How to build a strong visual identity

Think about your favorite brand. Can you picture its colors, the logo, any patterns or shapes they use? What you’re picturing isn’t the brand in its entirety, but its visual identity, or how that brand chooses to present itself to the world.

Visual identity certainly helps customers connect with a company and more easily recall it when it comes time to make a purchase. However, a lot more goes into visual identity than choosing colors you like or shapes you find appealing. Each part of your visual identity can carry deep meaning that reinforces the core purpose of your company. In this guide, you’ll learn a bit more about what visual identity is, what composes your visual identity, and tips for developing a unique and memorable visual identity you can put to work today.

What is visual identity?

Visual identity is what the public sees as part of your brand and connects back to your brand. Composed of several parts, including colors, shapes, typeface, images, and patterns, the various parts of your visual identity come together to form their own “system” for communicating your brand values. 

Over time, your brand will become deeply connected to and associated with these visual aspects, which also serve to reinforce your brand’s mission and values. Think of visual identity as its own language that fluently speaks your brand.

A box of branded sweets
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Why is visual identity important?

Visual identity is key for your brand in these five ways:

  • It unites your brand’s visuals, no matter where they end up. Your brand will end up in a lot of places, from newspaper advertisements to billboards to social media posts. A united visual identity ensures that all your marketing efforts are connected in a way that clearly identifies them as part of your company.
  • It helps set you apart from competitors. Visuals are important for helping your customers remember who you are and what you do. Over time, your selected colors, shapes, and logo will come to be associated with your brand, helping potential and current customers recall you when it comes time to buy what you offer.
  • It helps communicate core values about your company. Do you want the public to view you as an authority on the subject, a knowledgeable and kind helper, a friend giving good advice, or something else altogether? Utilizing a well-planned visual identity drives those values home to your audience.
  • It gives your business personality. Your company may not be a living, breathing being, but it certainly has a personality. Your visual identity is one important way to communicate that. Whether your brand is serious, playful, friendly, or authoritative, your visual identity can reinforce those values and help impress upon your audience that your company stands for a certain way of being.
  • It helps build customer loyalty. At its core, brand building is designed to help build relationships with customers and retain them over time. People who buy products or services from you can develop an emotional bond with your company over time, and your visual identity plays a key role in that.

Visual identity vs. brand identity: What’s the difference?

Your visual identity includes all the aspects of your brand that your current and prospective customers see, while your brand identity encompasses everything about your brand from the inside out. 

Let’s break this down further. Your brand identity involves the totality of the brand experience. This includes the emotions your brand evokes and the experience your customers may have when they interact with your employees. Parts of your brand identity that are not visual include website copy, blogs, a mission statement or brand statement, brand values, and overall brand perception in the marketplace.

Your visual identity is intended to reinforce and uplift the brand identity determined and shaped by your leadership. Keep reading to learn more about how various elements of your visual identity incorporate this psychology-informed approach to connect with your customers. 

A wooden plate with identity question
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

7 elements that comprise your brand’s visual identity

The parts of your brand others can see can be broken down into seven distinct categories, each of which plays a significant role in elevating and reinforcing your brand’s message.

Your logo is one of the most recognizable parts of your brand identity. This symbol stands in place of your brand name in many applications, including on social media, on your business cards, on products and packaging, and much more. This carefully chosen symbol represents your brand and helps build recognition and awareness while communicating key information you want people to know about you through the colors, shapes, and tagline used.

You’ll use your logo in multiple ways and in many applications, including:

  • Products and packaging
  • Uniforms
  • Giveaways
  • Print collateral such as business cards and sell sheets
  • Business presentations 
  • Facebook, Twitter, and other social media
  • Your website
  • Out of home advertising, such as billboards

If your logo does not have a symbol in it, your company name will be written in your chosen font and will serve as the logo itself, called a word mark.

