Visual content, brand positioning and outstanding user experience (UX) are main things that help businesses stand out from the competition. Combined, they constitute your visual identity. This visual identity makes you different in the eyes of existing and potential customers. Both brand positioning and UX center around a company's interaction with its target audience. Brand messaging constitutes the foundation of any business-customer relationship. However, your visual identity and the form in which your company communicates with its buyers play a pivotal role - and ultimately determines the overall success of your customer engagement.
That’s why a properly designed visual identity can not only make a company’s digital presence beautiful. But it is also an effective tool for demonstrating a brand “personality” and improving the overall user experience (UX).
In this article, we will provide some visual design examples. We’ll explain how elements of graphic design and visual content constitute content marketing 101. Additionally, we’ll explain how it can strengthen your bond with customers.
We’ll also provide you with some useful tips for creating an outstanding brand image with the help of visuals and user interface (UI) design. But before we dive into the practical stuff, let’s briefly outline the basics.
What is a "visual identity"?
Visual identity and branding are often used interchangeably. But, they are not the same thing. Branding is a broad term and is about how a business wants to be perceived by consumers or clients.
For instance, a coffee shop that uses only recyclable coffee cups may identify itself as an eco-friendly place. They can demonstrate this through design as well as visual and text content. This position would be a distinctive feature differentiating it from many other cafes which also offer good coffee.
At the same time, a visual identity is a set of visible elements that would help the coffee shop convey its brand message. In general, it may include anything from interior design, graphic design principles and elements, to a logo. But if we narrow it down only to the digital presence, then visual identity would consist of the following two blocks:
- elements of basic design (i.e. typography, colors, layouts, grids, etc.)
- visual content (i.e. images, infographics, screenshots, videos used mainly for marketing purpose)
So, for example, a green color palette might be a great choice for a website or mobile app of the eco-friendly coffee shop. See the example below. At the same time, an infographic showing what happens with coffee cups after they’ve been used would be a nice supplement to its blog posts or marketing emails. They could also feature as pamphlets or posters.
The above case is oversimplified, but it perfectly explains the main idea. When website visitors know what you and your offers are about, their trust and engagement levels increase. This naturally leads to better experience optimization, business growth, and higher profits.
Why establishing effective visual communication is a must
As human beings, we perceive visual information easier and process it faster than plain text. That’s why internet users in most cases prefer images and infographics to other types of content. In fact, visual content statistics really underline this:
- People are really good at remembering images. One study found that people remember 55 percent more information they heard three days ago - if there was a picture added to it.
- Infographics can drive the increase in website traffic by 12 percent. On top of that, internet users spend more time on a web page if it contains informative visuals. See what type of visuals draws perform best in the image below.
- Interestingly, Twitter users retweet 150 percent more tweets that contain images as compared to tweets without photos, memes or infographics.
- It’s three times easier for people to follow visual instructions than written guidelines. This is why you should focus on illustrations, icons, and color hierarchy which guide users to their goal when creating UX design for a digital product.
- More than 63 percent of digital buyers believe that the quality product image is more important than a detailed product description or reviews.
- Internet articles that contain images have 6.5 times higher engagement than text-only blog posts.
So how design works, creating engaging visuals and building a decent design system, is not only about drawing customer attention. It's also about communicating and conveying information in an efficient way.
It’s worth mentioning that there is no visual content vs text confrontation. Both types of content are important elements of any good content marketing strategy and brand positioning. That’s why they should complement rather than replace each other.
The role of design and visual content in branding
As we’ve outlined above, visual appearance is a crucial component of a company’s online presence. But how exactly does it benefit businesses’ self-presentation and the customer perception of a brand? Let’s discuss this in greater detail.
Setting the right tone
Website design and visual content marketing are the focal points and tools of visual communication. They determine the tone the brand use to “speak” to its target audience. Once visitors enter a web page, they form their first impression about the business behind it. If that impression meets visitors’ expectations they stay on the website. If not, they leave in the first few seconds without even reading the text.
For instance, if a bank’s website was designed like a digital platform for kids it would probably have a high bounce rate. So make sure that the visual appearance of your web design and brand corresponds with your brand identity and cannot be misinterpreted. But don't forget about the aesthetics -- it plays a crucial role as well. That's why you should try to create a visually pleasant and relevant UI design without compromising on any of these aspects.
