What first catches your eye when scrolling through social media? I don’t think I’ve ever scrolled past a post on Instagram and stopped because of the caption. I stop because of the captivating visuals, whether they depict beautiful merchandise or evoke jealousy that I can’t cook food that looks half as enticing as a restaurant’s photo. While captions are important, it’s the visuals that make you stand out from the crowd, grab attention instantaneously and make you recognizable to your audience.
Just as consistency is key in messaging, stellar visual identity is what alerts your audience that they’re seeing content from your brand. Wise companies use consistent, clear graphics and photos to show their audience their business’s personality while highlighting products or services. Even as a small or midsize business, you should aspire to do the same. Below are important points to take into consideration as you create or rejuvenate your visual identity.
Define your vision.
Before you begin creating your visual identity, you must first define yourself as a brand and as a company. Start by asking yourself what you stand for as a business, how you want others to perceive your business and what that would look like in your eyes. The colors, fonts, photos and other visuals you’ll create have the power to impart messages, so they’ll need to align with who you are as a company. Think about brand-defining terms – is your business more authoritative or friendly? Are you modern or traditional? These elements will help shape your company’s future visual representation.
It’s also important to consider your key audiences in the development. They’ll play a strong role in the self-definition process, as your audience is what brings you business, after all. Survey loyal customers and stakeholders to gather their input. You should ensure that your internal vision aligns with the way your customers view you.
Your visual identity is a gateway to your brand.
Prospective customers can create an opinion about your brand and company long before they research your offerings or visit your store ‒ all based on a glance at your visual streams on social media and your website. Maintaining a unique, virtual image is imperative, not only for your current audience as they continue to recognize your brand, but also for potential customers. Any one post may be the only post a potential customer sees, so you want to make it count. So, remain consistent and clear with your visual messages or your image may suffer (or be buried among other content), and audiences may not latch on as they lose sight of you as a company.
Your visual identity must be carried over all platforms, not just social media. Your media materials, partnership collateral and the design of your office or storefront, for example, should all tell the same story. Brand continuity is a major aspect in brand recognition, and consistency is key. If you’re a trendy coffee shop and post aesthetically pleasing images, customers will expect that in real life. And if that one image they do see is one not on-brand or not what they get in person, it may result in a lost customer or misinterpretation of your business.
Leverage creative partnerships early on.
Many businesses don’t have 24/7 access to creative support, like a graphic designer or photographer. But, there are ways to utilize what you already have in your arsenal or to make the most of a one-time spend. If you’re embarking on a redesign or creative project, discuss options with your creative partner as a part of your quote.
If you’re arranging a photo or video shoot, carefully plan with your partner to create and bank a lot of content. Make sure the photographer has ample time and material to photograph, and request specific shots from your videographer that will be important to you in the future. Photographers can also help you create editing presets so you can make any of your photos look like a part of your band package. Graphic designers can create template social graphics, website headers and other assets that you can adjust over time, creating a reusable bank of graphics that align with your image. Most importantly, they can create a brand standards guide, which outlines how your company should be visually depicted. This guide will become your best friend, even years after the visual identity has been established. Remember, consistency is key, and your brand guide will remind you of all guidelines throughout time and employee changes so your identity remains strong and consistent.
Your brand identity consists of the different pieces that make your business unique, and visual identity is an extremely important piece. Adequate time and research are required because your visual identity is a reflection of you as a company. And with the rise of the next generation comes a more aware audience – they want to know what your company means, what it stands for and how it portrays itself. So, make sure you put the effort necessary into this. It could be the next best aspect behind your product that brings you success!
Brittany Mizell is an account specialist for Obsidian Public Relations, working primarily in the education, food, restaurant and hospitality industries.