How to Create a Unique Visual Language for Your Brand

Follow these steps and learn, from successful examples, how to build a recognizable and unique visual language.

Brand Design
October 3, 2023

Table of Contents

A specific visual language can enrich your marketing strategy and solve problems with recognition, brand awareness, and even censorship. Here is how to create your brand’s own system of communication with simple steps in mind.

In graphic design and marketing, every asset you create and effort you make to promote your business is usually based on a strict brand guideline and visual strategy. Having a brand book and a game plan greatly helps with making everything consistent, on-brand and creative.

Still, sometimes brands need to reinvent how they communicate with the audience and create a visual language from scratch. Through the usage of unconventional materials, symbology, iconography, photo manipulation and typographic art, brands can relay a message that is abstract, ambiguous and unique only to them.

If you are trying to build a visual language that is true to your brand and will help your audience remember it quickly, here are some basic things to follow.

Stick to your style guide

When creating your unique visual language, do not do it at the expense of neglecting your style guide and brand book. Even further, don’t start using a hip and trendy look because it is in now, but will hurt your brand image.

There also isn’t a fixed definition of what a symbol or object means in graphic design. Blue can mean ‘trustworthy’ and ‘loyal’ for banks, but ‘cold’ and ‘unappetizing’ for food logos.

So, make sure you define what colors, typography, symbols, icons and images mean for your brand. You will later enforce and consistently use these elements in marketing and branding, and they will evoke the emotion you have in mind naturally.

Be creative with your materials

Both the medium and the materials you use in your advertising can be something you play with. Although the usual strategy is to take photos, play with typography or illustrations, you can use objects and symbols that make sense for your brand.

For example, in their ads, Lego uses legos in its ads, which is a great opportunity to display the product in a great way, and to show the real beauty of playing with these building blocks: letting your imagination grow and be whatever you want.

In another cool ad campaign by Nike, the ad is not displayed in print or digital media, but in the physical world. By removing the bottom parts of benches in parks, it inspired people to run and stay active, promoting its running gear.

Don’t be afraid to come up with your own meanings

It is very hard to stay creative, noticeable and true to the brand at the same time. Some brands are seemingly doomed to boring, corporate aesthetics, while others enforce the same messaging for years that it gets really hard to change the viewers’ perception of them when they want to do it.

Advertisements often display people they think are relatable to their users and situations in which products are used. You see a family drinking Coke and having dinner, or a young man buying an engagement ring and using his Mastercard. And these are the ads that we know and love.

And then, there are brands that cannot easily show the products they sell or situations they are used in, which leaves them with very limited options.

I have used this example for Durex dozens of times, and it still surprises me how good it is.

A similar example is this poster for the Skopje 2017 Pride Week Festival, dedicated to the transgender community, titled Trans formations. The usage of fruits and vegetables commonly related to human genitalia in the emoji era was a censorship-free, quirky and ingenious way that is still artistic, for the poster to explain what the event is about.

Design by Igor Delov

So, a safety pin can mean safe sex, and an aubergine/fig mashup can be a symbol for trans pride. Don’t be afraid to think abstractly in your visual language.

Use consistent visual elements

Whether you have a more conventional approach to your visual style or feel like experimenting and forming your own visual system, the key to your audience remembering the brand is consistency.

From ads to internal branding, web design to your products’ packaging, the same visual identity needs to be used all across the board.

This way, you will ensure that your target audience sees (and after a while) remembers your brand elements and unique style well.

Stick to the principles of visual communication

Creativity is important, but so are principles and general conventions.

Here’s what to keep in mind when visually communicating with your audience:

  • Know your target audiences: What is their demographic group? What kind of aesthetic is popular among them? Which social media channels do they use? Which values are important to them? How much can they spend?
  • Communicate data and abstract information visually: A picture is worth a thousand words, and this is not an overstatement. Data visualization is a very important and helpful tool in visual communication since it can help you relay huge portions of information in an easy-to-comprehend way.
  • Know the basic principles of graphic design: Hierarchy, balance, white space, symmetry and other rules will ensure the quality of your composition.
  • Use visuals that provide value: Visual elements don’t exist only to beautify your assets and content. Most of the time, they serve a purpose and provide value.

Always look for design inspiration

The final advice is to never stop noticing the trends, styles and inspiring efforts by other companies around you, and compiling design inspiration,

There are many materials to learn from, whether it is books, magazines, podcasts, blogs or simply the ads that surround us everywhere. So, keep your eyes open and continue growing your inspiration library.

Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.

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