art direction

More than words; 9 steps to meaningful visual branding

These days, you can't win with marketing tactics that leave no recall value like facts, figures, and discounts. Increasingly companies need to stand for something to differentiate and connect emotionally with consumers.

A well defined brand including a meaningful logo, photos or illustrations, the colors and fonts should inform all the content and advertising you create. If you don't invest in this and post seemingly random content, you are not doing yourself any favors and are not building any equity and differentiation for your company.

Having completed several successful branding efforts in corporate America and as an entrepreneur, I developed a process in partnership with Joao Pereira, a very skilled designer and member of The Collective NYC, that gets results every time. It starts with a strategy.

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1) Strategy - Before doing any design it is critical to document your strategy, which includes a clearly defined audience, goals, objectives, points of differentiation, your tone, talking points, messages, and your story arc.

2) Audit the status quo - Your brand may have some already established assets/photos and designs and this is a good start - make a collection, either online on a site like Pinterest or you can use print outs and cut outs. This is called a moodboard. Take a look at what you have and ask your self - what does this say about my brand ? How does this make us different? memorable?

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3)Audit the less obvious - Think of people, things, other brands that inspire you and add them to your moodboard. A recent client added Rhianna to her moodboard because she embodied the sexiness she was going for.

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4) Go to extremes - Think about conflicting feelings, emotions, etc. The past vs. present, hot and cold, wet and dry, all these can possibly be expressions of your brand. Some people feel these extremes and are difficult to reconcile - and they are, but when you do - it's magic.

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5) Reconcile and synthesize - This is not easy because the images you see on your moodboard may appear to have nothing to do with each other to most. An example of this was working with Bija Essence synthesize a rich history of coconut fields and a matriarch in India with a modern, sophisticated presence. From that juxtaposition we came up with the tagline and design for "Bring Back The Tradition of Touch."

6) Design Logo, font and visual elements -A refined set of typography, graphics and design elements are all part of your brand. This is where it officially goes beyond planning and requires artistic experience and an eye for design. The magic is in the interpretation of a skilled designer.

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7) Develop Guidelines - Create the guidelines for your brand style. The brand styles and guidelines specify the colors arrangement, the sizes, the shapes, the fonts and the core elements that can be used to systematically create the design assets, no matter who is implementing. It can be applied to websites, partnerships, social media, print, packaging, etc.


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8) Create assets - A lot of time, thought and consideration goes into creating assets that are in sync with your business’s core ethos and brand this is the step where all the magic happens.

9) Template time -Just after you’ve finalized your primary assets such as the logo and the brand identity, create templates for all other assets such as the banners, social post, posters and other elements of your business. To make things simpler, use Canva to save all your templates including the design assets, photography assets, arts and videos at a single place. This feature rich platform makes rest of the work really easier. Talking financially, you can use use Canva for work by paying $12.95 per month (per user), and the platform also offers a 23% discount if the user pays annually. All the templates and graphics that you store in Canva can be reused to create assets as and when required.So the next time you find your target audience clueless about your business as a brand, you now know what you can do about it!








“Identities are the beginning of everything. They are how something is recognized and understood. What could be better than that?” -Paula Scher

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Jay Mandel is The founder of The Collective NYC, a marketing consultancy. He is also a Marketing Professor at Sacred Heart University and teaches Social Media, Content Marketing, Branding, and other classes. You can engage with The Collective NYC on Instagram. This post expresses my personal views and my personal views are directly connected with my employer because it is me :-)