How to create a memorable visual identity

Dakota Murphey
Business Growth Consultant
3rd May 2024

For every business, building a strong brand identity is key to pushing your products and services onto the market. With compelling and memorable visuals, you’ll have greater success at reaching your target audience and, ultimately, growing your profit margins and online reach.  

If you are currently building a brand online, or developing your visual branding, this article explores some great strategies to ensure your branding visuals resonate with your audience. 

When it’s time to refresh your visuals or rebrand altogether

At some point it might be time to either refresh your brand’s visuals or rebrand altogether. This might be necessary for a company that is venturing into new markets, introducing a new line of products or reshaping your mission and values. Whatever the changes are, it's essential for your brand to mirror these shifts. If your business has experienced substantial changes in recent years or you're starting afresh, choosing refreshing new visuals can help to cement your brand’s identity, raise your website’s rankings and optimise your conversion results

If the time is right and you want to rebrand your business identity or you’re in the process of re-assessing your visual identity and branding strategies, you might want to check your cash flow and budgeting. Once you get started, you’ll want to align your visual identity so it is consistent with their logo, font, and colour palettes; visual and brand identity is far more than these assets, though by no means are they any less important. 

Established businesses will usually reevaluate their vital branding assets with renewed scrutiny, or consult third-party experts to give objective assessments, at some point throughout their lifespan (usually every seven to 10 years, according to recent research). Quite often, a visual identity refresh and revitalisation project is planned months in advance, and ties in seamlessly with a rejuvenated omnichannel marketing strategy. Sometimes, it could be a simple logo and font update, while others could see brands adopting a different aesthetic and advertising strategy altogether. A new brand makes business leaders look at their identity with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’, so to speak. 

The importance of visual identity

Before delving too deep into the practical and technical steps, it’s important to understand why visual identity matters in the first place. In the highly digital, social media-dominated world of today, the modern everyday consumer is surrounded by advertising material across both digital and printed touchpoints. 

The visual elements of these materials (i.e. the logo, colours, fonts, imagery, branding, photos, and so on) are, invariably, what an average consumer would remember most of all. Statistically, consumers are more likely to remember a brand’s colour than its name. Some companies would find success moving away from formulaic graphic design templates and instead opting for more lifestyle-based imagery, while others may find better connections by delivering visual assets that educate and inform customers about what they do, which may have eluded them in the past. 

Continued exposure to the same rehashed marketing material would not necessarily inspire upticks in sales, leads, or enquiries. Hastily consulting a graphic designer to deliver revitalised assets in line with your existing brand guidelines, or buying a high-quality used camera from a reseller to take new photos of your products, won’t magically make a long-term difference. If this isn’t what is missing from your visual identity, it won’t make a difference if you’re trying to stand out in a competitive digital marketplace.

Therefore, brands often reassess their approaches in a way to ‘cut through’ the proverbial visual noise. Capturing the ever-dwindling attention of everyday consumers - who are subject to all types of marketing messages from all sorts of brands - is no easy feat, not to mention communicating what makes your brand special.

Executing a visual identity refresh project is an immense challenge - there’s no denying it. However, the rewards of getting it right, making those all-important emotional connections and evoking the desired responses and actions from your audience will make the effort well worth it.

Research has shown that effective visual branding can boost recognition by 80%. Therefore, rather than viewing visual identity reviews as a tick-box exercise, instead, invest the time and resources to shape a business brand that truly resonates with your audience. 

Elements of an iconic visual identity

Even if you’ve cultivated a successful brand up to this point, you may need to make subtle tweaks to make it more relatable for the modern buyer of today. It doesn’t always have to involve a complete overhaul of every element.

However, shaping a successful visual identity involves coordinating several elements to work seamlessly together. This begs the question of how a brand in your sector(s) can stand out. There’s no easy answer to this, as success is unique to every company industry-wide. However, when assessing the key components of a visual identity, it’s important to remember some of the most sought-after qualities.

Take the examples below as a guide:

  • Logo – A unique and memorable logo lays the foundation for recognition. Rather than opting for a trendy upgrade, focus on ensuring logos are timeless and versatile, and can work in a variety of marketing materials.
  • Colours – Carefully chosen colours create powerful subconscious associations and energy, and evoke specific emotional responses and first impressions.
  • Typography – Font styles and text treatment communicate style and tone. Consider what impression you want your brand to give and apply the same principles to text you’d use in all customer-facing material, both print and digital.
  • Imagery – Pictures that reflect brand values help customers connect on an emotional level through visual storytelling.
  • Graphic elements – Repeating shapes, icons, patterns and textures develop consistency across touchpoints.
  • Tone of voice – Descriptive language and messaging should match the personality you want to convey.

Getting these elements to reinforce your overall desired identity requires objective, methodical coordination but delivers results that matter. 

Common pitfalls to avoid

While a brand refresh is usually planned and executed with good intentions, sometimes the end results fail to make an improved meaningful connection. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what holds refreshed and revitalised brands back, but there are usually a few culprits.

A common scenario sees brands trying to incorporate elements that seem too trendy and ‘modern’ without considering their longevity and applications beyond a cultural or societal ‘phase’. Comparatively, timeless identities often stand the test of time for years. Another mistake brands make is blatantly imitating or taking too much influence from competitors’ successful branding, with their individuality withering away. Copying can yield positive results in some cases, but it should not be the be-all and end-all.

It’s not uncommon to see businesses getting too stuck on logos and failing to consider other branding elements with the same level of scrutiny. Logos are just one part of an overall identity, which is why it’s important to take a holistic approach. Furthermore, poor or rushed visual elements and concepts designed to be more relatable and engaging have the opposite effect. Visual identities have to contain aesthetic value but also communicate your desired message. Getting too stuck on the primary visuals and then failing to carry them through cohesively in execution hinders the potential impact they have.

Tips for crafting your visual identity

A strong visual identity is only as powerful as its consistency and execution. Therefore, if you’re considering shaping your company’s identity into something different this year - even if that involves only minor tweaks - take these following tips on board:

  • Understand your target audience. All branding-related decisions should be customer-focused, of which you should have a clear profile of exactly who you’re trying to target. Reconsider demographics, values, behaviours and visual preferences, and align your brand accordingly.
  • Convey your positioning. If necessary, reassess your point of competitive differentiation and how you communicate that. This should drive the decisions of how your identity takes shape. 
  • Take inspiration from competitors (but not excessively). Study competitors’ branding as well as that belonging to companies that have seen success. Don’t mimic them entirely, but take influence from how they have executed it well, rather than the specifics of what they have done. 
  • Apply incremental changes. Collect a manner of foundational pieces, from fonts and colours to prototypes and mood boards. However, don’t try and do everything at once; allow enough time to collect visual inspiration and garner feedback and opinions from stakeholders.
  • Futureproof your identity. Getting too immersed in creating a trendy identity may lead to short-term results, but could become irrelevant fairly quickly. Focus on making your branding that is adaptable and can work in a variety of future contexts and situations.

Investing time and resources upfront to create thoughtful, consistent, and aesthetically appealing branding - rooted in a solid understanding of your audience - will leave you with an identity that you can be proud of.

While visual branding may not always be top of mind for business leaders driven by operational excellence, product development, or acquiring funding, it would be naive to ignore or overlook it in today’s consumer-focused landscape. The iconic brands that have fostered generations of loyal customers do not simply rest on their laurels; they adapt and make creative changes when it matters.

The advice above merely scratches the surface when it comes to visual identity design. For hands-on help developing and refining your elements calibrated cleverly with your positioning and audience, consulting a business specialist for branding advice would be a proactive way to start.

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