What is visual communication and visual identity? We will refer to the definition from Wikipedia, because you will most likely encounter this:
- Visual communication is the communication through the image, the transfer of information in the visual form between the sender and the recipient using the means of communication — the so-called media (eg. press, books, poster, television, internet, multimedia presentation and others). Basically, it is based on such elements of the word as: illustration, photography, typography, infographics, film or animation. Using a picture, supported by text, you can more effectively influence the recipient of a message. The assessment of a well-designed visual message is based not on aesthetic or artistic preferences, but on the measurement of the audience’s understanding of the message that the image was supposed to express.
- Corporate identity (visual identity) — a basic tool for creating the image and visual communication of a brand, company, service or product on the market. The term defines the totality of symbols and behaviors used in the company in order to obtain a clear and consistent market identification and to distinguish it from among competing brands . A coherent visual system is the most important element of overall identification.
No one likes to read definitions, and fewer people remember it fully. So let’s focus on three important pieces of information that we should draw from these two paragraphs:
- Visual identity is a set of tools that the company / brand / product / service should create visual communication with its recipient.
- It is impossible to carry out effective visual communication with the recipient without having developed a visual identification.
- If, at the appropriate stage of our company / product operation, we do not create a visual message readable and adapted to the recipient, it may turn out that for example, we send a message adjusted to B2C client to a B2B client, or we speak too loose and light language to a serious recipient.
- Visual identification should be adapted to the recipient, but it is essential that it is coherent, thought-out, focused on a specific goal.
II. The purpose of visual identification
It is a common mistake to say that identification is some kind of graphic design (mainly a logo!), Which should be nice (read — it should please me and my wife) and look elegant on a business card, as I will boast about my super company.
The truth is quite different. Visual identity is not for me as the owner of the company, brand, service or product and it is not important whether I like it.
It is important whether the visual identification fulfills its purpose, i.e. whether the recipient (client, business partner, anyone) after contact with this visual identification correctly read the message, a set of associations or if the appropriate emotions arouse in it.
You may ask — what kind of message, associations, or emotions do we want? Answer, for each company is different, it is created before the stage of designing visual identity, and decisions are made, among others after examining our target group, product / service, company goals, competitions, etc.
Therefore, visual identity functionality comes first, then we have a visual layer.
After passing this lengthy introduction we can come to the key thesis:
Visual identification is an important aspect of the marketing of every company, brand, product or service, however, in every case this aspect is not important in the first phases of operation.
III. Controversial examples
Now the question probably appears in your mind — “It’s so obvious! Who would somebode who is considered as wise use Comic Sans in identifying a serious law firm ?! “
If I would bet my hand for this statement, I would not have this hand today!
Below you will find a presentation of five cases of clients who have turned to CHALLENGE in the last three years.
BAKARD is a company which since 1996 has been operating as a substitute investor and general contractor for construction works.
Alfapro manufactures products dedicated to the confectionery-baking, ice-cream and gastronomic industries.
3mk is a leader in the field of protective glass for smartphones or tablets.
Cenzin is a trading company operating on the international market of arms and special equipment.
Nomax trading is the leading supplier of packaging for the meat industry, for years remaining in the forefront of manufacturer.
Does the visual identification of these companies suggest to us the industries in which they work, inspires confidence in us or can it arouse positive emotions in us? Without the need to visit the websites of these companies, are we able to determine, at least approximately what do they really do? Is it not the case that in the case of the above-mentioned companies, visual identification (on the example of a logo) is just a graphic ornament without a specific function?
My opinion on these cases coincides with the opinion of the CHALLENGE team and the majority of people gathered at the G-Spot Marketing conference in Gliwice. Namely, badly designed visual identification or lack of it makes us mislead and stirs up mixed feelings.
Does the lack of effective visual identity couse problems in functioning of those companies? Definitely not, but it certainly does not help at all.
IV. Examples from our own backyard
We have not been able to cooperate with the companies described above for various reasons. Maybe we have messed up at the sales stage, or we did not meet the client’s budget.
Below you can see three case studies from the CHALLENGE portfolio, in which the work focused mainly on visual identification. In the first two we managed to make a good change. Example №3 presents a problem on the client’s side that prevents success.
SMSAPI is a platform for mass mailing of SMS, MMS and VMS voice messages to deliver notifications and conduct marketing activities.
In the first place, the coherence of the brand’s visual identification and in the second, adaptation to the latest trends.
