untrustworthy.
Stop using cheesy Stock Imagery A lot of new businesses and brands use a lot of cheesy, staged and obviously stock imagery. These kinds of images can make your brand appear cheap and in-genuine. Try choosing images that appear more natural, sincere and authentic. A great (free) resource for high-resolution imagery is Unsplash or Pexels, be sure to credit the photographer when you can!
Hedgehog is run by Josh. Josh helps small businesses to sell more online with detailed advice, planning and management. Learn more here.