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04 October 2023 • Resources

Visual identity: Guide with definition and tips for your brand [2024]

Visual identity: Guide with definition and tips for your brand [2024]

At a time when competition on the web is increasingly fierce for brands, it's essential to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. What's more, multiple studies agree that around 65% of people have a visual memory. So you need to focus on the look and feel of your communication materials and website to make a lasting impression with your current and future customers!

In other words, your visual identity should be carefully crafted. The more impactful it is, the more you'll be able to promote your company and raise your profile.

Visual identity and brand image: Definition

Visual identity is the foundation of your communications strategy. In a way, it's your company's passport. It must be visible on all your communication media, including for instance, different types of content marketing. It must be able to attract the attention of your potential customers, but also ensure their loyalty, while helping you to stand out from your competitors.

Visual identity or graphic charter: What's the difference between the two?

Visual identity refers to all the graphic elements that create an atmosphere around your brand. It revolves around a certain choice of colors, shapes, images, illustrations, or any other graphic object.

Visual identity is present especially in the following:

  • logo and its variants;
  • color palette, graphic elements, and fonts;
  • images and illustrations;
  • layout style;
  • business cards;
  • other digital visuals, such as banner ads or social network posts; and
  • overall design of your website or blog, etc.

The graphic charter, on the other hand, is the name of the document that lists all these elements. It's a detailed report of your visual identity, to be passed on to your collaborators and/or partners working in this direction.

For example, the graphic charter may detail the exact shape of your logo, as well as its dimensions and various variations. It can indicate your main color palette and possible color combinations. It stipulates the precise structure of your website and your various communication media... It's the reference manual for your company's visual identity.

What is the importance of visual identity?

Today, 93% of internet users do a Google search before buying a product on the web. On this search engine, competition is fierce. To convert as many people as possible, you need to be quickly and durably identifiable. Visual identity therefore makes a major contribution to your ecommerce site's reputation.

To be effective, your visual identity must tell a story. It must set the scene for your brand. Just by looking at your communication materials, your buyers should get an idea of your values. Your visual identity is, in a way, the translation of your marketing strategy. It graphically formalizes your company's mission and ambitions. That's why companies are no longer content with a simple name typed into Word as a logo. Visual communication goes far beyond that.

Your visual identity is your company's first showcase on the web. It's what your customers will first perceive about your brand. In other words, visual identity can give an immediate impression of reliability and trustworthiness. Just like with content marketing examples, when it's not done properly, it becomes a real deterrent to purchase.

How do you begin to create your visual identity?

To create a high-quality visual identity, you first need to ask yourself the right questions, such as the following:

  • In what range is my company positioned?
  • What are its founding values?
  • Who are my potential customers?

Logically, a formal law firm won't have the same graphic identity as a startup or a company specializing in the sale of natural and organic products.

To design a coherent visual identity, you first need to be sure of what you want to communicate.

How do you use your visual identity?

Once your visual identity has been properly defined, you will need to deploy it across a wide range of media. To be memorable and durably identifiable, visual identity needs to be everywhere, from your website to your business cards, from all your correspondence to your packages.

Your communication materials can be printed first. In fact, your visual identity can be applied to as many kinds of media as you can imagine, from classic business cards to vehicle wraps, stamps, and billboards.

At the same time, your visual identity can also be used online: in this case, it becomes immaterial. It can appear on your website, social networks, or newsletters.

What are the 5 main components of visual identity? 

10 seconds: that's the maximum time you have to convince your visitors to stay on your web page and connect with your company or not. It all comes down to a snap of the fingers, which is why it's absolutely vital to work on your image. To do this, visual identity is broken down into several crucial points.

1. Logo: your company's coat of arms

The logo is generally the central element of a corporate identity. It's therefore the first element you should work on creating after the development of your graphic line. It alone must embody the quintessence of your brand.

The logo is undoubtedly the most evocative element of a brand. It must allow you to be quickly identified. It must also be timeless. It's absolutely unthinkable to change it every month!

