When you first think about your visual branding, that all important logo, the fonts, the colours, the overall feel and style. What is it that you first think about?
Are you thinking how pretty you can make it? How much fun can you have with the design? How you can play with a style you really love? About that Pinterest board, you have full of pretty inspiration?
While it is easy to want to jump into visuals and create something beautiful, compelling, and oh so gorgeous. The first thing you think about should not be the visuals at all. The first thing that you need to consider is what you want it to say, and communicate. Sure the result is not words but graphics, but those graphics need to be rooted in message and meaning.
Think about road signs for a moment.
A lot can be communicated very simply, that is the great art of graphic design. Designing something that does the job as simply as possible. Being functional, clear and well considered.
A stop sign, doesn’t need a long essay attached with the reason why you need to stop and watch out for cars or tell you to look before proceeding. And it knows you need to have your wits about you on he road and not distracted and that when travelling fast the message needs to be understood as fast as possible. It isn’t covered in fluorescent pink, shiny glitter, flashing lights and images depicting cars crossing in front of you and you crashing if you do not follow its instructions to stop.
No, it is simple yet alerting. It is internationally recognised symbolism and an alerting yet not distracting colour to get your attention but not distract you from concentrating on the road. It may seem so simple, and uninventive. But design at its core is about function. It is purposeful and intentional. And more challenging then the end result has you believe.
What Your Visual Branding and Graphics Need to Communicate
Your Message and Mission
It is important that your graphics and branding are rooted in the mission and message of your business. So take the time to figure out and get clear on what those look like for your business.
Your mission, should be about what your business strives to do. Think about what products and services you offer and who you offer them to (your target customer). Then even more importantly your why. Why do you do what you do for that particular person? What problem are you trying to solve for them, and how does it impact their life? And also the wider impact your business has beyond your customer. Does what you do support a cause, mission or change in the world?
And what is your unique message, how do you want to make people feel? Are you trying to inspire a feeling or action? What does your business make possible and what is the unique way you do it? Perhaps you offer something a lot of other businesses offer, but you do it in a different way or approach it from an alternative percpective.
By getting clear on both the message and mission of your brand, you can look at how to allude to and express this in your branding. It can be as simple as using colours that evoke the right emotional responce, or graphics and symbolism that has a meaning connected to your brand’s message.
Your Business Values
Having business values, gives your business a guiding light for how you operate, behave and what is deemed important and of priority for you. A businesses values does not need to be something you keep to yourself. It can become part of the makeup of your branding. If your business values friendliness, then your branding should feel friendly, easy going and inviting. If your business values caring for the environment, then you may want to have an eco feeling brand, and be very selective in the materials you use for print material and packaging. Or if your business values fun and joy, then you may want light bright colours, fun and playful graphics that brighten up people’s days.
So really think about what your business values and how that affects the look of your brand and graphics.
Your Personal and Customer Identity
If you have a personal brand, and you are at the core of that business, then your identity needs to shine through in the visual branding. People want to work with and buy from people. So make your branding reflect you and your personality. Think about the key traits of your personality and also your identity as a person. This could include things like where you are from, your upbringing, your interests and hobbies, your lifestyle, your beliefs, family heritage, life events and circumstances that have shaped you. If you take them time to think about the things that make up your identity, and then also ask others how they perceive you, you can then find ways to show your identity in your branding.
Then the identity of your ideal customer. Who are they, what do they do, what are their goals, what are their values and beliefs. And what kind of personality are they. Plus all the typical demographic information about them. It is important to craft a brand that speaks to these people, that they feel they can identitfy with and want to be a part of. It becomes beyond transactions, but building community around your brand. What community culture would they want to be a part of?
What you Sell, Offer and Do.
If you communicate all the other things right, but fail to make it clear what your business actually does and offers, then you will simply leave people confused and you will lose them. Your branding needs to clearly communicate what you do without any mixed signals or confusion. People like to put things in boxes, it makes it easier to process things. So if you sell candles, make it clear that you are the candle shop. If you get too carried away with all the other elements of your brand identity that you want to communicate but fail to make what you do clear, then people won’t even know the point of your business, or they will misinterpret it. If your candle shop was all about nature and the wilderness, and your branding then had a forest, dark, adventure feel with no hint at candles until you hit the shop page, then people may assume you sell adventure gear or camping equipment, and then there will be a disconnect when they finally click the shop page. And while you may think, they will figure it out eventually, we don’t want to make it hard to work out. Remember design is about clear communication. It helps get the message across fast and with emotion. So sure you want to create that cosy, earthy, adventure vibe, but you also want them to be picturing the warmth and cosiness of sitting in a log cabin with a beautifully crafted candle flickering.
What Action You Want to Inspire.
Other than ‘buy my stuff’. What action do you want to inspire in your audience? Do you want them to pursue their goals? learn a new skill? feel more confident? change a habit? help others? make lifestyle changes?
Think about that core action you want your customer to feel or take. Because if you can begin to inspire that action, you can better convince them that your product or service will help them achieve it.
So just like a glossy magazine makes us aspire to a certain lifestyle, your brand needs to do the same. Make people aspire to what is on the other side of the action you want to take. How will it make them feel to get there?
Remeber people don’t buy things, they buy a better version of themselves. So if you can communicate that ‘better self’ in your branding, it will not only attract and inspire them but will convince them to buy.
Take a look at your current visual branding, assess what it communicates now, and look at what is lacking, and what isn’t clearly communicated, so you can better tell the story of your brand.