The Role of a Visual Vocabulary in Brand Identity Design

Visual elements are a major part of your business's brand identity design. The keystone of that design is the logo, but in many cases, the logo isn't enough to convey all of your brand attributes. A visual vocabulary is a way to reinforce and add to the messaging that is contained in your logo.

A company's visual vocabulary consists of the secondary design elements that are used in conjunction with your logo to form your brand identity. The visual vocabulary is composed of font styles, colors, shapes, layout conventions, backgrounds, photographic library, text treatments (such as taglines) and even the type of paper you choose.

These elements should be used consistently throughout your stationery set and marketing collateral and have the following 9 advantages over use of a logo and text alone:

? The elements of your visual vocabulary become a graphic language, which takes your viewer deeper into your graphics and materials. They add visual interest and continue to tell your business's story. They are another way that you can communicate about your business with potential clients and prospects, aside from the actual words and text about your business.

? Graphics in a visual vocabulary are a method of communication that's more quickly understood than text alone. A viewer can absorb the meanings of colors, symbols, photos, shapes and even font types much more quickly than by reading text. So, in cases where time is of the essence ? when you're marketing to busy people, creating motion graphics such as animations or commercials or designing items that people will quickly pass by, such as car graphics or billboards, this is an important consideration.

? Many people have a deeper emotional connection with graphics than they do with text. Customers will be more likely to form an emotional bond with your brand and company if you use more graphics, as opposed to just using your logo and text on a letterhead, business card, datasheet or brochure. Color and photography are two of the most effective visual vocabulary elements to use to affect this emotional brand connection.

? You can communicate some of the "personality factors" of your business through your visual vocabulary. You can make your company look more professional or people-oriented, more contemporary or traditional or communicate any of your company's values by varying the shapes, colors and fonts used as the surrounding visual vocabulary. So, if you choose your vocabulary elements carefully, the story of the personality of your company can be told through those elements.

? Using a visual vocabulary consistently throughout all of your corporate materials will automatically make your materials look more coherent, credible and professional, through the repetitive use of consistent elements.

? The right combination of visual vocabulary elements can also make your materials more eye-catching. When your materials are in competition with others ? in a stack of proposals, on a table with other brochures or even a postcard coming out of a crowded mailbox ? they'll have a better chance of getting noticed when they are designed with stunning and unique visual vocabulary elements.

? Forty percent of viewers better remember visual elements. A visual vocabulary will increase the memorability of your materials as well, since people will have more visual elements to remember in your materials.

? Elements of the visual vocabulary can reinforce your logo to help quicken the brand recognition building process. One common way that we do this is to use a large version of the company's logo, or a portion of the logo, as a watermark on the letterhead, business card, envelope or website. Not only does this vocabulary element effect add visual interest, but it will help to speed the time that it takes for your potential customers and existing clients to recognize and remember your brand.

? A visual vocabulary becomes a tool kit from which you can easily pull visual elements to create new marketing materials. If you have a business card and brochure and need to create a post card quickly, then many of your visual elements, such as color scheme, font styles and even layout and photograph choices can be pulled from the existing marketing materials and rearranged to create a new piece. This is especially convenient when you have a short time or low budget to produce new marketing materials.

The bonus function of a visual vocabulary is that when you're doing a special promotion, launching a new product or extending your services or product line, you can vary elements of the visual vocabulary or even develop a new set of visual vocabulary elements, to make the materials for your new promotion stand out. While consistency throughout a campaign is important, the elements of your visual vocabulary aren't as set in stone as your logo. This is especially effective when you work just with the colors and drawn elements and leave the text and tagline treatments the same. That way, your materials will still be partially consistent with your other company materials, but you can give your new product or promotion's materials a voice of its own.

Adding some visual vocabulary elements to your brand identity makes communicating with your audience easier, quicker and more emotionally charged. This gives you a highly effective way to increase your visibility and memorability. When used correctly, they can increase your credibility as well. They even can help add some personality to your brand identity and can make future marketing materials easier to develop. And, unlike your company logo, you can modify the visual vocabulary elements you use from time to time to spice up your business communications.

About the Author

Erin Ferree, Founder and Lead Designer of elf design, is a brand identity and graphic design expert. She has been helping small businesses grow with bold, clean and effective logo and marketing material designs for over a decade. elf design offers the comprehensive graphic and web design services of a large agency, with the one- on-one, personalized attention of an independent design specialist. Erin works closely in partnership with her clients to create designs that are visible, credible and memorable ? and that tell their unique business stories in a clear and consistent way. For more information about elf design, please visit: Logo design at

home | site map
© 2005