It must also be adaptable to all media and possibly your product as well. For example, you could create a colorful ecommerce logo, which you could also offer in black and white, or a logo that you could simplify to create a Favicon. It should also be available in different sizes.

A company logo needs to be easy to understand and remember.

Finally, think in terms of the long term: will your current logo still be viable if your company expands, by broadening your sector of activity or conquering other markets? You don't want your logo to be restrictive!

2. Color palette: your brand signature

Selecting your color palette is one of the first challenges when creating a visual identity. According to color psychology in marketingeach sector of activity is globally affiliated with specific marketing colors. For example, black, white, and gold are very present in brands in the luxury sector. Pastel or flashy colors are more common in creative agencies.

It's important to understand that, generally speaking, each color has its own symbolism. This is a fundamental rule, much studied in the field of communications. For example, black is a sign of elegance and timelessness. White stands for finesse and purity. Blue embodies serenity and self-confidence. Orange is a color synonymous with dynamism and relaxation. Green refers to nature or ecology. Pink evokes greed, sweetness, and romance.

3. Typography: your difference on the web

Typography is used everywhere: on your logo, your website and all your other documents. It's your mouthpiece! But it must also contribute to your being perfectly understood.

Typography must be clear enough to be read correctly. Its size should be appropriate, as should its shape and thickness. If you choose to use several different fonts, be very careful to choose complementary typefaces so as to preserve visual harmony.

4. Content shapes: the creation of your world

Shapes, icons and pictograms are part of a suggested language. These elements also help to convey your image and values. Here again, it's essential to maintain a certain graphic consistency between all your elements.

For example, if you use an arrow on your communication materials, I strongly advise you to always choose the same one!

5. Layout of your ecommerce site

Finally, the layout of your site is key. It contributes to the user experience. It must be clear, ergonomic and intuitive. It's also essential for all your documents. It's better to focus on quality than on providing a surplus of information, at the risk of overloading your pages.

If visitors to your site have had a bad user experience on their first visit to your pages, chances are they won't come back. As you build your online store, you'll therefore want to be sure to devote plenty of time and attention to this step to make the experience of shopping on your site as easy and enjoyable as possible.

What makes a strong visual identity? Guidelines to follow

In the following section, we delve into the essential guidelines for crafting a strong visual identity for your brand. These principles serve as a roadmap to help ensure that your brand's visual elements align seamlessly with its core identity, creating a memorable and consistent brand image.

Keep your brand identity in mind

Your brand identity should lead the way for your visuals, not the reverse. Your visuals serve as the expression of your essence, making it crucial to establish your identity first.

Although your brand can evolve, it's essential to define the fundamentals of your brand strategy. In this step, you'll want to consider, for instance, what values drive you, what your mission statement is, how your brand benefits consumers, what kinds of shoppers make up your target audience, what style guides your communication, etc.

By ensuring that you have a brand strategy that's well defined, you will be able to better create a foundation for harmonizing your purpose, values, and objectives into a unified brand identity. Within this strategic framework, you can proactively shape your visual identity to maintain alignment.

Have a good understanding of your target audience

Having a thorough understanding of your target audience is essential for creating a strong visual identity for your brand. Your visual identity serves as the face of your brand, and it's through these visual elements that your audience forms their first impressions and emotional connections

Just like how knowing your buyer personas' preferences, tastes, and behaviors is the best way to be able to decide what to include in your product catalog, it will also help you be able to tailor your visual identity to resonate with potential customers. The visual elements you choose, such as colors, typography, and imagery, should align with what appeals to your target demographic.

In addition, a strong visual identity communicates your brand's values, personality, and offerings. Understanding your audience enables you to convey these messages effectively in a way that connects with their needs and desires.

A clear understanding of your audience also ensures that you maintain consistency in your visual identity across all touchpoints. Consistency fosters recognition, making your brand more memorable and trustworthy.

Finally, remember that as your target audience evolves, so should your visual identity. Staying attuned to changes in your audience's preferences and demographics allows you to adapt your brand's visual elements to remain relevant.

Learn about the basic elements of design

Design elements such as color, typography, imagery, and layout are the building blocks of visual communication. Understanding the basic elements of design empowers you to craft a visual identity that not only looks appealing but also effectively communicates your brand's essence, making a lasting impact on your audience.

These elements have the power to evoke emotions and convey messages. The right choice of colors, typography, and imagery can shape how your brand is perceived and the emotions it triggers in your audience. Furthermore, knowing how to use these items effectively ensures that your message resonates with your audience.

Understanding the basic elements of design also gives you more flexibility. A solid grasp of design basics allows you to adapt your visual identity to different mediums and evolving trends without compromising your brand's integrity.

Prioritize simplicity

Prioritizing simplicity is paramount in creating a strong visual identity for your brand for several reasons. To start, simple visual elements are easier to remember. A clean, uncluttered logo or design is more likely to leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Next, simplicity enhances brand recognition. A straightforward and easily identifiable visual identity makes it easier for consumers to associate your visuals with your brand.

What's more, simple designs communicate messages more clearly. When visual elements are uncomplicated, they convey your brand's essence and values without confusion. They're also less likely to become outdated as design trends evolve, ensuring the longevity of your visual identity.

In addition, simple visuals are versatile and can adapt to various contexts and applications, from digital platforms to physical products and packaging. Simplicity can also help make your brand more accessible to a wider audience. It transcends language and cultural barriers, enhancing your brand's global appeal.

Be consistent

Considering the extensive collection of branding materials that accrue throughout years of operation, your visual identity will naturally consist of numerous components. The task at hand is ensuring that every visual element, regardless of its intended use or platform, maintains a cohesive brand appearance. This is where the presence of comprehensive brand style guidelines becomes indispensable.

This style guide serves as a blueprint for your team, providing clear instructions on how to employ your logos, color palette, and font options. In-depth visual style guides delve into specifics, encompassing illustration techniques, photography preferences, iconography, shapes, textures, patterns, and stringent typography guidelines.

For a cohesive visual identity, your visual style guide should complement your brand guide seamlessly. It must also be easily accessible to all team members, spanning from marketing and sales to design and customer service.

Tailor your assets to suit the medium

To build a strong visual identity, it's crucial to grasp the intricacies of each medium, enhancing both design and communication. While your brand may possess a well-defined style guide, the ability to apply it correctly is equally vital.

As different designers handle diverse assets, a comprehensive understanding of the core visual identity allows for tailored adaptations. This may involve adjusting logo sizing or resolution for various platforms or ensuring an appropriate color palette for both online and print materials. 

By closely observing consumer behaviors, habits, and the purpose behind each branding element, you can cultivate a more robust visual identity that deeply resonates with your audience.

Collaborate with a professional designer or agency

If your budget allows, consider enlisting the expertise of design professionals to handle the more complex aspects of your visual identity. A skilled designer possesses the ability to effectively convey your brand's essence in a manner that harmonizes with its core values.

Brand designers, in particular, specialize in crafting a unified visual identity for your brand and formulating the strategic framework that supports it. They bring proficiency in creating comprehensive visual branding systems, whether starting from scratch or revitalizing an existing one.

In cases where hiring a professional is not feasible, you can turn to design tools designed for people who don't necessarily consider themselves to be design experts. Examples such as Canva and Stencil are powerful tools offering templates that incorporate fundamental principles of good design, providing a helpful resource for maintaining visual consistency.

Final thoughts

Nowadays, content is increasingly visual for brands. As we've described in this article, your visual communication can help you save precious time and get your message across faster and more effectively. 

Its benefits are similar to the benefits of content marketing in that it's one of the first indications of your seriousness, makes a major contribution to your potential customers' perception, and can help differentiate you from your competitors. That's why visual identity must play a central role in your conversion strategy.

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