Your Visual Vocabulary consists of the secondary design elements that are used in conjunction with your logo to form your brand identity. Your Visual Vocabulary is composed of the graphics, font styles, colors, and even the type of paper you choose.
Once you have determined the elements to use in your Visual Vocabulary, it is important to use those elements consistently throughout all of your marketing materials. This consistency will make your entire set of materials look like a family. Having a consistent set of marketing materials makes you look more organized and professional. It also makes your business more memorable, because the repetition of the consistent elements creates repeated impressions on your audience. The more you repeat your marketing images and messages consistently, the easier it will be for your clients to associate them with your business.
The four ways to create consistency in your Visual Vocabulary are:
1. Using the same or similar visuals and graphics throughout your marketing materials makes them instantly recognizable, which is becoming more important as marketing media messages become more prevalent and people become more inundated with them. The graphical elements that you can work with in your Visual Vocabulary include the backgrounds, text treatments (such as tagline styles), shapes, layout conventions, and the photo library you use.
Enhance your Visual Vocabulary's consistency by:
- Repeating some of the same graphics across all of your materials. Your logo should appear on all of your marketing pieces and business documents. Other graphics to consider repeating include your tagline, your contact information block, line art, patterns, and any unifying background or decorative shapes or color fields.
2. Using a small group of coordinated fonts across all of your marketing materials. Your company should have designated fonts to use in the following situations:
- A logo font, which is typically not one of the fonts that come installed on Windows machines: it should be more unique and interesting. Some logos will have two or three different fonts in them. If this is the case, then consider using one of those fonts as the secondary font as well.
All of these fonts should have similar or contrasting characteristics. Choosing fonts with similar characteristics will make your fonts match and create consistency throughout your documents. Choosing fonts with contrasting characteristics will build visual texture and interest into your materials. For example, you could pick all thin, sans-serif fonts such as Arial and Frutiger to create a harmonious, matching suite of fonts. Or you could pick fonts with contrasting characteristics to create greater interest, such as using a serif font like Palatino for the headlines and then using a sans-serif font like Verdana for the text.
3. Using the same, limited color palette across all of your materials seems obvious, but many entrepreneurs try to make their marketing materials look more interesting by mixing up the color palette of each piece. But instead of making the materials look more interesting, this spectrum of color makes them look disjointed and uncoordinated.
You can create your color palette by:
- The corporate colors established in your logo. Many logos are made up of one or two colors. You could pick one or both of these colors to make up your main color palette.
If your logo has a lot of colors, you can choose a color or two out of your logo to use as your main color palette. Picking more than a couple of colors to use can make your materials look too bright and unprofessional.
The exception to these rules is when your color palette is mixed up in an intentional way to enhance your brand message, or when you've assigned different colors to different service or product lines. For example, a company with a "bright," "playful," or "energetic" personality might want to mix up its color palette between pieces. Or if you have multiple product or service offerings, you might want to assign each offering its own main color, and use those distinct colors to differentiate your marketing materials for each offering.
4. Using coordinating papers for your printed materials. Paper can be an
inexpensive way to add some interest and depth to your Visual Vocabulary. You can do this in many ways:
- Choosing high-quality paper to print on will always make your materials look more professional. This typically means choosing a thick paper for your business cards and a coordinating paper from the same product line for your letterhead.
Creating consistency through the repetition of the four elements listed above will make your business appear more professional and memorable. Consistent materials will also make you appear more credible and trustworthy. Consistency can help your business marketing efforts to be more successful.
There are a couple of bonus areas in which you can create consistency:
- The copywriting style that you use. Make sure that you consistently write in the same voice, use the same style of copyediting, and are addressing the same type of audience in your writing. Your materials will appear much more unified and cohesive if you do.
Repeating some of the same words throughout your materials helps you to frame your customer's point of view about your services. This can help you to become known for the topics that you address in your materials.
Some copyeditors will create an individualized "style guide" to edit your documents against, which will help you to create a consistent tone of voice across all of your documents, articles, and communication. Ask your copyeditor if they can provide this valuable service.
About the Author
Erin Ferree is a logo, print, and web designer who has been making it easy for small businesses to stand out and to be visible, credible, and memorable for the past ten years.