Wherever you want to take your logo, Namecheap’s free Logo Maker can help you get started. Our free online logo generator gives you options for colors, typeface, and shapes that come together to form a unique identifier that helps your brand stand out against competitors. Just put in your company name, and Namecheap does the rest, guiding you through many options based on your preferences and overall brand goals. Create your own original design for free!

Color palette

Color pallet
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

From your website to your flyers, your color palette is an ever-present and unifying factor in all elements of your visual identity. Color choice can be deeply shaped by color psychology, which assigns certain impressions to each color with the goal of communicating a core brand value to your customers.

Some of the meanings behind common colors include:

  • Red: Passion, energizing
  • Orange: Enthusiasm, excitement
  • Yellow: Cheerfulness, positivity
  • Green: Tranquility, growth
  • Blue: Trustworthiness, calm
  • Purple: Sophistication, wisdom
  • Pink: Confidence, romantic
  • Brown: Ruggedness, longevity
  • White: Innocence, virtue
  • Gray: Neutrality, balance
  • Black: Elegance, luxury

Your color selection should be guided with the help of a color wheel. This graphic represents the relationship between colors, arranged in a circle for easy comparison. This way, you can easily select colors that work together, no matter how they’re used. Typically, you will choose three colors as part of your overall color palette.

Select your color palette based on one of these four principles:

  • Complementary: This selection is based on choosing the color that’s opposite your favored color on the wheel.
  • Triadic: Triadic colors pull shades from “equal” sections of the color wheel for balance. 
  • Monochromatic: This approach selects a base color and then utilizes the lighter and darker shade of that color as the others in the palette. 
  • Analogous: This harmonious grouping uses three shades within the same color family, such as three pinks or three oranges.

Typeface

Years in typeface
Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Your typeface, sometimes called a font, plays an important role in your brand identity. It may seem like a less noticeable factor than colors or the logo itself, but it’s a powerful way to unite all elements of your company brand, from internal presentations to marketing signage. 

Your typeface can be selected from an existing library, or you can invest in a font design of your own making. For example, Apple once used Helvetica Neue, a standard font found in word processing applications, but replaced it with a font designed in house, called San Francisco. Similarly, Uber replaced its official font with a custom typeface called Uber Move in 2018.

Shapes

Various shapes on the black background
Photo by MagicPattern on Unsplash

The shapes you choose to be part of your visual identity can communicate some of your brand’s core values. Triangles, rectangles, circles, and lines may crop up throughout a brand’s visual identity, and each logo shape can have an effect on customer perceptions. You’ll see these shapes in brand patterns, print materials, websites, product packaging, and more. 

Shapes carry deep, significant meaning that can reinforce your brand’s mission and vision. Some of the most common shapes and their associated meanings include:

  • Circles or ovals: Inviting, gentle, grounding
  • Squares, rectangles, or triangles: Professionalism, stability
  • Organic shapes: Comfort, hope, nature
  • Vertical lines: Ascension, power
  • Horizontal lines: Speed, forward mobility

Imagery

While not explicitly tied to your color choice, font choice, or logo, the imagery you use helps reinforce your visual identity. That’s because imagery plays a key role in setting the mood and conveying your message. These images, whether photographs, product images, video content, or brand ambassadors using your product or services, should be an extension of your brand’s personality. 

Graphics

Related to imagery, graphics refer to drawings and other designs that help reinforce your brand’s visual identity across various mediums. An original, identifiable pattern that’s used on your company’ social media, a particular animation style seen in videos and .GIFs, and line drawings that represent your product or service are all examples of graphics that help reinforce your visual identity.

In-store experience

If your business accepts customers and clients in person, your in-store or in-office experience can be an extension of your visual identity. This can include signage, fixtures, uniforms, and other items that your customers see and interact with when they walk into your facility. 

7 tips for creating a strong visual identity

Now that you have the basics of visual identity in mind, it’s time to put what you know into action and build your visual identity. Before you do so, though, it’s important to have some basic guiding principles that can help shape your choices. These seven tips can help you build an effective, powerful, and memorable visual identity that will woo new customers and keep current ones coming back.

