The Ultimate Guide to Visual Branding

With visual branding, what you see is what you get. And this is one concept that’s vital for businesses in several ways. First, it’s the images that help a company stand out among its competitors. Consider companies such as Apple or McDonald’s: how many people cannot recognize their brand logos? Precisely!

Yet, visual recognition accounts for more than just the logo. However, don’t get us wrong, a logo is the starting point to begin building visual branding. Let’s use Coca-Cola as an example. Do you notice that every one of their marketing campaigns features their signature hue of red? When you think about it, it’s not even the prettiest color. And it can be interpreted as aggressive. So, what’s the catch?

There’s no coincidence that they use red, which further proves that visual branding encompasses a well-planned strategy rather than simply attractive images. The color bright red is known to trigger impulse purchases. This is one reason you see this color in many places.

Is it a dirty trick? Not really. All is fair in marketing because a logo is plastered around; it doesn’t directly ask people to perform actions. Yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visual identity design. So, we’ve created a guide that will explain everything you need to know about visual brand guidelines.

Table of contents

What Is Visual Branding?

Visual branding is a vital factor in your company’s marketing strategy. It comprises the visual elements used to represent your company, from the logo to the font used on business cards. Each of these components works together to create the general look and feel of your brand. And visual branding serves many purposes.

First, it’s used to convey brand personality and evoke emotions from your audience. Then, brand visual identity is used to help your audience learn more about your business. Potential clients can use visual cues to understand things such as:

  • How your brand is unique.
  • Where your company fits in the market.
  • What they can expect from your services or products.

Finally, visual branding helps unite the different fragments of your brand through consistent images. Whether your customer is reading an email newsletter, a brochure, or a Facebook post, these shared visual branding elements signal that it’s coming from your company.

How Can Visual Branding Help Your Business Succeed?

First impressions are everything in life, and the truth is that potential clients see a company’s visual branding before anything else. So, it’s crucial to build a brand identity that’s immediately attractive so that these potential customers will feel connected and want to learn more.

A successful visual identity helps attract the right customers and explains your company’s purpose, shows your business’s value, and creates the right brand voice. However, you must create a good brand strategy before planning a visual identity.

The problem with trying to create a visual identity with no brand strategy in place is that you will waste time and resources building a visual identity that’s unmemorable, ineffective, and doesn’t resonate with your correct target audience. A plan like this could actually backfire and ultimately hurt your business.

Your visual identity needs to reflect your company

Let’s take, for example, you are a professional brand strategist who has a beautiful dolphin illustration for a company logo. How does this dolphin illustration position your company as a professional? And how does it communicate that your company is serious and skilled enough to work with business owners?

Well, more than likely, it won’t. Your visual identity needs to reflect your company, so it’s vital that you come up with an effective strategy that will help customers perceive your company the way you want them to.

So, always keep in mind that people will create thoughts about your company simply based on what they see. And most importantly, your visual brand must effectively represent your company’s purpose, value, personality, and promise. Though it sounds complicated at first, it’s merely a matter of using visual design elements the right way.

Brand Identity Vs. Visual Identity

So, we’ve talked a lot about these two terms, but how do they compare? Well, for starters, brand identity and visual identity share an intrinsic relationship. If you look at it one way, brand identity is a holistic expression of characteristics that make up a brand. This includes visual identity and non-visual elements like copy editing guides, core values, brand voice, the mission statement, etc.

Visual identity, on the other hand, is a discipline that involves a different approach and thought process entirely. Yes, there is overlap, but there are various professions involved with each. Generally, brand identity is handled by marketers, while visual identity involves creative directors and designers.

To put these two terms simply, brand identity is who a brand is on the inside, where visual identity shows who a brand is on the outside.

The Essential Guide To Building Your Visual Brand

Before we get started with the essential guide, it’s important to note that planning is the first step to building your visual brand. Similar to other business-related efforts, visuals should be meaningful and purposeful yet also able to withstand changing trends. And make no mistakes; trends do change!

Contrary to what some believe, logos can even change over time. For example, Coca-Cola and Kia are among many businesses that have been around awhile that have updated their logos. The main thing is that after the redesign, they should still be recognizable by customers.

With that being said, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about building your visual brand.

How To Make A Visual Brand That Stands Out From The Crowd

Before discussing visual branding elements, you must know how to make a visual brand that stands out from the crowd. Regardless if you’re starting a new brand from scratch or rebranding your company, there are a few elements that your visual branding should include, and those are:

  • Attractiveness: This makes people want to learn more and interact with your brand.
  • Uniqueness: This makes people pick your services or products over the competition.
  • Memorability: Use visuals to make people remember your brand so they keep coming back.
  • Consistency: This is key to give people trust and help them know what you stand for.

