Logo Design Guide 3 of 5: Visual Identity Design

Studio Function
Feb 5, 2016 · 5 min read

Welcome to the third instalment of this 5-part series featuring chapters from our Logo Design Guide ebook, released every Friday. Section 1: The Creative Brief and Section 2: Logo Design are good primers, but not required reading. You can also download the entire PDF now at https://gumroad.com/l/HmceP

Section 3
Visual Idenity Design

Logos are designed to be used. We believe that the relationship between the logo and supporting elements is the real design deliverable. The client doesn’t need a great logo — the client needs a great logo that is brought to life by a beautiful system, one that helps communicate more dynamic and targetable brand messages through the thoughtful combination of visual elements.

A good identity design considers the requirements of logo application to various collateral pieces and provides a plan for consistency. This is achieved through the design of mock pieces, which are then presented alongside each logo concept. These example pieces can be further explored and revised once the client chooses an initial design direction to pursue.

In addition to a logo design, our identity presentations propose an art direction through typography, type pairing, colour, and image treatments.


Typography is a vessel for mood and emotion, and the selection of supporting type is the soul of every visual identity.

An effective supporting type system will identify which font size and style should be used to present various pieces of written information. Headlines, intro paragraphs, body paragraphs, emphasis text, and numeral treatments are a good starting point. Identities that more articulately describe the use of fonts will benefit from greater consistency across various collateral applications.

Type Pairing

Blending the use of two (or more) typefaces is similar to the blending of flavours: a more interesting and dynamic experience can be the result. And pairing two typefaces can help the designer satisfy the brief. For example, if the brief calls for the design to feel “established and approachable,” perhaps that result could be achieved by combining a professional-feeling serif wordmark with a friendlier, humanist sans serif body typeface.


A meaningful colour palette will elevate any identity system. It has the power to symbolize an idea, evoke emotion, and relate directly to cultural stories and values. Colour is a core element of visual language that people process before they are consciously aware of it. Because colour is such a powerful element of visual communication, it’s important to use it intentionally.

Primary, secondary, and supporting colour families should be selected with the audience’s visual vocabulary and expectations in mind. Designers should also give the competitive landscape special attention to ensure the identity design is intelligently positioned in the group, either through harmony or contrast.

In addition to single, 2-colour, and full colour versions of the core logomarks, there are other special applications of colour that need to be considered. The identity should define digital palettes (like links, button colours, and web typography) and other targeted treatments that may be used by specific applications (like the colour of uniform material, or Pantone specials only achievable in offset printing).

Building a rich system

Type and colour are usually the pillars of a visual identity system. An art direction can be further enhanced by incorporating graphic elements such as photography, illustration, and pattern, and through specific, consistent usage of design principles.

A consistent approach to photography, both in style and subject matter, creates an additional through line that audiences recognize and associate with the brand. Intentional image crops, standard colour treatments, and other filters/effects are important to consider when establishing an art direction. For example, if the tabled identity concept suggests portraits of people are an effective way to connect with the audience, make a plan for consistent lighting, cropping, background, and model styling/tonality if possible. This will result in a style of photography that is as memorable as the logomark itself.

Illustration is a great way to capture abstract ideas in a visual form (something that is often difficult with photography). They can be informative while adding additional character to the brand voice. Like photography, illustrations also need a consistent approach to visual execution, visual tonality, and subject matter to maximize their effectiveness in an identity context.

Just like a brand mascot or illustration style, the use of pattern in an identity system can become an iconic element that the audience recognizes and gravitates towards. Whether it’s a single pattern used in various applications, or a family of different meaningful patterns, they can be a successful way to visually communicate an additional layer of brand character. Well executed patterns also provide a brand with more visual versatility, as they can be applied to specific visual environments that other identity elements may have trouble with (like wrapping papers, textile designs, and backgrounds for text).

Showing a logo design concept in context

Each section of this ebook provides a Good or Awesome approach to a specific part of the logo design process.

Sample Applications

  • Consider these simple logo applications that don’t require the design of additional layouts:
    – presentation folder
    – tshirt/uniform
    – mug
    – step & repeat pattern
    – app splash screen
    – truck graphic
    – bag
    – environmental graphic
  • See section 4 for more info about the full contents of a visual identity presentation
  • Consider these more complicated logo applications to help show the concept in context. These may take more effort to create since they involve more content and craft than just applying a logo to a space:
    – business card
    – responsive web design
    – presentation deck
    – brochure
    – postcard
    – corporate badges
    – billboard
    – print advertising
  • See section 4 for more info about the full contents of a visual identity presentation

Illustrations by Sam Island

Next: Section 4
Notes on Presenting

See you next Friday for section 4 where we get intimate with design presentations. Can’t wait? Download the whole shebang:


Studio Function

Design rants, raves, and case studies

Studio Function

Written by

We’re a Toronto-based design studio focused on the propagation of meaningful solutions to communication design challenges.

Studio Function

Design rants, raves, and case studies

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade