Brands and their identities can be leveraged to create awareness, reputation and market share. Mark Rollinson, Group Creative Director, All About Brands and CEO, Brand Faith, sets out his five stage process to create and manage a great visual expression for a brand.
Mankind has thought in visual terms since the dawn of time. We painted long before we could read and write. You only have to think of the power of ancient cave paintings in bringing a long forgotten world to life to realise the power of visual expression. Art has been highly prized right down through the centuries because it connects with us at an emotional level, bringing about incredibly strong reactions and feelings.
A company’s brand can exploit these reactions by creating a unique visual expression of what it stands for, why it’s different and where it comes from. Think of any brand you admire and I’m willing to bet you are already thinking in visual terms; the way the product looks, the colour, the packaging, the advertising, the environment it’s sold in and even the logo.
Here are some tips for creating and managing a great visual expression for a brand.
Step 1 — Brand strategy
The first step has got nothing to do with type, colours and pictures so put your paint brush down for a moment. Before we can create the visual expression of a brand we need some solid foundations. Your brand must have a reason to exist; a belief in what it stands for and a unique and differentiated point of view. If you can believe with total conviction what your brand stands for and who you want to talk to, you will be able to convince people to work with you to achieve your goals and your customers to buy your product or service.
Step 2 — Communicating your vision
Now we can begin to bring the brand to life visually. We need to express the brand in terms that are synonymous with brand positioning and personality. We need to think about our target audiences. It’s a great idea to create mood boards at this stage. Cut out images, patterns, colours, even typefaces that you feel match your brand personality and positioning and that will appeal to your target. Once equipped with these visual cues you can either create the brand yourself or create a powerful design brief for your design team that will communicate clearly the type of brand that will capture your business in a unique way.
Step 3 — Creating your brand toolbox
A brand is expressed visually through a number of different elements all working together. Most common brands include a logotype, typography, colour, pattern and imagery.
Logotype — This is the most easily identified part of your brand. Done well, it should work as visual shorthand for what your audiences can expect your brand to deliver.
Colour — The days of owning your own unique colour are gone. All the key ones have been claimed long ago. While you will certainly have a primary colour or colours, these days we think in terms of colour palettes. This allows you to talk to different people in colours that appeal to them while still retaining consistency.
Typography — There are literally thousands of typefaces, all evoking different feelings and personalities. The choice of typeface for your logotype and for your communications is an incredible powerful factor in determining your brand’s personality. Try to ensure you select a font that is unusual for your logo or create a unique one but choose a font that is widely available for your communications particularly online so that it doesn’t default to something hideous.
Imagery — Your brand should last a lot longer than one set of images so make sure you choose a style that can evolve with time and also consider mixing photography with illustration to add more flexibility. Do you want your imagery to be literal or symbolic? Would metaphors communicate what your brand is about? Or perhaps a reportage style will imbue your brand with truth and energy?
Step 4 — Be consistent
Implement your brand with ruthless consistency. You must ensure that whatever the medium, your brand is conveyed with style and flair but also in a way that leverages the brand’s positioning and personality.
The best way to ensure you are consistent is to create brand guidelines. Don’t create a straitjacket; good brand guidelines are a creative springboard that allows your agencies to understand the marrow of your brand quickly, so that they can produce brilliant creative work. Try to have as few rules as possible and make them simple. The more complex your identity system is, the quicker it will fall apart.
Step 5 — Stay the course
Brands are built over time. Avoid the temptation to chop and change. Great brands evolve with time but remain true to their original conception.
Mark Rollinson is the founding partner and CEO of All About Brands PLC, an international marketing and communications agency with business divisions that cover public relations, marketing, brand strategy, design and advertising, with offices in London, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and India.
Mark has more than 30 years’ experience working across the fields of design, advertising and public relations. He is an experienced practitioner of each discipline and has built a solid reputation on being able to create award winning integrated campaigns. Mark was heavily involved in the 1997 election of the British Labour Party. In 2007 Mark was appointed to assist the Executive Affairs Authority, Abu Dhabi with the development and launch of a new brand for the Emirate.
Mark has won many awards both for creativity and effectiveness across numerous marketing disciplines. In 1996 Mark was made a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and in 2007 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.