Creating a Visual Brand Identity

Creating a Visual Brand Identity

What is a Visual Brand Identity?

A visual brand identity is the set of visual elements that define a brand. This can include logos, color palettes, fonts, and other graphic elements. These elements are of much importance because they completely define a brand’s first impression to a client or customer. This can make these identities difficult to design because there is so much thought that must go into them. You must think about the customers or clients of the company and you must think about the company itself.

What Elements Make Up a Visual Brand Identity or Design System?

The Adobe website outlines the five elements that are key to an effective design system. These are listed below, along with examples for each element.

  1. Design principles: Shopify’s experience values
  2. Foundations: Adobe Spectrum’s Foundations
  3. Components: Google’s Material Design components
  4. Guidelines: Zendesk’s content guidelines
  5. Resources: IBM Carbon Designing: Get Started guide

Brain Lightbulb

Using The 5 Design Elements to Create a Branded Experience

The design principles outline and portray the customer’s experience of the brand which sets the tone for the entirety of the brand elements to follow. Foundations are basically the elements included in your style guide: colors, imagery, illustrations, typography, etc. Components refers to the elements for creating user interfaces. Guidelines are the explanations of when certain elements should be utilized, what elements can be used where, and more. Finally, resources include tools like plug-ins and a design system website for all designers and developers to utilize.

How to Start the Process

There is no right way to get started – every person thinks differently, therefore, everyone designs differently. Getting started simply requires finding a particular set of images or elements. These visual assets can become a good springboard for the designer to create the visual aspects of a brand’s design system. Some Graphic Design professors push you to work in a certain order when completing this process, but this doesn’t work for every designer. Just know that there are always multiple paths for the branding process and staying motivated as a designer.

Finding Inspiration by Starting Simple

If you are having trouble getting inspired to design, start by choosing elements that are of particular interest to you. For example, If color is what you need to establish before creating other design elements then start by choosing colors. If you are having trouble because you need more of a challenge when you design then try incorporating elements that are vaguely inspired by other things in life. Almost anything can give you the initial inspiration you need to get in the branding mood: an old illustration that you have been dying to use, the colors from your favorite album cover, or even the things you learned about in Anthropology. It’s okay to embrace weird design, or get inspiration from unrelated items.


Branding Illustration and Moodboard


Identify the Unique Style for your Brand

Designers can also benefit from starting with different design aspects that might inspire them to build further. If you are more of an analytical person, it may be easiest for you to start the process by making a list of words that describe what kind of visual style you are going for or doing research on topics related to the brand. What kind of words come to mind when you imagine your complete ideal brand? If you are more of an emotional/visual person, you may like to begin by choosing colors and design elements or looking up inspiration by searching for visual elements that mimic your envisioned design. What visuals inspire you? What emotions do you want your designs to evoke? Do you already have some branding elements, but are considering a rebrand?

Build on Your Ideas with a Moodboard

One of the most common practices in this process is the creation of a moodboard. A moodboard can be an extremely helpful tool and allow for the incorporation of almost all the elements I listed above. You can include images, illustrations, other visual elements, inspiring words, fonts, and almost anything else that you need. You can gather these elements however you want: in an Adobe Illustrator file, in a Google Doc, or on another platform. InVision is a very useful platform that, among other things, allows you to make moodboards. Please read our related blog post about Facilitating the Design Process With a Mood Board.

Kelsey, an author on the DesignUps Nashville Design Blog

About the Author

Kelsey is a Graphic Design major at Middle Tennessee State University and is completing an internship with DesignUps. Kelsey has an intense interest in all things branding and loves to listen to 90's rock.