This is the sixth post in our “elements of brand” series. The previous post was: “The Nitty Gritty of Brand Strategy“.
What is brand style?
In our previous articles we covered the elements of brand that focus on messaging like tone, voice, and strategy. What we haven’t covered yet are the elements of brand that create a brand style. Brand style is a combination of color, typography, iconography, and photography. Each company chooses these elements and combines them to create a distinguishable brand style that represents their business. Keep in mind that although these are visual elements, they still play a roll in messaging.
More than just choosing these elements, businesses have to choose how to use them. For example, which font will be the base font that defines the brand? How will the brand use photography? What will the icons look like? All of this information provides support for the overall style a brand is attempting to present.
Finally, most companies have a rulebook that lays out exactly how the brand uses each element. For example, Creative Spark creates a “spark style guide” that gives explicit style guidelines to the company we created branding for. This allows the visual elements to remain consistent and become a true brand style.
Color & Style
Did you know brands choose color for more reasons that visual appeal? There is often psychology behind the chosen brand colors. For example, consumers may associate the color red with strength, power, and even hunger. McDonalds is an iconic example of a brand that uses color to evoke feelings of hunger to the consumer. Can you think of any other restaurants that use the color red? What about businesses that aren’t restaurants? Another great example color is blue. Banking institutions frequently use blue because it can evoke feelings of trust for the consumer. Some examples of banks using blue include Bank of America and Chase Bank to name a few.
So, how does color apply to brand style then? Typically, there is a dominant color chosen; this color should present the look and feel the brand is going for. Going back to our previous example, McDonald’s primary color is red. This makes sense for their brand since they are a restaurant and want to evoke hunger. Then there is usually at least one other accent color used to support and break up the dominant color. McDonalds uses gold as their accent color. Yellow is associated with joy and brightness. You can see by now how this combination of colors would be useful for McDonalds.
The key to color regarding style is finding the right color combination for the brand. For example, red may not be the right choice for a charity organization. Maybe the palette for that brand would be softer; or maybe red would be the right choice. It all depends on the mission, values, and message of the brand.
You can learn more about the psychology of color on the Color Psychology website.
Typography & Style
Typography is a powerful tool in branding. Different type choices, just like colors, will deliver a different message to the target audience. For example, a script font will give a brand a more creative or handmade feel. Sometimes, this is exactly what you need. However, for some brands you will need a cleaner and more professional typeface such as Cormorant Garamond, or Monserrat. For businesses, font choice goes beyond what looks good. It gets down to what message the font choice will send.
To continue, most brands use more than one font; There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is using multiple font choices provides contrast and visual interest to the logo, marketing collateral, or other materials. The second reason is type hierarchy. When looking at a block of text, it is far more interesting if there is a mixture of font types to break it up. For example, imagine if this article didn’t have any separation between the title, headers, and body content. It would be very difficult to scan the document and find the information you are looking for.
To conclude, typography is a vital component of brand style because it offers visual interest. It also breaks up pages of text into more manageable and readable blocks. Finally, keeping font usage consistent and cohesive will ensure a coherent message to the target audience.
Iconography & Style
Iconography is the specific style of icon that a brand uses to help provide visual interest and appeal to their webpages, marketing materials, social media graphics, infographics and more. Just like color and typography, different iconography gives a different message. For example, a simple outlined shape could be an icon for a brand with a modern, sleek, and clean brand style. But, for a more illustrative style, the icons may have more detail or color.
The way in which icons are used is also important to style. For example, if the brand is icon based, then you would obviously use iconography more often. However, for a photography business or other image based business, the use of icons might be more sparse.
Photography & Style
Finally, photography is, again, a vital element of brand style. Photography can provide visual interest, break up blocks of text, and engage the audience.
The type of photography used will give a specific message, so defining the style of photography for a brand is important. For example, some businesses may provide photographs of their products, their work, their staff, their office space, or any number of real things that give the brand a more human appearance. However, for some businesses this is not possible. So, it will be important to determine which stock photos-if any- will be used.
It’s also important to decide how photography will be used- not just what type. For example, will photography only be used when infographics and other materials won’t get the message across? Will photography be used instead of icons anywhere possible? Will photography be used on every blog post, or social image? These are the questions to ask when developing a brand style for photographs.
To wrap up, brand style is a conglomerate of elements that visually send a message to the target audience. More than just choosing the colors, fonts, icons, and photographs, businesses have to choose how to use them. This makes up a brand’s unique style.