Have you seen Star Wars? Of course you have.
My colleagues at Copyblogger are a little crazy about this movie, so when they found out that I had never seen Star Wars, they all freaked out.
The next day, I received a package with the complete trilogy on Blu-ray (the original one, of course) from our Chief Digital Officer, Chris Garrett.
I rushed to my TV set and watched them all at once.
I really enjoyed the films, but the visual branding of the dark forces really held my attention.
What can we learn about building a visual brand from Star Wars?
Find the right balance
Let’s first look at the handsome fellows that make up the dark forces:
Maybe they all look a little too plain or boring, but they are amazingly cohesive and elegant (good job, Darth Vader!).
Now, let’s look at the good guys:
They’re definitely more interesting, but there is no consistency at all here. They might all work for a good cause, but their visual representation is poor.
You want your brand to fall somewhere between these two examples.
Your visual branding should be simple, polished, and cohesive — but with a little touch of Chewbacca.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about today …
What is a visual brand, and why is it important?
On the internet, your competition is just a few clicks away, so it’s really important to have a strong visual presence. You want to capture attention immediately and invite people to engage with your content.
Visual branding alone won’t sell your product or service, but it’ll help you connect with the right audience on many different levels.
It’s about telling a story, creating a coherent user experience, and appealing to emotions.
Set core principles
Every brand has a story to tell. What’s yours? Are you a group of friends who want to save the world or an emperor who wants to conquer it?
First, define in simple terms what you want your visual brand to represent.
Who’s your target audience? Create an imagined profile (persona) of a typical user/client.
You can then create a mind map of words and ideas that best describe your brand. Take it further and create a mood board (you could possibly use Pinterest) that includes stock photos, colors, screenshots, typography, and anything else you think will help visualize the concept of your brand.
Have your mind map or mood board encompass all the core principles of your visual brand. Look at it every time you create a new visual piece.
Compare your website, your social media accounts, and even your blog post’s featured images with the mind map or mood board you’ve just created. It’ll help you stay focused on your core principles.
Create visual patterns
Patterns help keep your visual brand consistent.
Your colors and typography are the two most important elements; define them first. Once you’ve chosen them, don’t alter them from page to page or product to product.
Be very specific. For example, “red” is not your brand color, but “#d61818” might be. Be just as specific with fonts: “sans-serif” is not your font, but “Museo Sans” might be.
You can go further and expand your visual patterns to elements like your layout (specific spacings, margins, paddings), imagery, iconography, etc.
Remember, we don’t want it all to look like stormtroopers, so it’s a good idea to break up the pattern occasionally and create something unique when you need to enhance a certain element on your page, such as your call to action.
You’ll quickly see that cohesive visual branding is powerful — and its purpose is not just to make your website look “nice.”
Preserve your visual brand
How can you make sure your visual brand is used properly by your team and well-preserved throughout all of your websites, products, and services?
Create a brand guideline document that defines all of your visual elements.
Here’s the basic information you’ll want to include:
- Logo: sample usage and vector formats of different versions (on a black background, on a white background, etc.)
- Colors: hex code, RGB, CMYK, and Pantone
- Fonts: names and where to get both desktop and web versions (make sure the font you chose has a web version!)
- Imagery: sample stock photos and where to get them
- Iconography: sample icons and where to get the full icon set
Make this document a complete cheat sheet for your team to look at whenever they need to either design something themselves (with Canva, for example), work with your web designer, or work with a print shop.
Everyone on your team should have access to these files and documents.
If you have an in-house designer, or even an entire design team, share these brand guidelines with them to avoid any confusion or mistakes.
Build your striking visual brand today
So, what does your current visual brand look like?
Do you think it tells an honest story and evokes the emotions you want? Is it boring, but consistent — or interesting, but messy?
May the force be with you.