Visual Branding: The Dos and Don'ts

16th March 2020

Visual branding

Getting your branding assets right is a vital step for any business owner. Your aesthetic presentation can help to attract the best types of customers and prime them to view your company in a certain light - not to mention cultivate familiarity and trust.

However, it’s important to get your visuals exactly right. Poorly made design decisions can give potential customers the wrong idea about your organisation and what you stand for (or even put them off entirely).

Fortunately, there are several easy-to-follow branding principles and best practices that you can use to ensure you’re presenting your company in the best light. Today, we’re going to look at some ways of approaching your visual branding - and some things to avoid…

DO unify your branding

Long gone are the days when it was normal for a business to only exist in one ‘location’. Today, a bricks-and-mortar enterprise will probably also have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, as well as its own website.

For the strongest aesthetic branding effect, all of your graphics and visuals should be consistent across each of your channels and outlets. If your physical shop has a red sign over the door with a picture of a dog, it would be great for customers to see that same familiar colour and imagery when they later follow you on Twitter. If you exhibit at a trade show, your booth signage should have the same branding as your shop - and so on.

This creates a harmonious effect that fosters brand familiarity. Your customers will start to associate those design elements with your business on a more subconscious level - and your design choices can influence how they feel about the brand.

DO choose colours and fonts carefully

Graphic designers have long harnessed the power of typography and colour decisions to give a multitude of visual impressions.

These design choices effectively allow you to imply brand values without explicitly stating anything. Warm and bright colours can be used to convey optimism, friendliness, energy, cheerfulness, vibrancy, or any number of other colour psychology associations; cool or dark colours, on the other hand, may suggest professionalism, gravitas, prestige, luxury, maturity, and more.

Colour psychology theory can be invaluable for making key branding decisions, although it isn’t always an exact science. Most people interpret colours in similar ways, but some may have unique associations for certain hues (for example, one person might associate red with passion and excitement, whereas another may associate it more with danger). However, choosing colours carefully to imply brand values in your imagery and signage is still a great idea.

Typography can have a similar subconscious effect. Different fonts can imply a variety of brand values and virtues, and the type of lettering you use to represent your business can influence the way customers will perceive you.

Whether you’d like your business to look traditional and trustworthy, or modern and approachable, you can certainly find a typeface that embodies your company’s personality and communicates that to customers and visitors.

One note about typography is that readability is key. Your chosen lettering style may ultimately end up being used in a variety of different contexts, from small social media icons on mobile screens to large-scale use on storefront signage and billboards. Your chosen typography style must be legible in all of its uses, and so avoiding fonts that are needlessly flowery or tightly-spaced can be a great idea to ensure clarity.

DON’T copy your competitors

It’s understandable to want to use the major players in your niche as a blueprint for success, but emulating their approach too closely may not give the effect you want.

At least as far as visual branding goes, drawing too much inspiration from the competition is unlikely to set you apart. A red-and-yellow burger restaurant might easily look as though it were trying to imitate McDonald’s - and a green-and-white coffee shop with a circular logo could seem to the public to be a knock-off of Starbucks.

Ideally, your signage and imagery should set you apart from your competitors. If customers and other visitors can see that your business has a unique approach, or at least something different about it, they will likely be inclined to check it out.

In terms of the physical signage at your place of business, it can also be a good idea to try to contrast visually with your neighbours (even if they aren’t in the same industry as you). The sight of two red-and-white stores next to one another may mean that neither of them particularly stands out and may even imply affiliation - so it makes sense to adopt a different identity to avoid consumer confusion.

DO keep it simple

Oftentimes, the most effective visual branding is the simplest. Most of the logos and icons we recognise easily are extremely straightforward (the Nike tick, the Apple apple, the WWF panda, and so on).

There’s a lot to be said for not overthinking design decisions and keeping your visual branding straightforward and uncluttered. Too many elements on your graphics or signs just makes them hard to read - and the more you can subtly suggest brand values using simple shorthands such as colour and typography, the easier it will be for customers to intuitively understand your imagery.

Don’t be afraid to make good use of negative space to keep everything legible. Too many elements bunched together will be hard for visitors to understand when viewing your signage from afar or viewing your logo displayed small on your Twitter profile. Spacing things out and giving each item room to breathe can make the difference between a clear visual identity or a muddled mess.

At the end of the day, great branding helps visitors and potential customers to quickly understand your business, what you offer and what they can expect.

By unifying your branding across all aspects of your business, choosing the perfect colours and fonts and being mindful of your competitors, you can create a powerful visual branding identity whether customers are viewing your website or your store signage.

Contact us today to find out how we can help with your branding and business signage needs.