What Visual Identity is and Why it’s Important for Building a Strong Strategic Brand

Visual Identity. All it takes is one glance to be known.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

A complete business guide about the essential aspects of branding, known as visual identity

People have expressed themselves with visual identity throughout the history of humankind, from America’s petroglyphs and Egypt’s hieroglyphs to Scotland’s Pictish Stones and Ireland’s Celtic symbols.

Renaissance paintings and book designs were the first visuals to transcend cultural boundaries, reaching mainstream popularity and inspiring generations. Styles of modern visual identity include Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Swiss Design, Pop Art, and Postmodernism.

The launch of Photoshop in 1990, a new design platform, gave birth to the digital age of visual identity. From stones and canvases to computers and iPhones, our society has witnessed many advances in how visual identity is displayed. However, despite the plethora of design programs available, the goal of visual identity remains the same — creating authentically distinct graphics with a magnetic presence.

Social media channels are the prevailing mediums today and offer significant exposure for the promotion of brands. Creating captivating designs that personify the visual identity of a business is a crucial element in any campaign strategy, especially for social media strategies.

Anyone with a computer and a social media account can design a new logo, blast organic posts, and utilize Meta ads, which is why social media runs full of prosaic content. Taking the time to meticulously develop a business’s visual identity is the only way to stand out from the copious daily content.

What Visual Identity Entails

Visual identity is a composite of compelling and distinguishing elements representing a brand. The main elements in a brand’s visual identity are its logo, colors, and typography. The elements must meld into cohesion while displaying unique aesthetics to cultivate brand awareness.

The purpose of establishing a visual identity is not solely to attract customers’ and clients’ attention. That’s not enough. The imagery must convey core values to generate and convert leads.

Once a visual identity perfectly embodies a company’s brand — exercising patience is a requirement. The new graphic will likely not convert leads immediately. Still, as exposure increases and target audiences become more accustomed to the visual identity of a brand — associations will form through visual cues. Lead generation and, ultimately, conversions will follow.

What to Consider When Designing a Visual Identity

POLA Marketing's five rules of visual identity for businesses and their branding

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

Before creating a visual identity, designers must consider a business’s target audience and the emotions the imagery should stimulate. The design needs to be all-encompassing and applicable to various campaign strategies. It also must not resemble a competitor’s logo in order to stand out in the audience’s minds.

The clarity in a design is paramount. Some designers make a grave mistake by overcomplicating a design, leading to confusion about a brand’s visual identity. More simplistic designs that represent a brand perform better in well-targeted campaigns. They are easier to reproduce and use in different mediums, including interior and exterior spaces, digital, and print.

The foundation of a design must also endure. Visual identities that last, do so because they do not follow fads. At the same time, a design’s foundation needs to be versatile and evolve with its brand to stay relevant in the marketplace.

Great visual identities are like flower beds. If appropriately nourished, they will grow and attract attention. However, if they are not adequately maintained, growth will be sporadic and could eventually die out completely.

A business’s brand identity (e.g., message and persona) and visual identity need cohesion for sustainability and growth. The brand’s voice needs to be reflected in the logos, colors, and typography to avoid a business from appearing disjointed.

Separated, brand identity and visual identity will never be complete. The two must support each other to truly shape a business’s identity.

Types of Visual Identity

A logo is the most critical element in visual identity. It is the first impression of a business in the eyes of customers or clients. The design of the logo, its colors, and typography — all factor into a business’s ability to convert leads.

There are nine main types of logos: pictorial mark, abstract mark, emblem logo, letterform, lettermark (monogram), mascot logo, wordmark, combination mark, and dynamic logo.

Logo types 101 featuring Apple, Adidas, and Harley Davidson for POLA Marketing Agency's visual identity guide.

Pictorial Mark

A pictorial mark, also known as a brand mark or logo symbol, is a graphic icon that simplistically yet faithfully depicts an image. Apple’s iconic apple logo is the epitome of a pictorial mark. Other icons are TikTok’s music note and Target’s bullseye.

Abstract Mark

Some believe abstract marks fall under the category of pictorial marks, but where the two dramatically differ is in the design style. Pictorial is more straightforward, like Apple’s iconic logo, whereas abstract is impressionistic. Abstract logos include Adidas’s flower, Nike’s swoosh, and Pepsi’s divided circle.

Emblem Logo

An emblem logo is similar to a seal or a family crest. Their designs are usually traditional yet polarizing. Examples include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harvard University, Harley-Davidson, National Football League, and Starbucks.

Logo types 101 featuring McDonald's, NASA, and KFC for POLA Marketing Agency's visual identity guide.

Letterform

A letterform is a logo in which a single letter represents the brand. The letter is most commonly the initial of a business’s name. Prominent letterform depictions include Facebook, McDonald’s, and Netflix.

Lettermark (Monogram)

Lettermarks, also known as monogram logos, are acronym designs. Lettermarks usually consist of three to four letters. Famous examples include IBM, NASA, and HBO.

Mascot Logo

Mascot logos are relatively self-explanatory. The logo features a spokesperson representing the brand, sometimes a cartoon character. Notable examples include the Kool-Aid Man by Kool-Aid, Tony the Tiger by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, The Chicago Bulls, and Colonel Sanders by KFC.

Logo types 101 featuring Canon, Chanel, and airbnb for POLA Marketing Agency's visual identity guide.

Wordmark

Wordmark, also known as logotype, is a font design that spells out a business’s name. The most famous example of a wordmark logo is Coca-Cola. FedEx is also technically a wordmark logo, but it has a hidden arrow in its text between e and x, which is an example of negative spacing. Other prime examples of a wordmark are eBay, Sony, Tiffany & Co., Disney, and Aquarium Encounters (with elements of negative spacing).

Combination Mark

A combination mark is a design that utilizes two or more logo styles; they are popular for brands because of their versatility. Examples include Taco Bell (wordmark and pictorial), NBC (lettermark and abstract), and APenergy (wordmark and abstract).

Dynamic Logo

Dynamic logos are combination marks on steroids. Usually, they incorporate abstract elements into the design. The core design of a dynamic logo is very consistent, but its color palette will vary. An example is Google’s browser. Its wordmark logo always remains the same, but its theme and colors change depending on holidays and celebrations.

Call in a Professional

POLA Marketing’s talented team of graphic designers are well-versed in the importance of visual identity and highly skilled in combining brand identity with visual identity.

POLA can mindfully and artistically create a thought-provoking visual identity for a business utilizing the different logo concepts, colors, and typography. For more information, contact us at (www.polamarketing.com).

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