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Visual Branding and Storytelling

Learn how to connect the visual elements of your brand to your authentic story.

Your visual identity (which includes your logo, photography, social posts and website) is one of the most immediate and direct ways of influencing how someone feels about your business.

A brand’s visual identity can suggest something about the company’s core values and leave an emotional impression on potential customers, leading to higher engagement rates and the development of a distinct brand personality.

Social posts featuring candid photography in a maker’s workshop can communicate authenticity, relatability, and craft. Studio shoots with flash lighting, makeup, and wardrobe assistance can suggest a more polished and controlled brand. A handmade soap company might create a hand-drawn logo to highlight the human role in the business. A whiskey brand could use a classic typeface to hint at the company’s long heritage.There are endless ways to influence how someone feels about your business through the visual aspects of your brand.

In this article, we discuss the importance of creating a strong visual identity for your brand and go over some visual elements you can focus on as you construct a brand identity. Read from start to finish for a complete rundown on how to use visual elements in brand storytelling or skip to any section using the links below.

The importance of visual branding

When users are exposed to your brand, the first thing they tend to come into contact with is your company’s visual branding.

Whether found through your web design or social media pages, visual branding appears across multiple channels and is made up of many different elements, from the color palette and font you use to the graphics and imagery you utilize in marketing materials. The choices you make in curating these visual assets will have a significant impact on how the public views your brand.

A good visual identity will convey a brand’s values, tone, and personality. Your brand’s visual language can help set you apart from the competition and make your company, products, and services immediately recognizable and familiar.

This, in turn, can help increase brand visibility, strengthen customer relationships, and drive sales.

What is a brand story?

A brand story is a narrative that’s unique to your brand and serves to describe your company’s history, values, mission, and offerings. In most cases, a brand story will tie the inception of your company to your ongoing mission and use storytelling techniques to explain why you do what you do.

For example, let’s say you run a small business that produces salsa and you were first inspired to start your business because you noticed that so many mass-produced salsas sold in stores seemed bland, uninspired, and used ingredients sourced from unknown places—much, much different than the delicious salsa your grandma used to make for family get-togethers.

So, you dug up your grandma’s salsa recipe and used vegetables from local farms to create small-batch salsa, which you now sell online. This is one example of a brand story!

Basically, an effective brand story provides the audience with a compelling narrative that represents the company’s personality and values.

Creating a good story can help you establish a unique identity and forge a lasting impression with current and potential customers. But, in order to make a brand story truly cohesive, the narrative you present should be reflected in your brand’s visual language and visual content.

Elements of visual branding

Through stylistic choices, graphic elements, and the use of other creative assets, you can create a visual language for your brand that communicates your brand’s values and story to users.

As you begin to develop your brand’s visual language and style, make sure to keep the following elements in mind.

Logo design

Your logo will be one of the most important signifiers of your brand. Think of brands such as Apple, Nike, and McDonald’s—their logos are all immediately recognizable and familiar.

So, when coming up with a brand logo, take care to make it unique and specify rules for logo usage in your brand’s style guide.

Brand color palette

Different color palettes can solicit different emotions from your audience, so choose a color scheme that aligns with your brand’s personality and values.

Oftentimes, a neutral color palette can be a versatile choice that works on all types of marketing channels.

Typography

Fonts, text size, and the visual layout of your text are all elements that help to define your brand. With typography guidelines in place for your brand, you can ensure brand consistency and make your company stand out.

Photography and brand imagery

Graphic design, illustrations, and photography can be cornerstones of a strong visual identity. Even if all you use is stock photos, choosing imagery that aligns with your brand identity and editing photos to suit your brand’s style allows you to create a unique and consistent visual identity.

How to craft a unique visual brand identity

Now that you understand what branding is and why visual branding is so important, let’s discuss how you can build a unique visual brand identity for your own business.

Below, we share some tips that can help you craft a visual identity, connect with your audience, and boost brand awareness.

Make effective visual choices

Start by analyzing the visual identities of other businesses, both inside and outside your category. Look at their website, emails, social accounts, and any other online brand activity.

Try and work out why they made the design decisions they did—and if you would have done the same thing. Write down what you think they were trying to communicate about their businesses and whether or not the choices were effective.

Now consider what your visuals are saying about your business. It’s tempting to choose colors, typefaces, photography, and illustration that you simply like on a personal level. That works If you’re a design-led business where your personal taste is relevant to your work.

If that’s not your area of expertise, consider talking to a design professional to give you an outsider’s view on how your business comes across. It’s hard to get distance on your own business, so an experienced sounding board can be useful.

Although your visuals are important, a brand is much more than this. A brand is how a business is perceived in the mind of someone who has experienced it in some way. It’s the way your business is understood by others.

Everything from your short bio on your social media accounts to the opening statement on your website helps a potential customer understand your business.

Incorporate your story

Stories help people make sense of what’s going on around them. They provide a framework for understanding. Most importantly, stories create an emotional connection.

A well-thought-out visual identity and an authentic brand story are an incredibly powerful combination that can have a huge impact on your business.

Take The Handmade Soap Company. Founders Donagh and Gemma began making soaps in their kitchen, selling them at local farmer’s markets and to neighbors.

Even after their business grew, they remained committed to lovingly-made, natural products. How do the aspects of visual branding on their website reinforce this authentic story?

The name of the business and the hand-drawn logo make the values of the business immediately clear. The photography features the products in real homes and natural settings. The brand tagline, “Kindness comes naturally,” is a concise reminder of their brand promise. Each of these branding choices act as a tie back to their authentic story.

Stay connected to your authentic story

As a business grows in size, it can become harder to stay in touch with the spark that spurred its growth in the first place.

Working for a small business helps you remain close to your original motivations. You’ll remember the moment when you decided to start or join the business. You’ll be able to recall why you felt the business would be a success and why you’re the person to make it happen. These are the beginnings of your brand story.

One of the most difficult parts of running a small business is that your competitors watch what moves you make and will attempt to replicate your successful ones.

Even larger companies watch innovative smaller companies and simply copy what works.

The one thing that can never be replicated is the authentic story of how and why you started the business. When leveraged correctly, your story will set you apart from even your largest competitors.

Build deeper meaning into your brand

It can be tempting to use literal and obvious visuals to communicate your brand story.

Balance is key for effective branding: Make sure your visual choices are clearly connected to your story, but don’t be afraid to add a little bit of abstraction and intrigue to inspire curiosity in your brand.

Perhaps your logo features a character or you’ve named your business after an inspirational person in your life. The reason for your choices might not be immediately obvious, but this gives you an opportunity to expand on the story on your website, in customer emails and other in-depth brand touchpoints.

The visual aspects of your brand should communicate something about your deeper brand story, even if it is on the most subtle level. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to reinforce and strengthen your brand with authenticity.

Engage customers through brand storytelling

Every successful brand uses visuals to tell a story and connect with their audience.

From your brand’s logo to its color palette to the nice images on its social media pages, every visual element serves to reinforce your brand’s personality and help you stand out from the competition.

Not sure where to start when it comes to visual branding for your company?

Consider taking the time to sit down and create a brand style guide. By creating a document that outlines your brand’s style and how it ties into your company’s values, you can develop a powerful visual style that customers recognize.

Brand storytelling becomes easier when you’re equipped with the right tools. Using Mailchimp’s all-in-one marketing platform, you can create on-brand designs, explore our template library, and maintain a consistent visual identity across various platforms and channels. Try Mailchimp today to more effectively manage your brand’s online presence.

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