Visual Communication

How to Create a Visual Identity

By Lindsay Pietroluongo - 5 min read

With the impact of your brand's visuals more significant than ever, a strong visual identity has become essential. Follow these fundamental steps to build a brand identity that will grow your audience without losing its coherence.

Close your eyes and visualize Nike.

You saw the checkmark-like swoosh. You pictured a man crouched down at a starting line or a woman raising a barbell over her head in the gym. You smelled fresh grass on a field. You heard cheers or a coach yelling tough love mantras. And maybe you thought of sneakers, sweatshirts or running shorts, but those thoughts came later.

Why? Because Nike has done a phenomenal job of creating a highly recognizable and permeating visual identity that creates an experience instead of just showcasing products.

Young woman with eyes closed against blue background

Brands that have mastered their visual identity have created a consistent, cohesive theme. Color schemes, visuals and the overall brand tone should unite your content across your website and social media profiles.

Dependable, purposeful and emotive, here’s how your brand’s visual identity influences your audience.

Discovering Your Visual Identity

Figuring out what your brand’s goals and mission are is another important step toward knowing how to create a visual identity. Here are a few questions to get you started:

Who is your audience? Consider age, education, gender, income, location, marital status and occupation.

What do your customers need or want?

What language and tone will they respond best to?

Are there specific terms you should always use?

To define your mission, you have to figure out how what your brand offers matches with your audience’s needs. How will your products or services positively impact your customer’s life? If you’re a brand new company and don’t have customers yet, you can look into your competitors’ audiences to start forming an idea.

Close-up of man with leaf against pink background

Elements of a Visual Identity

In order to know how to create a visual identity that’s right for your brand, you have to understand the elements that go into it:

Color Palette: To choose your color palette, it’s helpful to understand how color psychology works. Blue communicates trust. Purple stands for creativity or luxury. Red tells your audience that you’re a bold or passionate company. Green is often used for eco-friendly brands. Black is sophisticated, professional and authoritative. Gold can be used for a financial business.

Imagery Style and Photo Filters: Will your images be oriented as landscape or vertical? Do you want bright colors, over-exposed photos, muted imagery, black and white? Will you be using any cartoons, illustrations or animated graphics?

Logo: If you already have a logo, you may have to redesign it as you flesh out your brand identity. Logo placement is important, too, and it should be consistent. Always place it on the same part of your images. You can have alternative versions to ensure it’ll be seen, like a white version for dark photos and a black version for light colors. Typography: Limit yourself to two complementary fonts.

*Benefit Cosmetics* has done a fantastic job of creating a succinct visual identity. They use feminise visuals, a pink color palette and youthful fonts on everything from their packaging to their online content.

Profile view of woman with tattoo on shoulder

Picture Your Brand as a Person

One way to start formulating the aesthetics of your business is to think of your brand as a person:

What do they look like?

What types of clothes do they wear?

How do they walk and talk?

What are they interested in?

Where do they spend their time?

If you’re struggling with this, turn to your actual customers for a real life view of your target audience.

Father with newborn baby

Evoke Emotion Through Visuals

Think about the ideas and emotions you want to suggest, then use visuals to get those points across. You can use visuals to communicate that your brand is feminine or masculine, buttoned-up or playful, cerebral or artistic.

Is your brand casual and fun? You may show behind-the-scenes candids of your employees having fun at the office. Do you want to encourage and motivate your audience? Action photography combined with quotes will communicate this.

Create a Template

If you create a template for your images, you can use it every time you create a visual, which will help keep everything uniform. You can set the filter, font types, text placement, size and other elements, then simply add the content when you’re ready. Mock up the templates for an idea of what the finished project will look like. This is especially helpful if you have a team of people who are going to be creating visuals for the brand.

Cropped hands of person against sea

One Last Step: Prune Your Existing Content

Your visual identity is like the personality of your brand. Your audience should be able to recognize it wherever they are, from browsing your website or social media accounts to opening your newsletter or visiting your brick and mortar store.

Pare down your visuals by going through each one and asking yourself, “Does this accurately reflect the brand persona?” If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

Portrait of young woman seen through glass held by cropped hand during shoot at studio

Looking for Visuals that will make your brand stand out? Get access to outstanding images here.

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