What Are The Main Components Of Visual Brand Identity?

Potential customers get a visual brand impression within just seconds. After this, your audience seeks validation again and again at each point of contact with your company. So, to help communicate your brand effectively to your target audience, five key visual elements need to work as a team to create what’s known as your visual “language.”

The five key elements are:

  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Typography
  • Graphic Elements
  • Imagery

Here’s a look at each of these factors in more detail:

Company Logo: A Distinctive Signifier

You see golden arches, and you know the advertisement is from McDonald’s. You see a partially eaten apple, and you know it’s not a billboard for a fruit company but for the famous technology company, Apple. This is the power of an effective logo or brand mark, and of course, a large advertising budget!

Your brand’s distinctive signifier – also known as your typographic brand mark or logo – is your company’s identity in its simplest form. It should serve as a quick reminder for your organization and evoke emotional appeal at your brand’s core. Although they seem simple, logos are meticulously thought out and deliberately designed, revised, and refined many times throughout the design process.

Every company needs a logo, and the larger the audience who views it, the more it’s associated with your brand. So, you’ll want to use it everywhere!

Nonetheless, your visual identity isn’t just one small mark. It’s a foundation and just the beginning of your visual identity. It works with the rest of the package to breathe life into your brand.

Color Palette

Have you ever thought about why opposing teams wear different hues? Why do construction workers wear neon colors? Why are dress suits for professional financial employees subdued and dark?

Just as clothing colors say something about a person, the colors chosen for your company speak volumes. Whether you realize it or not, there is psychology involved in the use of colors. Different hues not only set you apart from the competition, but they also showcase where you fit into an industry and trigger emotional responses from customers.

Your unique brand color palette and the selection of the right colors carry different connotations and touch on distinct emotions. In fact, some colors are even specific to some cultures. For this reason, rather than just choosing a color because it’s your favorite, decide what emotions you’re looking to evoke, what audiences you want to reach, and how the color palette fits into your needs, such as:

  • Your online social presence and website
  • Employee, corporate, and investor communications
  • Sales tools, reports, presentations, print materials, and brochures

In other words, decide which color is your star and who’s the cast. Do the colors in your chosen palette complement each other? Put much thought into each color before deciding it’s “the one.”

Editors choosing the right color palette.
Example of editors choosing the right color palette.


Another element of your brand’s visual voice and tone is the typography and the style and shape of your text. Let’s face it, there are over 550,000 fonts from which to choose. Some are classics that are tried and true (think about Garamond – it dates back to France in the 1500s), while others are techy or even trendy.

You want to select font families that reinforce brand attributes because, after all, you’ll use them consistently. So, along with your color palette, the typography will serve as part of your brand’s holistic visual approach.

Also, please note that some fonts are not available on all applications (especially presentations), so also decide which complementary fallbacks you’ll use for those times when your go-to font isn’t available.

Graphic Elements

Each aspect and element of your company’s visual language should work to create a cohesive system that’s spread across your organization’s virtual and physical presence. Using graphic elements such as chart styles, icons, color blocks, and infographics (we’ll discuss infographics more later) can reinforce and signal your brand.

The amount of content versus white space, where graphic elements are placed on the page grid, and the size of the images all work to prioritize information. When done correctly, these elements help draw the audience’s eyes to various areas of the page.

This part is done best when you choose a few standard graphic elements that are visually unifying and flexible enough to be used in various layouts and situations.


The last important element of building visual brand identity is imagery. We all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And this is still relevant when choosing the types of pictures you’ll use for your brand’s image. Be sure that imagery is aligned with all the other elements of your brand’s strategy as far as the look and feel are concerned. Are you going for a neat and clean look? Then your photographs should too. How about homey and cozy? Again, it should be the same with your illustrations and photos.

Regardless if you choose to purchase stock images or create them yourself, be sure to opt for a style that’s consistent and complements the tone of every other element. Just be mindful when deciding where to source photos from, and weigh your options carefully. While stock images are inexpensive and more convenient, anyone can access them, including your direct competitors. Though it’s more costly, a photoshoot can be the most efficient use of your resources when building your visual brand identity.

A Visual Strategy For Your Brand – Where To Use Visual Branding

As we mentioned, there are many places where your company will use visual branding. So, you will rely heavily on graphic design to take these elements and mold them into a cohesive visual identity. The following are the most common places in which a brand will use visuals:

You’ve probably concluded that branding and logo design is at the heart of creating a visual identity. The logo is the leading symbol representing your brand, and it informs most of the color, typography, and graphic choices for visual identity moving forward.

