Establishing your brand’s visual elements and utilizing your brand style guide are key to achieving consistent and cohesive visual branding across your website and social media platforms.
I truly believe every experience someone has with your business either reinforces the perception they have of your brand or weakens it.
Every. Single. Experience.
And because our brand’s visuals are external facing, they play a pretty big role in the strengthening or weakening of how our brand is perceived.
Think about your own brand visuals. Do they add-to or take-away-from your desired brand experience? Do they bring meaning to your brand because they’re crafted with intention and strategy or do they erode your brand’s trust because they’re inconsistent and confusing?
I say all of this knowing that consistency is one of those ideas that is much easier said than done. Especially when we have a team that’s creating something on behalf of our business. Or, when we find a new font that’s super fun and we want to try it out. Or, when we see another business just updated their visuals and now we feel like we have to as well. Or, when we add another program to our offering and want to try something new with the overall visual aesthetic.
So, when it comes to creating brand visuals, how are you supposed to maintain a consistent experience when you have all the above to consider?
That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into today 🙂
In This Article
>> What is a visual brand style guide?
>> Why is a visual brand style guide important?
>> Brand visuals and social media graphics.
>> Brand visuals and your website.
>> Brand visuals and team.
>> Brand visuals and new programs, offerings, initiatives.
>> Brand visuals and ‘design trends’.
>> Rather watch than read?
>> Additional brand resources.
What is a visual brand style guide?
Your brand’s visual style guide is the reference document that houses standards for your visual brand. It should at a minimum include your logo(s), font recommendations and color scheme. And, depending on what you (or your designer) has deemed important, it may also include photography style, patterns, graphic elements and/or textures. photography style.
The goal is to understand how your visual brand will be used and then create a standard for that specific use-case.
So, if photography is a big part of your business, add photography style to your style guide.
Why is a visual brand style guide important?
The purpose of your brand style guide is to help maintain a standard in terms of your brand’s visual experience. It outlines the rules that your visual brand should follow in order to stay consistent and cohesive.
Consistency matters because it is what builds trust.
Remember, every touch point someone has with your business either positively (or negatively) impacts their perception of your brand.
And because your brand’s visuals are so external-facing, they play a pretty big role in your overall brand experience. When they’re consistent and cohesive, they create an expectation for the viewer, consumer. When they’re inconsistent and/or lack cohesiveness, they cause confusion.
Brand visuals and social media graphics.
Social media is probably the most common way your visual brand will be consumed. On the positive, it’s a relatively short lifespan, so you have an opportunity to experiment. On the negative, your stuff will only be seen by a small percentage, so consistency is key to building a strong relationship with your audience.
- Determine what type of content buckets make the most sense for your business and create templates aligned with each type; i.e., create a template for quotes, for pitching your services, for testimonial sharing and for industry-specific tips. These templates should be based on your brand’s style guide standards – fonts and colors should be pulled from your style guide.
- If you’re sharing photos on social media, determine what editing style will be your standard; are you wanting more warm-toned images or cool-toned images, light and bright or dark and moody? There are a variety of different image styles, so determine what your hard-and-fast rules are and stick to them for consistency.
- Because your logo is the primary tool for brand awareness, make sure you have logo variations that ensure legibility.
Brand visuals and your website.
While we’re a little biased on the importance of your website, this tool is a great place to really showcase your brand’s visuals and personality.
And even better, when you have a consistent experience on your website that aligns with your social media, the brand experience is enhanced even more, further enforcing a positive expectation and perception of your brand.
- Visuals will generally be the same as what you have on your style guide but sometimes fonts aren’t available and/or you want to have a standard for headings. We create a visual style guide for our website, to ensure consistency when creating pages.
- Also think about your website’s buttons; have a primary and secondary style for the button, depending on the call to action.
- Patterns, graphics and textures are a great way to add some personality while leaning into what’s trendy and/or outside of your visual brand style guide standards.
Brand visuals and team.
How do you maintain that consistency when you bring someone else on board to design graphics and/or make website updates? Especially if that person didn’t create your original brand visuals or they’re not super experienced in design – maybe they know just enough to be dangerous. Think through what you want them to make and then, you guessed it, send over the style guide as a starting point.
- Templates are your best friend. We utilize them within WCO for all of our visuals because I personally am not the one sending everything out. We have templates for social, emails, videos and for our Pinterest graphics, just to name a few. I created the standards, set the guidelines and then shared them with my team to implement. If they do something that’s not aligned, I share a video of why it doesn’t work and then add it to our standards list. It’s ever-evolving and growing, which is the point. Your brand is not stagnant.
- Create a document that tracks what is and is not aligned for your visuals. For example, the WCO heading font should not be used in all-caps. When an all-caps heading is needed we utilize the sub-heading font. Little things like this can make a big difference in maintaining consistency across your brand touch points.
Brand visuals and new programs, offerings, initiatives.
Whether you’re starting a podcast, launching a new sub-brand or putting together a new course, any new initiative is a great opportunity to further solidify your visual brand aesthetic. And of course, it all starts with strategy.
To create that consistency, it’s important to first understand the purpose of the initiative. Are you targeting the same and/or similar ideal client, and is it aligned with your overarching brand strategy? If yes, then aligned visuals make sense. If no, it might be worth creating something entirely different.
Let’s say that yes, this new endeavor is aligned with your current ideal client and brand strategy. There are a few ways to integrate consistent visuals, while giving it enough support to stand on its own.
- Select an aligned color palette; something that complements your existing colors but is different enough to keep the initiative independent. I like to pick a few of the primary colors from the original palette and then change up the secondary colors for some differentiation.
- Create a new logo, that’s aligned with the brand’s personality, and keep the existing color palette.
- Utilizing your brand’s typography for the title and/or name, and add in some different graphics, patterns or textures.
Brand visuals and ‘design trends’.
Just like all trends, what’s trending in design can come and go fast. Real fast.
However, I understand the temptation to want to integrate something trending into your brand visuals – especially if your ideal client values that sort of thing. And, because, well, it can be really fun!
So, how do you integrate what’s trendy while maintaining a consistent, cohesive look and feel?
- Pick one trend. There may be a lot of different things you want to test out (a fun new font, the 90’s retro style, a specific type of illustration, that new color palette that seems to be everywhere) but I promise it’ll be overwhelming to your viewer (and probably you) if you go all in at one time.
- Test it out on something that’s not permanent. IG or FB stories is a great way to see if it resonates. Plus, the investment isn’t that much. It’s a low risk way to play around with your graphics and try something different, without compromising the consistency too much.
- If you realize that it’s a good fit for your brand, incorporate it on a more permanent basis. Maybe start with your social media templates and then move over to your email newsletter – determine the cadence and incorporation that makes the most sense for your business and brand.
Yes, there is a lot that goes into showing up consistently, especially from a visual brand perspective. For all you skimmers, my hope is that you take away at least this:
the best way to have a visually consistent brand is to create a standard and stick to it, and make it easier with templates.
And of course, if you realize that you’re ready for some support with your visual brand, we’re here to help. Our design day is a great way to knock out a variety of templates in one day. And if you’re needing a complete overhaul, our strategic brand design package is a great fit.
All my best,
Rather watch than read?
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