At some point in your brand’s history you’ll have to determine what sort of visual identity to employ. Should it be all sweetness and light, with pastel colors, heart shapes and curlicues? Or should it display large, aggressive color blocks of red, black and white, with big, bold typography that demands attention? Should your brand be a peacock or an eagle, or some other bird altogether? It’s a serious discussion because decision makers will use these visual cues to determine whether or not to let your brand into their lives. You have to remember what purpose your customers or clients have for you. Your product or service is a tool that they use to achieve something. What is it? Whatever their purpose is for you, you have to look like you can fulfill that purpose.
So visual identity is about a strategic alignment. It employs design to jump start a relationship with consumers. It lays the groundwork for how both the business and its customers should, together, build a brand. It provides visual cues that suggest what its association with the market ought to be. And, hopefully, the market will agree.
In essence the visual identity is the brand’s user interface. It’s where the purchasing decision maker engages the brand and makes crucial judgements as to whether it can deliver as promised. It’s not enough if your proposal makes a promise in text, “We can do the job.” That text has to be packaged in a way that makes the claim credible. A proposal scrawled on the back of a paper napkin is never convincing.
But there’s another strategic consideration when designing a visual identity system – differentiation. Obviously, you’ll want to stand apart from your competition and, hopefully, in some sort of advantageous way. If everybody else is predominantly blue, you might consider going with red.
Remember, human beings are visual hunters. We get 90% of the information about the world around us through our eyes. That will remain true even when most online searches are done through voice command. Even if our first impression of a brand will be through our ears, we’ll want our eyes to take a look before making a decision. Our eyes will still provide the final proof of whether a brand can deliver or not.
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We all know that sales people have to dress the part, If you’re a real estate developer, your suit has to make you look like a million bucks. If you’re selling used farm equipment, you have to look like you could go walk the back forty right now. Your appearance goes a long way toward assuring your customer or client you belong in the room. If he or she is not instantly convinced you can get the job done, they won’t allow you into their lives.
The same goes for businesses of all kinds. A grocery shopper making an 8-second snap decision about what raspberry jam to buy will be influenced by the shape of the jar and the design of the label. Committee members determining which manufacturing firm will be awarded a huge multi-year contract will be swayed by the consistent professionalism displayed in multiple presentations over time. In either case, a big part of the judgement will depend on how things look to those making the decisions. B2C companies have known this for a century. B2B companies are only just catching up.
Even though design is the main thing when developing a visual identity for your brand, it is not the only thing. Obviously, you should hire the best designer you can find when embarking on this undertaking. But be sure to hire someone who can think strategically with you. You want a design that will distinguish you from your competition but also establish the basis for your future relationship with the market.
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