Strengthening visual identity by telling a visual story


Five tips and three steps to inspire a visual story that’s strong; compelling; easily rolled out. 


Enhance your company’s visual identity by having it tell a good visual story. How?


Let’s first explain what a visual story is. It’s the final step in articulating a company’s visual identity, which of course, derives from the first step: analyzing and determining the organization’s business identity. The order is:


FIRST STEP:           Determine business Identity, which leads to…

SECOND STEP:     A visual Identity, which then leads to…

THIRD STEP:         A visual story that’s effectively conveyed across all media and channels.


One result of establishing a visual identity is development of visual standards on how to apply visual identity across multiple mediums, using approved colors, fonts, layouts, and the like. Such standards ensure that the company’s visual identity is coherent so the brand as a whole can be quickly recognized.


OK – so how exactly does a good visual story come from all this? These tips provide guidance:



Making good impressions


  1. Fits Anywhere - A good visual story starts with a visual identity (logo; typeface; color) that looks and reads well on everything from exhibit banners to business cards. It should easily scale up or down to correctly fit any medium. Visuals also have to display well on a computer screen, mobile device or in video; not ‘force-fit’ into digital media like an afterthought. That one shortcoming alone seriously compromises a good visual story.
  1. Reflect the Company’s Culture - Visual identity should tie to a company’s culture and vision determined in the 1st step (business identity). For example, if a company stands on five core truths, its logos and other visual elements could include five pieces representing those truths. It becomes part of the company’s overall visual story. 
  1. No Copycats -   Be mindful of designs, logos or presentation styles used by other businesses, even in non-competitive industries. Does a design or color treatment slightly mimic a Microsoft window pane or traditional Coca Cola font? If so, it tells a poor visual story about the company. Conversely, does the visual portrayal break convention within its industry? Something new and fresh is a good foundation to base a strong visual story that sets a company apart from competitors.
  1. Long shelf life – Having said that, be temperate in breaking the visual identity mold. Be wary of current graphic design trends may become outdated fast. Remember the 1990s when computer-generated letters and numbers were a trendy, popular font? A decade later, they became archaic symbols of desktops and dial-ups in a world already evolved to newer systems. Visual identity tends to linger a long time, and a quickly aging one strongly impacts a company’s visual story, shifting it from progressive to laughable.
  1. All-inclusive or specific - Does the visual story live in the world of your products or as a unique overarching umbrella to all that is created by a company? If so, then the primary visual identity may not have to be the same as its subsidiaries, such as in major consumer companies like Proctor and Gamble.