Building brand recognition
The long-term success of any commercial organization heavily depends on brand awareness and recognition. To build them, a company needs to develop a comprehensive brand strategy. This includes visual identity, among other elements such as a story, messaging, and personality. For most customers, the visual identity is the key differentiator since visuals are in general more memorable than text or audio.
Judge for yourself. When someone mentions Coca-Cola, what is the first thing that pops up in your mind? Chances are it’s the logo or brand colors. In most cases, it works in reverse equally well even if some element of graphic design is taken out of context.
For example, the combination of yellow and red is often associated with Mcdonald’s. Generally speaking, you should avoid any divergences between your offline and online core visual elements.
Delivering brand messages
There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. And that’s exactly what visual identity is all about. Because while it may seem that we communicate mostly with words, studies show that nearly 90 percent of the information that is processed by our brains is visual. That’s why visual content and identity should not only describe what the business stands for - but also demonstrate it visually.
The question becomes; how do we do this successfully? Since every brand is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. However, different colors evoke different emotions (see below). Similarly, typography, layouts, and icons may tell a lot about the company's style, while color hierarchy shows what exactly a business wants to emphasize, and so on.
The same applies to the visuals used in marketing campaigns. For instance, even the high-level review of visual content on social media may give you a clear idea of what values a brand has and whether you want to buy from it.
The role of design and visual content in UX
An awful user experience can break even the most thoroughly built brand identity. That’s why when designers and marketers are working on a visual identity for a company, they should also think about the usability of a website or app.
The bottom line is that all elements and principles of basic design, as well as any pieces of visual content, must enhance the UX. In short, a decent visual identity and brand positioning should not come at the cost of user convenience. But let’s take a closer look at how visual identity impacts the UX.
Capturing attention and telling a story
For businesses, this means that older marketing strategies likely struggle to grab customer attention. Or, in other words, they should use other means to help internet users notice them. Unique UI design, overall design, and high-quality visual content are the best tools to do that.
Besides, visual storytelling is often perceived by website visitors more easily and can, therefore, be considered more convenient. Look at the image below.
Instead of describing a potential use case, site creators just showed a photo of a busy man who checks his work messages on the go. As a consequence, users can understand how the product may help them while they’re scrolling a web page. They don’t need to read long product characteristics to figure out if they need this item.
Guiding a customer through a site or app
People use websites and applications for a reason. For instance, they may search for information, want to buy a product, order a service, watch a movie, play a game, or text to friends. Ideally, the design of a software solution should be straightforward enough for users to reach their goals without putting too much effort into figuring out how to do this.
A great example is the Uber app. It’s built according to the basic principles of linear UX design which is a minimalistic approach aimed at creating goal-oriented experiences.
Simply put, this means that the app “guides” users to their goals through a number of steps and users clearly know what to do next at every phase of their journey. The UI design is also in line with this idea since it’s rather simple: black and white colors for buttons and notifications, straight lines, plain layout, and no distractions.
How to create an awesome visual identity for your brand
Creating a visual identity that would properly present a brand and resonate with its customers is a complex process that doesn’t happen overnight. But here are a few recommendations that would help you do everything right.
Perform a website design audit
Before you start working on something new, you need to review what you already have. A comprehensive visual audit will allow you to understand if the visual identity of your business complies with its brand positioning. When a design audit process covers the evaluation of all design assets, its results will help your marketing team create more engaging visual content for social media, blog, and future marketing campaigns.
Develop a design system
Once a design inventory is ready, you may proceed to the next stage and develop a design system. In short, a design system is a set of guidelines and standards defining common rules for building different components of visual identity. For example, a design system will determine a color palette and brand fonts. Not only will it allow you to set a single vision of the outward expression of your brand, but it will also help designers avoid so-called design debt in the future.
Consider basic design principles
When it comes to creating visuals for a brand, applying graphic design principles is always beneficial. They will help you develop a comprehensive visual language and make your brand “personality” look both consistent and attractive. Some things like visual weight, the level of white space, and visual texture might seem unessential to non-designers but they play a critical role in creating a holistic visual identity.
Avoid visual noise
Sometimes less is more. You should remember that every element of your design, as well as every visual, should serve a particular purpose, not just be mere decoration.
For example, there is no point in using five bright colors on a web page if three of them will just distract users and impair user experience. The same is with images. Instead of choosing a photo because it looks beautiful to you, pick a picture that tells a story or explains the benefits of your product.
Luckily, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Although there are some tools that can help you create simple template-based visuals, more complex tasks need to be performed by professionals. Otherwise, there is a risk your efforts won’t bring the expected results.