Creating a Brand System
The visual elements you need for flexibility and to leave a lasting impression
Think about all the places your brand “lives” and every touch point for your clients and customers — your website, emails, social media, advertisements, marketing, packaging, sales pages, products and the list goes on. If you just have a logo and two or three colors to choose from, things are going to get pretty redundant in all those spaces.
When designing the visual aspect of a brand identity, it’s about building a cohesive and consistent style that will allow a business to grow and evolve. Incorporating these elements into your visual system will help to extend your brand, and over time, build brand recognition and a connection with target audience.
A logo (& a few variations)
Simply put, your logo is the core of your visual brand identity. It pulls together all the other elements and sets the foundation for your look or style. When designing your logo, make sure to keep it simple, legible, timeless (aka not based on trends) and memorable. Also keep in mind, your logo will need to be scalable, meaning it would look great on a billboard, or on a teeny tiny corner of the web.
Instead of being restricted to one version of your logo, additional variations can give you flexibility as you evolve your brand. Consider how your logo would be used in a horizontal or vertical space. What about on social media? Should you include your tagline? Chances are, one version of your logo won’t fulfill all of those requirements (and more that can arise!) Additional variations of your logo will help keep your logo usage from feeling redundant and losing its effectiveness.
Colors are responsible for setting the overall mood or tone of your brand identity. Brush up on the basics of color psychology to create a palette that embodies your personality and also is effective for reaching your brand goals. Between four to seven colors is a good starting point — too many colors can clash or confuse your audience and making your brand less recognizable. Consider including secondary colors can be incorporated to give your visuals some variety.
Selecting fonts for your brand is just about as important as the words you use. Certain fonts convey a specific tone or mood and have a significant impact on your overall brand style. When selecting fonts, consider the way you would want your ideal client to describe your brand — is it modern and bold? Soft and feminine? Once you get a clear vision, pull fonts that represent those words. Try picking a maximum of three — just like colors, too many fonts can be confusing and messy!
In some instances, patterns can become one of the most recognizable assets of your visual brand identity (hello, Louis Vuitton). They can incorporate other brand elements to bring them to life and enhance you overall brand style. This versatile element can be used on stationery (like your business card), product packaging or online (think website footers and social media graphics).
Yes, images are a also a part of your overall brand system. Photographs can convey their own emotions and can influence the viewer's perception just like any other element of your brand. Consider how your brand photography should be styled by looking at the examples above. Are light and airy photos, like the first image, more appropriate for your brand, or should you go with something dark and moody, like the second? Should images be edited in a certain style or with a certain treatment (think Instagram filters)? Should your brand’s photos be in color or black and white? All of these questions are important considerations for keeping a consistent and branded photography style.
Icons & graphic elements
Icons are a great way to quickly communicate and reinforce ideas, while also making more complex or detailed information easily digestible. Graphic elements, similar to icons, can add a branded touch to any collateral. Even a line, a dot or a dash can be considered a simple graphic element that you can use to elevate your brand. Make sure to use a consistent and distinct illustration style that matches the style of your overall brand identity to really stand out.