If you’re just developing your brand and wondering what elements you need to have to make it strong and cohesive, there are five elements that you need to think about. These five elements are also important if you have a brand that just doesn’t seem to be hitting all the marks and you’re trying to figure out a way to improve.
Making sure you have these five elements in place will step up your visuals and take your brand to the next level. I realized this the first time I ever branded my own business. I didn’t create all these assets at the beginning, so everytime I made one of these decisions I would have to go and update everything. I can not tell you how many times I revamped my feature images for my blog posts and had to go back and redo all the images from past posts. It’s so much better to hash out these things in the very beginning and then you have them in place and never have to go back and redo things.
A version of this post was originally published in video format live in the DIY Designers Facebook group. Join our FREE private group now and then click on the ‘videos’ tab to watch!
Brand vs. Visual Brand
Before we get into the five elements, let’s talk about the difference between your brand and your visual brand. Though when you say the word ‘brand’ everyone thinks of your logo, they are not the same thing. Your visual brand is a part of your brand, but there are also other elements that are important.
For example, when you walk into Starbucks you are experiencing their brand. The smell of coffee, the people sitting around in comfy chairs chatting, the way the products are displayed, even the way you feel when you’re walking down the street holding a starbucks coffee cup. That’s all their brand. Their visuals like their logo and colour scheme are an important part of that, but only one part.Your visual brand is just a part of your brand. There are also other important elements. Click To Tweet
Your visual brand is what we’re talking about today, but it is at least worth mentioning that there is more to think about than just visuals when you are branding.
So, let’s talk visuals. Your visual brand is all the graphic elements that contribute to your brand. Your logo, colours, fonts, images, and social profiles are all part of your brand. These are the five elements your visual brand must have. I’ve created a FREE checklist of these elements and some things to remember so that you can save it and revisit it later to make sure you have them all in place. Just enter your information at the bottom of this post to download your free checklist.
Your logo is the cornerstone of your visual brand, and is really the most important element. Your logo and your brand are like your face and you. It’s how people recognize you. That’s why I think the logo is always the first visual element you should create for any brand. Though you could create your colour scheme first and then do your logo, I usually find the reverse is best. You don’t want to spend time creating a colour scheme, and then make a logo and find out the colours don’t work in it. So instead, create your logo, use the colours you want in it, and then create a colour scheme based on those colours.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a logo and that’s not something that I’m going to go too in depth on today because that’s a post on its own. But I will see that you need a few different variations of your logo. Create different variations of your logo so that you always have one that looks the best it can in each scenario.Create variations of your logo so that you always have options to fit the circumstance. Click To Tweet
First there’s the main logo. This version of your logo is always the one you try to use first, and you only move on to one of the other versions of the logo if this one doesn’t work.
Then you need a black and white version of your logo. This is necessary for circumstances where colour isn’t allowed or doesn’t work. For example, if you’re putting a logo on a brochure for print and you know it’s going to be printed in black and white, it’s best to use a black and white logo so you know how it’s going to look, rather than putting your coloured logo there and then hoping that the colours show well. There also might be circumstances where you want to place your logo over a pattern or an image or something colourful, and the colour version of your logo is just too much. It’s important to have a black and white version of your logo so that you can always ensure your logo looks its best, and you are always in control of how it turns out.
The second variation you should have is in terms of layout. Now if you have a logo that’s fairly square (as tall as it is wide) then this might not apply to you. But, if you have a logo that is either very tall or very wide, you should have two different layouts so that you can always have a version that fits well. For example, if your logo is wide, it’s not going to fit well in a square setting like your profile picture on social media. So, when creating your logo, create a stacked version. That way you always have a different layout variation available and can use it when necessary.
If you want to read more about logo variations you can check out my post Why One Logo Won’t Work for Your Brand
The next thing you need to create for your brand is a colour scheme. Now in my opinion this scheme should include all the colours that you will ever use in your brand. Seven is a good number to start with. If your brand is going to be a very colourful or vibrant one, you might even have a few more than that.
You need this many colours so that you always have options. For example, if you pick only two colours during the branding process, then down the road you are creating graphics and you decide you need to add another colour, you’ll end up just picking a random one that looks good. Then the next time you’re creating graphics and you need a colour, you might pick a different one. This is how a brand ends up getting inconsistent, because you’ll end having a bunch of graphics with a bunch of different colours that don’t work well all together. If you pick seven colours from the very beginning, then you have them chosen, you know they look good together, and you can always refer back to them when you need them. You don’t always have to use all of them, but they are there when you need them.
When selecting your colours you should think about having variety and cohesiveness at the same time. That sounds tough because those are almost opposite,s but it is possible. Your colours should look good together and they should be different enough that they are visually interesting. For help on selecting your colours you can visit my post – How to Choose a Colour Scheme When You’re Not A Designer
The third element you need for your visual brand is fonts. It’s not okay to just use whatever fonts you feel like at the time or whatever font works for your image at that specific moment. You must choose your fonts when you first create your brand, and then you always have them to refer to and use later on.
