When you are working on your visual brand identity, such as your logo, colours, fonts, graphics, templates, icons and all those little elements that make up the overall look of your brand, it may be easy to rush into pretty inspiration, looking at trends or drawing elements from other designs you love.
The trouble with designing an identity based on trends, what other people are doing and just what you think looks nice, is that it lacks the very thing you are setting out to do. Creating an identity.
While this doesn’t mean you can’t draw inspiration from other sources and look at identities and brands that inspire you. But your brand’s visual identity and style first needs deep roots.
These roots are your message. Your brand’s message is the most critical element of branding, yet many overlook this vital piece or don’t go deep enough.
So looking back at trends for a moment. If for example your brand’s message is one of luxury, feminity and teaching people to make money and feel good about themselves. Then you might want to use metals in your brand colours. No with metals like rose gold or copper being trendy, this would be a trend that would suit your brand’s message. As opposed to following a trend for trend sake.
But when you do incorporate trends into your brand visuals, you also need to be aware that it can date your brand, so you want to use trend’s carefully, in a way that can be changed over time, without losing the overall brand style and feel.
This is why having your brand’s message at the core of your identity is so important. Small changes can happen over time without losing the overall feel because the design is not based solely on trends but on a message and meaning. Just like you could dye or your or paint your nails and wear new outfits, but your overall identity stays the same.
How to Define the Critical Element of your Brand Identity
Before you start mood boards or looking for inspiration, you need to define the core message of your brand and all its elements. By taking this first critical step, your brand will have depth and meaning and connect better with your audience. It will also give you greater confidence in your branding. When you know you have created things a certain way for a reason, you will feel confident in your choices. No more second guessing or wanting to change things every few weeks.
To define that all-important message that you want to visually communicate, you need to consider these three things:
- Your Audience
- Your Business
So let’s dive deeper on each of these, and how they each play a part of your brand message.
The Role Your Audience Plays in Your Message
Your audience is the people your brand’s message is for. These are the people it needs to speak to. And so it is vital you consider them when planning your brand message and weaving that into your brand identity.
Some things to consider about your audience:
- Who these people are
- What do they need from your brand?
- What emotions you want to evoke in them. i.e How do you want to make them feel?
- Where are they at now and where do they want to be with your brand’s help.
- How does working with or buying from your brand make them feel about themselves?
- What appeals to them, and the styles they like and the vibe that they would resonate with.
What You Need to Consider about Yourself
If you have a personal brand, as in you are the face of the brand, then looking at yourself is a vital part of your brand messaging. If you have a brand where you are not the face of the brand, you still need to consider the personal identity of your brand. Big businesses will often will create personas, that represent their brand, or have brand ambassadors or a face of the brand other than the founders. For example, a high-street fashion brand, will not show the creators of the label, but have models who are the face of the brand and represent its vibe. Similarly, skincare companies use models or celebrities. You don’t necessarily need to show a face, but still creating a persona for the brand and embedding that in the brand’s message and identity will make the brand relatable.
Your customers not only want to see themselves in your brand and be attracted to it. But they also want to feel a connection to the brand, and that is where you or the brand persona comes in. It is someone they can relate to and feel a connection with. And if your brand is aspirational in some way, it also gives them a role model or mentor to look up to. Someone they can feel they want to become more like and get to where you are.
Some things to consider about yourself or your brand’s persona:
- General personal attributes
- What makes you who you are, such as history, heritage, experiences, skills and personality.
- Aspects of where you are that your audience would look up to
- Your story and journey
- Your lifestyle, interests and habits
How to Incorporate Your Business into Your Brands Identity
Finally, your business needs to be considered as your craft your brand message. By your business, we are looking at your offers, values, positioning, differentiation, business model and the community you create around what you do. It is vital to communicate these in your branding, as it will help people decide if things is a business that they want to buy from or work with. By communicating your business visually, they will be able to make a fast decision on whether it is a good fit for them or not and if it is what they are searching for.
Some things to consider about your business:
- What products and services do you offer, and how do you offer them?
- What sets you apart from your competition?
- How do you position yourself in the marketplace? Are you the cheap and cheerful, the boutique or high street, or are you the high-end luxury brand. This one is really important because if you get that message wrong in your visually branding you instantly set the wrong tone and lose sales. Start the experience with your branding, and set the tone for your positioning.
- What is your business model and what is the number one thing you want people to do when they find you, and what is the end goal?
- What community feel do you want to create around your business?
Bring the Message Together to Create a Distinct Brand Identity.
Once you have considered all these parts, it is time to pull out all the keywords and phrases, and creating a mind map or word bank, of words and phrases that describe your brand’s message and story, and all the key points you want to communicate in your brand identity.
Once you have this all together, then you can dive into the visual research, and create a mood board that uses imagery, graphics, colour and fonts that represent various aspects of your brand’s message as well as the overall feel and vibe.
Be sure as you begin desiging, that you are reflecting your brand message in each element of your brand identity. Including font and colour choices, graphics, icons, logo, textures, patterns, illustrations and layouts.
And keep your mood board hand each time you create new graphics for your brand to remind you of that message and so you never get sidetracked by trends or someone else’s brand that you admire, but are staying true to your own message and story.
A timeless identity that your audience relates to and feels connected to. And for you, the confidence and clarity, so that you stay consistent and stop doubting your choices or get sidetracked by pretty trends or ideas.
If you want help to go through the visual branding process and dive deeper, you can sign up for my free email course ‘Define Your Brand’s Visual Style’ below and take the time to define a timeless, unique style, that tells the story of your brand.