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Visual Identity is Everything


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Designing Your Brand

I gave a speech yesterday at Launch SA about designing your brand. I wanted to give clients the understand of what they should be receiving with completing a style guideline. There are too many designers creating logos or graphics without thinking about the entire package. Visual Identity is the key component in developing a brand that people can trust and belief in over the life of the company.

I want to start off by separating a few key definitions that people get jumbled up on before stepping into the step by step piece of a visual identity.

Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising & Branding Differences

  • Marketing: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
  • Public Relations: professionals help a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various unpaid or earned communications, including traditional media, social media, and in-person engagements.
  • Advertising: the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.
  • Branding: A good definition of branding is through a definition by Marty Neumeuer in the “Brand Gap” is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. You can’t control the process but you can influence.

Visual identity is the visible elements of a brand such as color form and shape which creates the symbolic meanings that can not be imparted through words alone. Make sure when speaking with a design firm or a designer that they are asking for your mission statement, vision statement, brand positioning and doing market research to identity what your competitors are doing currently in the marketplace. DO NOT design start a design endeavor with a firm or designer that does not ask you for those answers. When working on the visual identity of a company they need to know who they are designing for and why they are designing this should make a massive difference in the design itself.

Logo is a mark, symbol or icon that identifies an organization. A logo is not a brand, but instead a calling card for the business. A logo is a symbol to represent the culture and mission not the product or service being presented at the time. Always remember that a logo is not your brand nor is it a straight representation of your product it should represent your mission and culture.

The Nike logo was created based on the greek goddess of victory, Nike. The shape of the Nike logo represents an arch of movement. The Nike Swoosh logo is shaped as the wing of the Greek goddess of Victory. Nike could have had a shoe for its logo, but instead they saw the vision of the brand to represent victory, ambition, and the ultimate strive for success.

Set the Moodboard

A mood board says what you can not say with words. As a client and a designer you are trying to bridge the gap between word definitions. Modern to a graphic designer versus modern to a client will be completely different and you need to find a way to understand each other visually. Matching imagery, typography, demographic representations, textures and gain an understanding of the essence of the brand.

A mood board should start with a wide birth collecting as much content as you can. Capturing hundreds of images to aid visual elements that mean something to your business. Never pigeonhole yourself. Once complete start to cut down the clutter to one page making sure each image, font and texture tell a story that creates a cohesive style to formulate your visual identity. This process will help to cut down on back and forth development between the client and the designer. Understand each other visually before the process begins to have a clear picture of how the identity should be represented. Bridging the gap is the most crucial part of the process.

What Makes a Great Logo?

What makes a great logo? Remember K.I.S.S. keep it simple stupid! Simple logos are easily recognized and memorable. Driving at 70 MPH past a billboard, or standing out on a crowded shelf your mark needs to be eye-catching and simple to grab the audience. Simple to doodle is a great way to think of how your logo should be structured. Nike has the simple check icon, Apple has the representation of an apple with the bite from Eve out of it and Adidas has the three stripes to represent climbing the mountain to excellence. All of these logos are simple enough to sketch whether good or bad very quickly by majority of people. They all call the attention to their mission instead of their product. If you created a logo solely based on what you sold than Nike would have a shoe, Apple a computer and Google a piece of clipart of someone at their computer. Capture the mission and ideals and stray away from the product.

Logo is an icon not a straight interpretation of what you do. Nike’s logo is not a shoe, Apple’s logo is not a computer, American Airlines is not a plane. You can have a tie to what you do but it should be done in a way that expresses your mission more than your product. If you box yourself in with a logo than you can never expand without doing a new logo each time which will decrease your recognition.

Quick Tip:

When viewing your logo for the first time always view it in black and white. Make sure the construction of the logo fits your vision, mission and mood board before moving into the color palette. You do not want to have to use color to fix any problems with your logo. If you think that your logo does not look appropriate in black and white do not hope that color will fix that. Get it right from the beginning. Most of the time your logo will only be represented in one color because of cost issues or printing so don’t be fooled by shades, textures and excessive colors. See it in black and white first to make sure it works perfectly.

Color Palettes

Color palette for your brand needs to be viewed through analytics as shown above with the breakdown of men’s and women’s favorite color schemes. As you can see blue is the overwhelming favorite for both men and women which is more than likely the reason why blue stands for trust and loyalty. As for the other colors meanings.

  • Yellow: clarity, warmth and optimistic
  • Blue: trust, dependent and strength
  • Orange: friendly, cheerful and consistent
  • Green: peaceful, growth and health
  • Red: exciting, bold and daring
  • Grey: balance, calm and healing
  • Purple: creative, wise and imaginative

I will never ask a client for his favorite color and if a designer asks that question than get rid of them because they should not be designing a logo for you as the business owner, but instead for the specific demographic they are selling to.


Never use these fonts. Period. When picking a font make sure it has these items for success.

  1. It has been around for a long period of time
  2. It has a large font family (bold, italic, medium, thin, etc.)
  3. Check the kerning/leading as many fonts created on sites such as Font Squirrel or 1000 Fonts have not been checked and can cause many issues down the road.

Combining fonts is not an easy task but it can look beautiful when done correctly. Just with anything in design we need to K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. Combine serif fonts with sans-serif fonts to provide distinction within your font choices. Match rounded serif fonts with rounded sans-serif fonts to keep consistency within contrasting elements. Do not combine two similar serif fonts or sans-serif fonts together as to only add confusion instead of visual contrast. There are also many websites and blogs that offer support when looking for combining great fonts such as or


Imagery for a brand needs to have a common theme whether that is a pop of color or a common thread within the photos (Cities, Farms, Food). If you have the ability to bring a photographer to take photos for your brand is highly recommended especially for products that need to look phenomenal in presentation i.e. food brands, clothing brands, etc. On the other hand if you have to go the stock photo route take the time to look through photos to match up with the same artist or find images that have common threads to match your brand. Remember that if a customer comes to your website through a search they may never see your homepage, so never put an image to fill space because that image on page 4 might be the only image a customer sees and it could turn them away. Be methodical in your search or chose of a photographer.

Quick Tip: Ask the photographer to provide you with an action record in photoshop as to be able to add his photoshop edits to all your photos moving forward. It may require more money up front, but it will be a game-changer in the end.


Texture adds depth to your brand through a sense of touch. Always try to invoke all the senses when creating a visual identity. Create an immersive relationship with your clients especially when dealing with a brand that will have clients eating, drinking or wearing your product.

Style Guideline

Last but not least is the style guide. Make sure you are left with a style guide at the end of this process. Something that can be stored and accessed efficiently at any time to save you and your team money. Everything from your logo, imagery, typography, color palette and textures should be provided within this PDF. All the files should also be accompanied with this in all file types. As the owner of the brand you should be given full control of the designs with the ability to change or alter anything in the future.


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