In my opinion you need three fonts. Three is a good number because it means that you have enough fonts to add visual interest, but not so many that things start to get messy and confusing. Limiting yourself to three fonts also means that it is much easier to make your brand cohesive throughout all of your visual materials. If you feel that the three fonts you choose are simple and you want to add a fourth font to just add a little more variety, you can do that, but never go more than four.3 or 4 fonts is all you need to create a strong brand. Any more is busy & inconsistent. Click To Tweet
The first font you need is for your main elements. This font can be the same as your logo font or different. I like to use the same fonts for my brand as in my logos, but sometimes that just doesn’t work. If your logo uses a fancy handwritten script or a really custom bold font, then sometimes that doesn’t work to be used elsewhere, and that’s okay. After you create your logo look at the font in it and decide whether that font is versatile enough to be used elsewhere in your brand. If it is, great! If not, choose another font. Either way your main font should be strong, interesting, and able to stand on its own. It’s the font that will be the anchor of most of your visuals and used in places like headings and graphics.
The second font you need is your accent font. This is a font that works well with your main font, but is different enough that it accents it. You don’t want to pick an accent font that is similar to the main font, because that will just end up looking like you accidentally picked the wrong font. You want an accent font that goes well with the main font, but is different enough that your choice looks intentional. I usually like to use a nice cursive or an italic typeface for this font.
The third font you need is your body font. This is the font that you use for the main body text of your website, and in your graphics when you are writing a longer portion of text and want it to be very clear and legible. Today it’s usually best to choose a sans-serif for this font, because it is the most versatile and shows up best on screens, but depending on your brand you have to decide for yourself. The important part is that it is legible and looks good when used in paragraph text.
And, like I said, if you choose these three fonts and you feel that they aren’t quite enough, you can choose another accent font to add visual interest. These fonts together make up your brand and carry consistency through all your visual elements, and you should never use any fonts other than these ones.
The fourth element you need is an image template. The size and purpose of this image template is going to vary depending on what works for your unique brand. Whether blog content is going to be a main part of your content strategy, or your Twitter posts are going to have images regularly, or you’ll be posting quotes to Instagram, you need a template.
If you are going to be posting the same kind of content all the time, you do not want the images to look different every time. Of course you want them to be visually interesting, so you switch around the colours or the background images every time you create an image. But, the most important thing is that they are always on brand. You want it so that no matter where someone sees one of your images, they immediately know its yours without having to search the small print for your website or business name. Your images should look great side by side and flow well, but all be a little different then each other. Check out my archives for a look at how my images all look side by side.Creating templates for content is the best way to save time & keep branding consistent! Click To Tweet
The visual branding aspect of creating image templates doesn’t even take into account that this saves you a tonne of time in the long run. Once you create templates that work and work well, it should only take you a few minutes to make an image. Every time you create a new piece of content you just switch up the text and the background, and then you’ve got a new image ready to go.
To decide what templates to create, think about what platforms your content is going to be shared on and create image templates for all of them. This might take a little trail and error to find out what platforms work and are worth investing time in, but once you do, you should create templates for them.
The most important platform for me is Pinterest, so I have a strong, vertical Pinterest template that I use for all my blog posts. But that might not be an important one for you if Pinterest isn’t key to your brand. Figure out which platform or platforms work for you and then optimize them. You can read my post here on How to Create a Feature Image Template for Your Blog.
Social Media Assets
The fifth element you need are your social media assets. Now when you think branding this might not immediately come to mind as something that seems important, but it is. No matter where someone goes – Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Periscope, wherever else there is – they should know immediately when they are with you. This is the same thing as franchising and stores. If you were walking down the street and you saw a Starbucks without a logo, you would still know it was a starbucks because it looks the same! Their brand informs you.
This is just like your social media accounts. You don’t want to have to tell people who you are, you want them to inherently know. Take a look at all your social media accounts – open them up in different tabs or windows if you can, and look at all of them. Now think about how they look together as a whole. Your social media accounts are all extensions of your brand.
For example, if you get new headshots taken and they’re really nice and clear and great quality, and you stick them on your website, they’ll look great. But if someone sees your picture in your sidebar and then clicks through to your Twitter and sees an old iPhone headshot that is blurry and doesn’t even look like the same person, they’ll be thinking, what happened here? They might even not follow you because they’re confused.
So the first thing you want to do is have a photo or set of photos of yourself that you use all over social media, whenever a picture of you is required. They can be all in different outfits or poses, but side by side they all should look cohesive and be clearly of the same person.
The other thing you want on your social media accounts is a cohesive header image. Though all social media is different depending on the platform, many of them allow for some sort of header image. Choose a photo or create a graphic that you are going to use everywhere. Maybe you have to rearrange the layout depending on the size of the image, but all your headers across every platform should be cohesive. It’s easy to get distracted and just put up the latest pretty flatlay you’ve taken every now and then, but save that for your personal profile instead. On your brand social media accounts you should use images that use your colours, link back to your website, and remind people what brand they’re interacting with.
And those are the five elements your visual brand must have. If you follow this post and make sure you have all of those elements in place you’ll be on the road to create a strong visual brand that is consistent and cohesive across all your platforms. Remember to enter your information below to download the FREE checklist!