We had to create visual identification based on a logo whose shape and origin is unknown. What is more important, it can not be changed.
Since we can not change the logo, let’s try to give it meaning. Next, let’s build a simple and clear key visual referring to the purpose of the platform.
A coherent visual identification is created, and we solve a critical logo problem. Next, we create a website that is well-converting and optimized in terms of SEO.
Today SMSAPI is part of the Norwegian LINK Mobility group (purchase for over PLN 70 million) and increases its revenues from year to year (in 2016 it was over PLN 40 million).
An outsourcing company with an international reach. On a daily basis, Tivron supports his business partners in achieving their goal
Improving the company’s image in order to acquire a qualitative employee. From the business side, showing an advantage over the competition (multiculturalism and the ability to service other markets and foreign clients).
Breaking the prevailing stereotype of call center companies — boring and unambitious work.
A logo that gives up with the obvious, kitschy and very trite elements (headphones). The right color scheme, which suggests multiculturalism. A unique sign in the logo, which shape and form refers to the idea of communication and a consortium of which Tivron is a part.
Visual identification is created (logo, key visual, photo session, website). It shows real people and it proves that work in a call center can be cheerful and pleasant.
For over 20 years, the company has its own brewhouse and based on this priceless raw material, it produces salt with unusual therapeutic properties.
Refreshing the company’s image related to the implementation of a new, professional marketing strategy and communication strategy.
Creation of a modern and legible logo, which includes a sign referring to the salt crystal (client’s request).
On the one hand, the client is aware of the importance of visual identification, but nevertheless allows his character traits and blind beliefs to prevail over the good of the business.
After receiving the project, the customer confirms its quality, however, he clearly admits that he is too used to the original logo and finally does not decide to implement the new one. The customer openly admits that he is not objective, but the opinion does not change.
We’ve licked some theory. We have seen examples of controversial, not to say wrong visual identifications. For a positive change, we also went through a case study of two successful implementations.
1. Is visual identification important? If so, at what stage of the company / brand / service or product operation?
Therefore, I am ready to answer the questions I have asked in advance.
Visual identification is a very important element of marketing. Badly designed identification or its lack significantly hinders our communication with the recipient, is misleading and often makes it impossible to achieve our goals.
2. At what stage is visual identification important?
Effective visual identification brings us closer to the client, distinguishes us from the competition, gives character and, above all, serves us as a tool, it is not just a graphic to show off our colleagues.
Immediately I warn you — in this case there is no unambiguous answer. It all depends on the situation. The answer is also dependent on whether we are working on our product or service.
If we are just opening our business (let’s assume that a startup), it’s crucial to first check whether our idea works on the market. We do not need professional visual identification for it at all. It is better to invest funds for example on software or initial marketing. Once we manage to start, the first results have appeared, the users’ interest is growing, then this is the good moment to start working on complete professional visual identification.
The faster, the better, but the realities show that a small percentage of companies in the initial stages of their operations are able to invest in professional visual communication.
3. How to avoid mistakes when creating visual identity?
On the other hand, we can consider a case in which visual identification is key from the very beginning. Imagine that we are talking with a client who wants to introduce a unique product to the market and tries to get funds for kickstartera / indiegogo. The product does not physically exist yet, there is only a concept or an early prototype. In this case, the customer first of all needs attractive and effective visual identification and presentation of his idea, in order to be able to get financing, check his idea full, run production or service.
First of all, building the right awareness about the value of effective visual identification and who we design the tool for is key. It is a responsibility that does not rest only on the shoulders of graphic designers, creative people and marketers with whom we work. Education should take place much earlier, for example during studies that catch up, though a bit of marketing issues or various types of training and courses on setting up and running your own business.
Secondly, if you have designed visual identification, and you want to invest in marketing, do not do it a hurry — firstly check if you did not make mistake. If you got the logo from the graphic and the leaflet on which this logo is used, you do not send it straight away to the printing house and you do not fly in the euphoria giving out advertisements in the city. If you have received specially prepared graphics for the sponsored post on facebook, on which you want to spend 100, 1000 or 5000 PLN, you do not publish immediately. It is enough to show the project to some outsiders and ask about their feelings, associations or understanding of this graphic. If their answer coincides with the accepted assumptions, then the path is free, if you do not have this valuable information and you have not potentially wasted PLN XXX on incorrect advertising.
Thirdly, before the work begins, carefully prepare and discuss the purpose of visual identification together with the team and the contractor.
Originally published at http://dawidskinder.pl on February 28, 2017.