What is Visual Branding?
As a graphic designer, I find often people have no idea what I do. "So you make logos and stuff?" is the closest I come to getting people to understand in a quick conversation. It's about time I actually sit down and explain what it is I do for people who aren't familiar with design.
Graphic design is a huge field, with lots of possibilities, so I'm going to keep it simple and just define my focus: visual branding.
What is branding?
Branding is the culmination of every interaction a business has with its audience. This includes design, copy, its storefront (physical or digital), its services/products, customer service, and more. Basically anything related to your business that comes in contact with your customers is a part of your branding.
What is visual branding?
Visual branding is simply the entire visual part of your brand. Which can be a lot of different things, which is why it's so hard for me to describe what I do in a few words. The short answer is: I make your business look good.
But even that doesn't fully describe what I do - because visual branding is more than "looking good" - there are thousands of ways to look good, but not all of them will work with your business. Your business's visual brand communicates with your customers - it's my job to make sure it's communicating what you want it to.
For more on how visual brands communicate, read my last post: Establishing a Mood for Your Brand
what can visual branding encompass?
This is just a small list to get you thinking about what your visual brand includes - it is by no means a complete list. I'm not sure it's even possible to make a complete list.
- Logo design
- Stationary design (business cards, letterheads, envelopes, etc)
- Social media graphics (profile picture, header, posted photos, etc)
- Printed marketing materials (flyers, posters, coupons, brochures, etc)
- Online marketing materials (ads, email marketing, etc)
- Physical storefront (interior/exterior design, signage, etc)
- Packaging (for physical products)
Do I need visual branding?
This is actually a misleading question, because I'm here to tell you: you already have visual branding. Even if your "logo" is just your business name in Times New Roman, you have a visual brand, and that brand is telling your clients about you, whether you want it or not.
Dress for the job you want
Everyone knows that appearances play a big part in first impressions - that's why there are so many articles on how to dress for a job interview or a first date. Even past first impressions, your appearance continues to affect how people perceive and treat you.
I see a lot of small businesses with very obviously DIY-ed designs that are working against their (probably) great services and products. For example, my parents live down the street from a florist whose sign is just their business name in Comic Sans (shudder). What this tells me about their business: well, if I were to guess, they designed their sign in Microsoft Word in 5 minutes - so how I can be sure they make floral arrangements with care? I actually think they're probably a fine business, with beautiful bouquets, but their sign definitely gives me pause.
A lot of people think visual branding is a luxury for businesses with money to spare, but sticking to low-quality, DIY-ed designs can really prevent your business from getting to the point where it has "money to spare." (Whatever that means.)
Hopefully now you understand what visual branding it and how important it is. If you're ready to be more intentional with your visual brand, you have two options for moving forward.
Option 1: hire a designer
If you're able to work it into your budget, hire a professional (like me). A good designer will already understand how to create a brand that works for you, and only communicates good things to your audience. This will save you a lot of time and energy trying to learn how to effectively brand your business and how to use design software.
There are several price ranges for visual branding - if your budget is tight, consider just getting your logo, fonts & color scheme created. That way the foundation of your brand is created, and you have a framework to work in when creating collateral.
Option 2: Do it yourself
If you absolutely have no budget to hire a designer, it's possible to create an effective visual brand on your own. This is not something you should rush - make sure to do a lot of reading & research on what makes an effective visual brand, and familiarize yourself with whatever design software you're going to be using. Please, for the sake of my sanity, DO NOT use Microsoft Word.
For whichever option you choose, I have a free worksheet that will get you through the initial brainstorming for your visual brand. If you're hiring a designer, you can complete the worksheet and hand it over to them - it will tell them all they need to know to create an effective visual brand tailored to your business.
If you're DIYing it, this worksheet will help you to narrow your focus and figure out exactly what you want your brand to communicate. From there, you can research how to make your vision happen.
CHALLENGE: USE WHAT YOU READ
Reading an article does nothing for you until you use what you learned. This week's challenge is included in the free branding questionnaire you get by signing up for my newsletter (above). When you have completed the guide, you'll have all of the groundwork you need to start creating and cultivating a powerful visual brand.