A bad first impression is hard to shake, especially when you’re competing against millions of contenders online. Princeton researchers found that within 0.1 seconds, people form judgments about the likeability, trustworthiness, competence, attractiveness, and aggressiveness of faces in photos they were shown. What judgment will people form about your brand in the first 0.1 second of exposure?
“With that reaction time,” stated marketing expert Leonard Kim, “you need a clean and crisp visual representation of your brand. Otherwise, people may associate your brand with being cheap, unreliable, or even untrustworthy.”
It’s clear a strong visual identity is important, but what exactly is a visual identity? And how do you create one?
Understanding Visual Identity
Your visual identity comprises your logo, imagery, typography, colors, and creative design. It’s easy enough to list them out, but how do you get to the heart of how these elements communicate to your customers who you are, what you stand for, and why they should be loyal to you?
Your brand’s visual identity is its style, Does your brand strut down the street, flinging long blonde hair and rocking a peacock feather jacket, or does it somberly stroll in a well-tailored suit? Maybe you decided—instantly—that the peacock persona was wild and fun, while the well-tailored suit was competent and mature. That’s a first impression working its magic.
If you are building your visual identity from the ground up, it’s recommended collecting inspiration from all over. Take pictures. Gather postcards. Go to Pinterest and make a mood board. There’s so much value already out there that you don’t have to re-create the wheel. Take notes on what you like about existing brands and what you don’t like.
“Knowing your audience is really important,”
“Decide how you want to resonate with them and continually tie that back to your core values.”
The key, is to start from what you know and believe strongly, and let your brand evolve from a core, unwavering understanding of your mission. “Even if it’s just your name in a simple typeface, you can build from there,”
“Your visual identity can mature with a symbol or icon later. And maybe sometimes it’s good to give your brand some time to resonate, find its path forward, and understand where your end goal is.”
Keep in mind, “It’s good to be aspirational and absorb all the intricate and detailed logos out there, but in the end you just need a starting point. That may be a consistent way to represent yourself in a color, a typeface, or even just an icon. Ask yourself, ‘How is my brand going to be powerful and effective but still be simple?’ And when you’re developing your visual identity, always drive what you’re doing back to your mission to keep your brand on track.”
As you’re developing the components of your visual identity (color, logo, type, and imagery), test the evolving identity against these questions from Kim, who has been recognized by Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur as a top marketing influencer:
- Am I portraying a trustworthy environment?
- Am I providing immediate value to my customer?
- What can I do to get them to want to learn and discover more about my brand?
- How can I communicate my message with the least amount of words?
- What words can I translate into images?
- How minimalistic can I be and still deliver the message that I want to convey?
Consistency And Velocity Are Key
While visual identity aims to create an emotional connection with a customer, “it’s just the initial catch,”
“Once you’ve caught the customer’s attention, the ability to retain him means being clear on the value you deliver and consistently delivering on your promises.”
Value can come in many forms: customer service, the product you deliver, or the content you create that engages your audience.
The next step is to carry the experience from end to end. “We’re trying to empower our users to create visual brand consistency,”
“We know that it can be difficult to keep up with the velocity that today’s social media environment demands.”