Aimee’s print materials use a cohesive set of colors, fonts, patterns, and graphics. Rather than using every color and font on every piece, choices are judicious.
Photo by Jen Lacey for Aeolidia.
Your visual brand identity is more than a logo. Adding a full suite of visual details takes it from mere logo to full brand design. A strategic brand identity means your customers can recognize your brand from a mile away. They will know it’s your Instagram post before they read who posted it. And they will be able to recognize your product and packaging from across a store.
Let’s discuss how to get there. Whether you’re designing your own brand visuals or hiring a graphic designer, here are the elements that go into a strong brand identity.
A Flexible Graphic Identity Includes Alternate Versions of Your Logo
I don’t recommend designing one logo and calling it a day. Sometimes you will want a horizontal layout, sometimes vertical. Sometimes a circle or square will do the trick.
To see what I mean, imagine a long line of text as your Instagram logo. It won’t be legible in that tiny circle. If your logo is tall, it will take up too much real estate on the homepage of your website, pushing the important content down the page. You don’t want to shrink your logo to a size that makes the text illegible.
There may be times when you need a single color or black and white logo, to save on printing costs. Sometimes you’ll want to use only your brand mark (a graphic that identifies your business) without any text next to it. And sometimes you’ll want a text-only version of your logo without a graphic.
Thoughtful brand identity visuals mean that a variety of different treatments can serve as your logo. A cohesive logo design will be memorable and recognizable to your customers in any of its forms.
The hangtag uses the brand mark only, without the name “Pam Powers.” Since the tag is meant to go on items handmade from her pattern customers, we wanted the brand to be more subtle here. Note the use of color scheme, fonts, and illustrated yarn icon.
The main logo is used on the business card, and a text-only version on the return address label. A pattern is used to add style and interest to the card, and to create custom packing tape. A leaf illustration brands the shipping label. The kraft packaging and twine are purposefully chosen to reflect a natural and simple feel.
Your Logo Should Be a Vector Graphic
A vector file format used for logo design, uses shapes, rather than pixels, to create the image. Common file extensions for vector files include EPS or AI (learn more about the differences between file types here). This file type can adjust to fit on a billboard or a return address stamp without losing quality. It will look smooth and crisp at any size. If you’re designing your logo yourself, take the time to learn how to create vector graphics. The most well-known software used for this is Adobe Illustrator. If you’re hiring help, ask your designer if you will get the original version of each file in vector format.
If the original logo is a vector graphic, you can save it at specific sizes in other file types for different uses. For instance, you could save your logo as a PNG file to upload to Facebook. Or you could save it as a PDF to send to a printer. You will also want to have a version of your logo saved as an SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) file for your website. This way it will appear crisp on desktop, mobile, and retina screens.
A Full Graphic Identity Guides Your Brand
Sometimes a client will come to our design firm, Aeolidia, with a lovely logo and hire us to design a custom website for her. At this point, we check to see whether the logo is all she has, or if she has a thorough brand identity. If not, we always take time up front to flesh out a full visual identity to go along with a logo. I recommend you do the same for your brand, whether you hire a designer or work on it yourself. This way, you have a guide to help with all decisions, from designing your website to creating hang tags.
Pinning down a set of colors, fonts, and graphics helps you create a cohesive brand. You have a starting point to design your print and packaging materials, website design, social media graphics, and more. When a brand always uses the same look, customers begin to recognize it. Soon they can tell who that social media post is by, just from the branding alone.
Try to cover all the bases as you plan your brand identity. That way you won’t be stuck trying to find the details needed to create a social media post or design a postcard.
The quick brand identity guide for Pam Powers, a knitting pattern designer.
Design by Aeolidia.
The quick brand identity guide for Mafu, an apothecary brand.
Design by Aeolidia.
The quick brand identity guide for Puzzle Patterns, a sewing pattern business.
Design by Aeolidia.
How to Use the Tools In Your Brand Identity Guide
Having a brand identity guide keeps everything about your brand’s style in one place. When you, or your designer, need to create new marketing materials for your brand, you’ll go to this design toolbox.
How do you use these tools? Here are some ideas:
Alternate Versions of Your Logo:
A horizontal version of your logo is great for a website header, and vertical ones can look wonderful on hang tags or postcards. You’ll likely want something close to square for social media avatars.
A circular version makes a delightful sticker to fasten tissue paper around a product, or for printing or stamping on the flap of an envelope.
If you have a graphic mark, it can stand alone on certain materials as a subtle way to stake your brand’s claim.
Your Color Scheme:
Having a set of cohesive colors is a quick way to keep everything on-brand. It’s usually best to stick to your chosen colors and not get tempted to try something different. Staying within your brand palette helps make your work recognizable to your customers.
You don’t have to use them all at once, and you can choose to use any of the colors from your “brand paintbox” together. They will be designed to coordinate with each other.
Your Font Families:
Having a set of fonts for web and print also serves to keep you on-brand. The fonts should all work together. They shouldn’t be too similar to each other, which may make them “clash.” Nor should they be completely different in style, such as a modern and traditional font paired. They should each evoke the feeling you want your brand to give people.
You may want a simple font for paragraphs of text, a headline font for drawing attention, and a decorative font for accent text (“sale!” “new!”). There isn’t a specific number of fonts you need. Consider what you’ll use them for as you decide.
Your Illustrations and Icons:
Icons and illustrations make it clear that your website is custom to you. They can also add style to business cards, catalogs, and other marketing materials. Adding them to text posts on social media helps identify your brand.
You may want to include one or more seamless repeating patterns in your brand identity. These are perfect for printing on custom tissue paper or gift wrap . A background pattern or patterned border can elevate the design on areas of your website or packaging and labels.
The product packaging uses the text-only version of the logo, adding the leaf back in for the round label. The carefully chosen font families are used throughout the packaging to communicate Mafu’s style.
Photo by Jen Lacey for Aeolidia.
The main logo fits well in the website header, and the chosen fonts, colors, and graphics are used throughout the website for a cohesive experience.
Photo courtesy of Aeolidia.
A Cohesive Visual Identity Is Key
Having a solid brand identity is essential to portraying your business well. This makes growing your business easier and makes your marketing efforts more effective. Are your current brand identity visuals serving you well? Take some time to figure out what you’re missing and create a lasting look for your brand.
At Aeolidia we have created a PDF with more ideas on how to use your graphics, fonts, and colors. Our full logo help guide (this is the one we give to Aeolidia branding clients!) explains file and print terminology, and shows how to extend your brand details to everything you do, online and off. You can download it here.
Arianne is captain and founder of Aeolidia, a web and graphic design studio that has been working with creative, design-oriented shops since 2004. Aeolidia serves those at early stages on their path with an informative blog and supportive community, and meets established businesses at that tipping point where strategic design can be transformative and cause exponential growth.