Companies of all sizes need a strong brand presence to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. This often includes a set color palette, font choices, and an established logo. But these days, simply defining these facets of your brand is no longer enough. Today, companies that invest in a visual language have the opportunity to take things to the next level.
A visual language goes beyond simple brand standards by defining a specific illustration style, icon style, and data visualization style for all branded content. Too often, businesses fall short on this extra step and produce content with mixed illustration and icon styles. This can come across as disjointed, cluttered, and sometimes confusing for the viewer.
Here are five reasons your brand needs to establish its own visual language today.
1. Today's marketing campaigns require consistency.
Today's marketers use 12-14 types of visual content to accomplish a single goal. So think about it: if your brand were able to produce content that utilized a consistent visual language, wouldn't that content be easier to identify as yours by your audience? And if so, wouldn't it help them connect the dozen or so pieces of information you have been publishing, and deliver them down the sales funnel faster?
If you produce 12-14 pieces of content that do not have a connecting visual structure, a viewer could either completely miss key pieces of your campaign, or worse, mistake it as content from a competitor.
2. You can target key customers far easier.
When producing a visual language, brands have the opportunity to step back and consider their key customer more closely. They can produce an illustration style that speaks specifically to that customer, versus casting a wide and often costly net to target the everyman.
Different audiences have varying levels of expectations when it comes to visual content, but all have discerning eyes. If you are using a variety of illustration styles in your visual content without any consideration for the expectations of your target audience, you could be losing more business than gaining it.
If your customer range is broad, your illustration style can be used to display your value to all demographics. Goldman Sachs does a good job of exactly this. They prefer visuals that make use of stippling--the dot-based illustration style that you find on money. By leading with a style that we see on our own currency, they are sending a subconscious message to their audience that their brand is synonymous with money.
3. A visual language will help with quality control.
Once you've identified a key illustration style, you can then choose an icon style that pairs well with your illustrations. This will help control quality by ensuring that visual styles do not clash.
Quality is very important when producing visual content. A study conducted by Northumbria and Sheffield Universities found that 94 percent of first impressions of your brand or service will be based entirely on the design of your visual content. This means that it's imperative you avoid the common mistake of pairing vastly different icon styles with illustration styles, because this combination looks cluttered and unprofessional.
4. A visual language will meet consumers' voracious need for content.
Today more than ever, producing myriad pieces of visual content is a must to connect with your end audience. But how can you do this with any efficiency if your designers are delivering different styles every week? With 83 percent of marketers investing in visual content in 2017, and 76 percent increasing their investment this year, brands have to keep up.
When you have an established visual language, not only can you avoid a game of design bingo, but you can also develop a digital toolkit of illustration and icon assets over time. These assets can be readily reused, allowing for added efficiencies that you would not have without an established visual language.
5. Each arm of your business can stand apart while still carrying your primary brand forward
Larger brands see a lot of success with visual language development because their businesses often have many branches, all competing for attention and resources. By developing a separate visual language for each business arm, they have the opportunity to stand out while still carrying the primary brand forward. This can be done by identifying a separate illustration, icon, and sometimes data visualization style for each branch, while keeping the color palette and font choices universal to the primary brand.
When companies move beyond traditional brand development and invest in creating a strategic visual language, they are laying a foundation for continued success. In fact, with 91 percent of today's audiences preferring visual content over traditional forms of marketing, brands that build a visual language today are simply serving their customers where it matters most.