Visual Language in Brand Design
As a brand designer, it is necessary to understand how a multiplicity of elements fit, form, and resonate with one another to create an impactful and unified message for its viewers. One of the the ways we can break down the understanding of branding is to break it down as a type of language — a visual language. In our modern digital age, branding mainly incorporates typefaces, ux/ui, web design, logos, and other visual media which builds on a singular idea. In my experiences (and without formal design training) I’ve learned the visual language used by many high-end designers through film and photography — both as a study and an artistic endeavor. And with what I know, I built this short piece to share my knowledge.
When it comes to visual design, whether it be 2D, 3D, web-based, app-based, or even virtual reality, many of the elements used in design are able to be constructed in a variety of ways. A certain level of free form that goes into visual designs that is not bound by predetermined rules which we normally use in speech and written language. The patterns of a visual language are able to be communicated in shape, form, angles, scale and proportion in a way that represents one, or several, abstract ideas or concepts.
In film, a few of the many elements used on this visual plain include angles, lighting, color. In my high school years, I was invited to analyze a movie in place of a book in order to deeper understand themes and characterization in storytelling by my AP English professor. In this experience, I chose to analyze the work by Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands. From watching and reading this film (in the perspective of an analyst) you can understand how the works are created to build a sense of longing for affection, feelings of loneliness, and social conformity in modern American culture by the angels, colors, and lighting utilizing in this film.
Without going too deep into the film, the movie is about a human begin that was designed and brought to life by a scientist. He designed Edward Scissorhands as an only model and he longed for companionship after his creator had died. He was built on a mountaintop laboratory that was away from the community. His attempt to blend into society had a variety of affects on himself and others both positively and negatively. As he first is introduced, he is wearing an all-black mechanically styled suit. He is received as dangerous, mysterious, and dark by the common residents in the town he entered. As a woman takes pity on him and empathized with Edward Scissorhands, she gave him new clothing that more so reflected his duality in his humanity — altogether strange, mysterious, yet kind and affectionate. He wore a white shirt and black pants. And with these clothing, and the motions from the other characters hereafter, we can conclude the visual elements of darkness and light can affect positive change. On a visual motion as film, you must take careful consideration into all other elements as well (such as music) in order to fully grasp the artists message.
In photography, I began to build a deeper understanding of visual language after having studying Film & Media Studies for 2 years at Arizona State University, analyzing works in television and cinema, and also analyzing books and movies. With all that knowledge, I was able to incorporate an understanding and perception of my own into my artworks. I began to travel around my city on my bicycle photographing different landscapes and cityscapes that captured my interest along my free-form journey. Many things I captured communicated ideas that could be interpreted in multiple ways. I began to understand that my own experience was able to be shared visually. Also, having been a misfit for a majority of my life, I finally found a language that was understood by myself and others for how I was feeling, interpreting, and interacting with others and the environment…thus I began to explore my career as a brand designer!
Language is not just verbal or written. Speech as a means of communication cannot strictly be separated from the whole of human communicative activity, which also includes the visual. The word “imagination” definitely suggests that we can also think in images. Visual language is defined as a system of communication using visual elements.The term visual language in relation to vision describes the perception, comprehension, and production of visible signs. Just as people can verbalize their thinking, they can visualize it. A diagram, a map, and a painting are all examples of uses of visual language. Its structural units include line, shape, color, form, motion, texture, pattern, direction, orientation, scale, angle, space, and proportion. The elements in an image represent concepts in a spatial context, rather than the time-based linear progression used in talking and reading. Speech and visual communication are parallel and often interdependent means by which humans exchange information. (Source: https://www.fastcodesign.com/3047340/how-your-brain-understands-visual-language)
So let’s get back to the original point — what does photography and film have to do with brand design? All in all, the visual forms used to communicate messages in film and photography can be used to effectively transpose ideas into thoughtful brand perceptions. Using angles, color, lighting, and other structural units to shape a visual message, customers will gain the idea for the brand without needing captions or written explanations. The overall feeling and gut instincts for the concepts introduced visually can instruct the user how to feel and interact with the brand.
Thinking in a visual language can be, and very much is, both complex and rewarding. Many times, I have referred to design as a medium that encompasses empathy as its cornerstone. Most designers worth their salt will agree: you must see the world from the perspective of your audience. Remove yourself and understand the idea you’re trying to communicate and give it a proper visual placement with respect to your audience. Once done correctly, and consistently over time, users, customers, and clients will champion and praise the branding and visual designs with pride a sense of belonging.
Give your customers a voice, tone their value and mission with your branding and visual elements. Your experience and perception in arts for any visual form should be incorporated . Learn to experience and play within the fields of your craft. The more you can expand and stretch your imagination, the stronger and more meaningful the visual langue will grow to become.
Until next time!
Founder of 97th Avenue, a branding agency for the Creative & the Rebellious