There are several elements you’ll encounter when crafting your visual brand identity. You may hear your brand designer throw around terms like submarks, favicons, typography, and iconography...and while this designer “lingo” may very well make your eyes glaze over, listen up: these elements are crucial to creating a cohesive yet versatile visual brand!
My favorite way to avoid brand boredom is by incorporating lots of unique yet complementary visual elements into a brand identity. With all these graphic elements at your fingertips, you can plug-and-play with the endless combinations—and won’t feel boxed in by your branding!
Here are some of the elements that make up a well-rounded yet cohesive visual brand, and how to use them!
Your primary logo is the main representative of your brand, and should be used over its variations whenever possible. Your primary logo spells out your business name in full. It should be clear, crisp, simple, and scalable—meaning you can shrink it down to a 1-inch diameter and still have it be legible.
Logo variations (also known as secondary logos) are there for when your primary logo just doesn’t work! Maybe it’s too big, or it’s an awkward shape, or you just don’t want to use your full-fledged logo. Logo variations can be simpler versions of your primary logo (oftentimes just the text only), and typically come in different shape orientations (e.g. square, horizontal, stacked, etc) to fit different usage scenarios.
I like to think of submarks as a little badge for your business. Oftentimes submarks are extremely pared down versions of the primary logo. Many submarks are simple icons with an initial or two, but many of them include the full business name and a tagline! They’re a place where you can get creative with your logo—making it into different shapes, such as a circle. These are perfect to use as a small brand "mark" when you want your branding to be discreet.
The word "favicon" is a mashup of the words "favorite" and "icon". It's the teeny-tiny icon that displays next to your URL in a web browser, and is used as a branded identifier for your website. Seen in browser tabs, bookmarks, shortcut menus, and even Google search results, this itty-bitty icon (normally displayed at just 16x16 pixels!) packs a big punch. It not only makes your website look more legit—but also more memorable and easy to identify!
Brand icons are small, simple graphics that are customized to your visual brand identity—and they're a stellar way to bump up your brand's "at-a-glance communication" factor. Icon sets can include the more "traditional" elements like branded social media icons or common shapes, but they can also be totally fun and unique to represent the services you provide. That's powerful stuff wrapped up in a tiny little package!
Custom patterns are a fantastic brand asset to have and can really bolster your brand's recognition. Incredibly versatile, stylish, and exclusive to your business, they'll add an unforgettable flair to your brand's visual identity. Use them across both digital and physical touchpoints! They can act as the background to your social media graphics, be tastefully splashed across your website design, grace the backs of business cards, and be used on merchandise, packaging, stickers...oh my!
I love a hand-drawn touch, which further personalizes and adds to the one-of-a-kind quality of custom design. Illustration can be used pretty much anywhere in a brand identity! From accenting a logo to stand-alone icons or crafted into a custom brand pattern, illustrations add a ton of distinct style and versatility to a visual brand. It’s a signature element – as no two hand drawn illustrations are exactly alike!
Note that the illustrations below are for different brands than those featured above. (In case you were confused!)
My best advice? Don’t limit your visual brand to just a logo, fonts, and colors!
By rounding out your branding to include the elements above, you’ll find yourself feeling inspired and excited as opposed to boxed-in and constrained when it comes to creating graphics and collateral for your business.