Visual identity & graphic design: Your brand builder
Whether it’s our tech, tea or Tinder dates, we humans sure do care how things look. We’re visual creatures, after all — innately drawn to aesthetic value and what looks familiar to us. So, when it comes time to design the product, packaging and other collateral for your shiny new brand, you won’t want to skimp on the visuals.
This is especially pertinent in the digital age, as attention spans continue to shrink and it becomes more important than ever to set your brand apart. Consumers are known to make their first impressions in as little as 50 milliseconds — about as half as long as it takes you to blink — so yours needs to be a good one.
If you’re going to build a brand that people invest their time and money into, you’ll need a recognisable, consistent visual identity that triggers a positive reaction from your audience. Here’s everything you need to know about getting it right.
What is a brand visual identity?
Brand visual identity is the culmination of all the visual elements that uniquely represent your brand. These work together to create a distinct aesthetic that can shape how your business and products are perceived. It’s an essential component of your branding which communicates who you are with visuals when words aren’t enough.
Identity design is the process of creating these influential visual assets — across your website, social media, products, and anywhere else. It establishes your brand style, which can be captured by an internal ‘style guide’ developed as your product offering evolves.
How is visual identity different from branding?
Visual identity is embedded in branding, but the two are not synonymous. Branding encompasses a broader, more holistic strategy, including brand mission, tone of voice and messaging. On the other hand, visual identity specifically addresses the visual elements that represent your brand.
In order to present a meaningful, unified message to consumers, both visual identity and branding should be aligned.
For example, consider an industry titan like Apple. Apple’s branding is famously elegant, but simple and accessible to the lay consumer. This is communicated visually across the brand’s collateral, which emphasises minimalist design, clean typography and a neutral colour palette across all touchpoints.
The foundations of visual identity
When creating your visual identity, there are a number of key elements you will need to consider. These include:
The colours you choose must provide both aesthetic value and be distinctive to your business. When you consider some of the largest brands on the market, each has a set of unique colours associated with it — think ‘Coca-Cola red’ or ‘Facebook blue’. These hues have become synonymous with their respective products, recognisable with or without a logo beside them.
Visual identity is also communicated through graphic design — think logos, icons, illustrations and more. These can spread your brand’s aesthetic across social media, internal materials and marketing assets. Logos in particular are used to instantly communicate brand identity, whether in the form of a full wordmark, monogram or lettermark.
McDonald’s, for example, has achieved total brand recognition with both its full logo and the golden-arched ‘M’ that signposts its restaurants all over the globe. This is the power of graphic design in visual identity.
It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it. The typefaces you use create a visual language that can reinforce your brand identity. Font choices, kerning, readability and more are often overlooked for the spicier areas of identity design, but they’re vital to get right if you want your message to be heard.
So, if you’re working in a luxury professional services firm and formatting your value proposition in Comic Sans, you could be undermining your appeal.
The photo and video content you present to market your brand need to align with your values and messaging. High-quality, tailored media tends to resonate better with an audience who are able to see themselves reflected in the imagery, be it aspirational or realistic.
All imagery should also be consistent in colour and tone to support brand recognition.
What is the importance of visual identity in graphic design?
Now that we've grasped what visual identity is, let's dive into why it's essential, particularly within graphic design.
Differentiates your brand in the market
In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is key. Your visual identity sets you apart from competitors by creating a unique and memorable brand image. Customers are more likely to choose a brand that they can easily recognise and connect with, and when your brand is memorable, it’s more likely to be one of the first a consumer considers if they have a particular need that can be met by your product.
Establishes consistency in brand perception
Consistency is the hallmark of a strong brand. Your visual identity serves as a blueprint for maintaining this cohesion across all touchpoints, from your website to your social media profiles and marketing materials. When customers encounter your brand colours flown across different channels, it builds trust and familiarity.
And this has real implications — there are countless examples of instantly recognisable names rebranding and destroying their public recognition. Anyone used Twitter recently? Probably not, as it’s now called X.
Creates an emotional connection
A carefully crafted visual identity can evoke specific emotions for your audience. For instance, a luxury brand may use refined typography and imagery to convey sophistication, while a fitness brand might opt for vibrant colours and energetic graphics to inspire motivation. Emotionally connected customers are more likely to embed your brand into their own identity and become loyal advocates.
How do you create a visual identity in graphic design?
A compelling visual identity doesn’t happen overnight — it takes considerable planning, research, and most importantly, a killer eye for quality design. Much of this can be achieved, of course, through collaboration with a great digital design agency.
Here at Shoreditch Design, we follow a set of key principles to ensure high-quality visual identity work for every client that comes through our doors. These are some of our top recommendations for transforming your visual identity through graphic design.
1. Define your brand values
When designing your brand identity, the vital first step is to consider the story you want to tell. To do so, you’ll need to comprehensively understand your product or service, define your values and intended audience, and think about how to differentiate your brand in the appropriate market. This process will help you to purposefully shape the visual elements you’ll incorporate into all future asset creation.
2. Adapt to your audience
A design that doesn’t appeal to its intended market can miss the mark entirely — failing to entice users to a service or customers to a product. It’s important to consider factors such as demographics, cultural differences and prevailing design preferences among your target audience. By tailoring your visual identity to their preferences, you’re more likely to capture attention and create a sense of familiarity.
3. Be consistent with brand rules
Stylistic consistency is a cornerstone of effective visual identity design. When you adhere to an unwavering set of style rules, it ensures that your brand’s image is recognisable across all touchpoints. This not only reinforces brand recognition but also fosters trust and reliability among your audience — clearly signposting your business’ professionalism and attention to detail.
Create a strong visual identity with Shoreditch Design
Building your visual identity from the ground up is a challenging task — as is transforming your existing branding efforts when going through a period of growth. This is when you could benefit from partnering with an experienced digital design agency, reducing the burden on your in-house team to develop a captivating visual identity.
At Shoreditch Design, our designers have collaborated with countless brands looking to reposition themselves in the market and unlock new opportunities for growth. If you’re looking to breathe new life into your visuals, we can help. Explore some more examples of our visual identity and graphic design work or contact us for a chat about your design needs.