Visual identity slogan
Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels

1. Prioritize your brand’s purpose

Your visuals come after your brand identity is developed. After all, these visual elements are here to carry out your brand’s purpose and vision; your brand identity should not be tweaked to match the look and feel you want. As you begin to work on your company’s visual identity, keep revisiting your mission and vision to make smart choices. Think of your brand identity as the north star that guides all your decisions for your visual identity.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you want your company to stand for trust and stability, you may want to incorporate blue squares or rectangles.
  • If you want your company to appear powerful, you may want to consider bold, black vertical lines.
  • If you want your company to appear warm and inviting, a yellow or orange circle may do the trick.

Looking to learn how to develop your brand identity? Read the Namecheap guide to brand identity for tips to get started.

Man and the colorful background
Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash

2. Research your competitors

Before starting out on your own visual identity journey, it’s important to look at what similar companies are doing. While you certainly need to stand out from the competition, there may be a reason why certain industries utilize certain colors and fonts to drive home their core messaging. For example, it’s very common to see green in organic and natural brands to invoke nature, while blue is associated with trust, so that color is used by many apps, financial products, and other companies that handle your sensitive data.

3. Research your audience

Just as you need to look up competitors to create a successful visual identity, you want to create something that appeals to your ideal customers as well. Using market research and surveying potential customers, you can tailor your visual identity to that prospective audience. For example, if your customers are looking for a company that’s trustworthy above any other brand value, you may want to use color psychology to select blue as one of your main brand colors.

4. Keep it simple

All the visual identity elements described earlier in this guide may sound like a lot to handle, but it will keep everything streamlined in the long run. To that end, it’s best to keep all aspects simple and easy to follow. That’s because your visual identity will have to adapt to a wide variety of purposes, from a small favicon on a website to a giant billboard on a highway. Simpler designs are favored over ornate patterns for these scalability purposes.

Coca Cola logo on the car
Photo by H.R. Kocher on Unsplash

5. Be consistent

A consistent use and enforcement of your visual identity is key to pulling it off successfully. The same colors, font, shapes, and images need to be used in all of your forward-facing materials that your customers see (and even your internal documentation) for it to have the intended effect. Your brand should make it a point to adhere to this style in every possible instance, and any deviations from the norm should be carefully thought through and deliberately planned, if done at all.

6. Consider how the visual element is being used

Let’s say one of your brand colors is a bright orange. While it may be in line with your visual identity to use that color on your website, too much of a vivid hue could make it difficult for visitors to read what’s on the page. This is a great example of applying your visual identity in a way that still benefits your visitors. In this case, it may be preferable to use the bright orange on your website’s call to action buttons and a more neutral, less intense color from your color palette as the background.

White & orange plastic chairs
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

7. Use a style guide

Many departments in your company, as well as outside partners, will be responsible for executing some elements of your visual identity. Using a style guide can help everyone stay on the same page and ensure a flawless implementation, no matter who’s at the helm and for what purpose your visual identity is being applied.

A style guide includes everything needed to properly implement your visual identity in any medium. You’ll find the brand colors listed along with their six-digit hex keys for use online and in graphics programs, specific ways to use the logo and proper logo treatments, how to apply the brand typeface, guidelines for selecting stock images, approved brand patterns, and other guidelines for using all visual elements of your brand. This way, anyone you authorized to work with your brand can easily implement your visual identity.

Build your visual identity with Namecheap

Keeping these visual identity basics and our tips for visual identity development in mind, it’s time to get to work. With Visual, Namecheap makes brand design and other visual elements a simple process.

Through Visual, you can bring your brand to life through our free Logo Maker, the Namecheap Site Maker website builder, and an online business card maker perfect for preparing your new logo for the next networking event. Each of these items is an important touch point in your visual identity, showcasing your chosen brand colors, shapes, and typeface for potential customers online and in person. Get started with Namecheap’s easy to use and intuitive tools to solidify your visual identity.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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