The logo will be used in many places, including on identifying materials such as letterheads, business cards, cover images, and social avatars where the goal is to distinguish your brand.

Example of visual branding components
Example of some visual branding components

Advertising and Business

Perhaps the best place to use visuals is in advertising. This is the main place where businesses try to reach their customers and these usually come in the form of billboards, flyers, banner/magazine/TV ads, brochures, and more. And since customers very rarely seek out advertisements, your visual elements must identify your brand while going the extra mile to persuade, impress, and entertain the viewers.

Digital Design and The Web

Digital design is unique because it’s the place where customers can directly interact with your company’s visual identity. The elements expressed digitally are often used through website or hero images, social media content, buttons, icons, explainer videos, corporate videos, layout, interface color schemes, and much more. And since digital tools are meant to be used, visual branding here must unobtrusively help the user complete their task.

Infographics and Visual Branding

Of course, this guide wouldn’t be on our site if we didn’t tie in infographics. While we may be partial to them, infographics should be a tool used in every company’s visual branding arsenal. And the current trend of using these data visualizations is only gaining momentum. From corporate reports and social media to the daily news, we are beginning to see them everywhere.

Information graphics are visually appealing packages of numbers, words, and photos that quickly tell the viewer interesting facts. It’s the perfect visual condiment to spice up your message and assist your audience with digesting information more easily.

How Infographics Help Promote Your Business

An infographic that’s well designed helps serve many crucial benefits for your business. They not only help spice up a marketing campaign, but they also help diversify your content, so scrolling through a blog post is more than words and subheadings.

It’s proven that infographics are the most effective way to make information more memorable. And when you have important points that you want your customers to remember, these graphics help with that long after the viewer has left your page.

Since information graphics are visual by nature, they help grab the eye and point the viewer toward the information you want them to see. They are shareable, engaging, and provide undeniable value in the marketplace. And the best part is infographics can be used anywhere, such as in an email, social media, or even on your website.

How Infographics Fit Perfectly In Your Visual Marketing Strategy

As we said, infographics fit perfectly into your visual marketing strategy because, after all, it uses visuals to promote your business. And at the core of it all, using infographics for marketing is all about generating leads, results for your brand, growing your business, and creating a positive online presence.

At the same time, it’s fun because there are many possibilities and angles you can use with infographics. Let’s take a look at how infographics fit into your visual marketing strategy:

Infographics As Part Of A Content Marketing Strategy

One common way of incorporating infographics is to locate gaps in your content and fill them with well-designed data visualizations. Yet, using an infographic is much more than just a great way to visualize content. In fact, it’s much more than that!

Infographics are an excellent way to create both internal and external backlinks. They also provide value to long content formats such as emails, blog posts, white papers, downloadable PDFs, and even ebooks.

Infographic Marketing As Part Of A Social Media Marketing Plan

Do you need to add more value to your social media? Add an infographic and follow these tips:

  • Share your infographic on every social media platform, including Tailwind and Pinterest.
  • Create snack-sized infographics that can be broken down into parts and repurposed on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook posts.
  • Utilize infographics to supplement affiliate marketing on social media by creating comparison infographics of products you promote.
  • Use infographics to promote summits, events, and webinars to showcase the sessions and speakers.
  • You can also publish your infographic on a site dedicated to these services.

Another fantastic way to incorporate infographic marketing into your strategy is by using a technique called guestographics. This strategy involves sharing your infographic to be republished on other sites relevant to your niche. For this, you’ll need to come up with an outreach strategy that looks like this:

  • Search the web for blog posts that are relatable to your infographic topic.
  • Choose posts that you think your infographic would add value to.
  • Locate the email for the owner or writer of the site.
  • Email the person and offer the use of your infographic in exchange for a link back to your site.
  • When you publish an infographic on your site, add an embed code that people can use freely. Just make sure your link is in the code.

Infographic Marketing As Part Of An Infographic Designing Strategy

Our last tip is actually a lesser-known strategy that involves offering infographic design and creation to companies looking for the service. You simply ask for a link back to your site in exchange.

Obviously, this strategy works great for those who are content marketers, content creators, and social media marketers but works well for anyone who knows how to create beautiful infographics.

The Bottom Line

In the end, developing a compelling visual identity is vital for the success of your business. It not only helps customers recognize your brand, but it also makes marketing and reaching the right audience that much easier. You can do many things once you have a brand identity created, but regardless of what strategies you employ, be sure to incorporate infographics somehow!

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