Your brand story is what sets you apart from your competition and makes your audience connect to you.
But how do you tell that story?
Brand imagery and brand messaging are the two primary ways your audience knows, connects to, and remembers your brand.
In this post, I will cover all the aspects of brand imagery, including the definition, elements, creation process, and guidelines.
What is brand imagery?
Brand imagery is a set of all the visual brand attributes like graphics, images, logos, and colors that help your audience recognize and remember your brand.
Simply put, brand imagery is the visual identity of your business. You can think of it as the brand look and feel and it includes all the elements that you should add to your brand kit.
However, brand imagery is not just about good-looking visuals.
It is how those visuals uphold your brand story, your mission, your positioning, your personality, and all that you stand for. It is about the aesthetics that make your audience relate to and connect to your story.
Your brand consists of all the brand elements that set you apart, and brand imagery is only one part.
Brand attributes also consist of other attributes like sensory and psychographic ones.
Read my full post on brand attributes.
What is the difference between a brand image and brand imagery?
The brand image of your company refers to how it is seen and perceived by your audiences. Brand imagery consists of the visual cues that help to create your brand image.
The simplest way to understand that is with an example.
Let’s take Harley Davidson.
When you think of the brand, what comes to mind?
A few words could be strong, tough, rugged, bold, black, orange.
That is the brand image.
Several brand attributes contributed to creating this brand image, and the brand imagery was some of them.
Check out below the logo, graphics, photography, fonts, and overall look and feel.
Types of brand imagery elements
There are plenty of elements you can use in your brand imagery to help you tell your story.
Imagery elements like logos, colors, imagery, and icons all play an important role in how someone perceives a brand. A strong set of brand images are able to convey the desired message or idea through visual symbols.
The most common of them are:
- Icons & Symbols
- Color Scheme
- Graphic elements
- Patterns & Textures
- Charts & Graphs
You don’t have to use all of them, but whichever ones you use should match together to represent your story.
Let’s see this with the example of Harley Davidson as above.
- The original logo contains an iconic graphic that is still very recognizable today.
- The modern logo is a smooth derivative of the original logo.
- The brand color palette of orange and black is carried through in all brand material including the website.
- The photography showcases the products and usually include dark versions of colors like red, orange, red, and green.
- Any new graphic, like the one for the 120th anniversary next year, matches the logo.
Why is brand imagery important?
As we said, your brand imagery represents your brand story visually, so by default, it becomes important if you want to build a unique brand for your business.
Here are some specific reasons why having good brand imagery matters.
1. Builds differentiation
There are many ways of building your competitive positioning, and your brand visuals can be one of them.
For example, if your industry is full of brands that look and feel the same (banks, for instance), then you could stand out with imagery that will help your audience remember you more.
2. Builds a connection
Your audience connects to you when your brand resonates with them.
Ensure that you use colors and design attributes that makes your audience feel good about your brand so that they can connect to it.
3. Builds trust
If your audience can connect to you, they will trust you.
Consistent, high-quality brand visuals tell your audience that your brand means business, takes itself seriously and is unique.
All of these help your audience trust you.
How to create the perfect brand imagery to match your brand story
You want to create a unique story for your brand, now how do you make sure that your visuals also match?
You need to create a look and feel that communicates the core essence of your brand and helps your target audience connect to it.
Here is a step-by-step process to create your brand imagery.
1. Identify your brand positioning
Your brand positioning is how you want to be seen in the marketplace and how you are different from your competition.
Identifying your unique value proposition and brand positioning is crucial because your brand imagery and all brand attributes need to uphold this positioning.
For example, are you a premium brand or a low-cost brand? Your brand imagery should reflect that.
2. Identify your brand personality
A brand is like a human being with its own unique traits, voice, and moods.
Just like a human being chooses clothes, accessories, and even their home decor in a way that matches his/ her personality and style, your brand imagery also needs to match your brand personality.
For example, if your brand is all about fun and energy, your brand imagery could have lots of bright colors and graphics.
But if your brand is more corporate and serious, your brand imagery could consist of more sombre colors, and boxed elements.
So your brand imagery decisions like the color palette, fonts, and photography, should match your brand personality.
You should always create a brand story that will help you identify your positioning and personality along with your brand imagery and brand messaging.
Check out my complete guide on creating a brand story.
You can also download the template below.
Get a FREE, detailed guide to creating your brand story
2. Collect visual inspiration
To start working on your brand imagery, it’s often helpful to start by finding visual cues that match your brand story and personality.
You could explore art and media related to your product or service, and save visuals that catch your eye.
Let’s say you sell colorful leather jackets.
One way to get inspiration is with Google Images.
Just type in ‘colorful leather’ and see all the images (you might have to scroll down to get ideas).
You can also use the tab options to filter down to the kinds of images you want.
I often look for design ideas on Canva.
Just go to Canva templates (you can also access this for free).
Type in colorful leather.
You get a wide selection of images you can scroll through to find the kinds of imagery you want.
You can also filter the type of images through the left-side menu.
You can collect inspiration for all your brand imagery, including photos, graphics, logos, typography, etc.
The inspiration you collect is not your actual brand imagery, they are only references.
These only represent the type of look and feel you want your brand to have. You can hand these off to a graphic designer or use it yourself when you create your actual brand imagery.
3. Check out your competitor’s brand imagery
To ensure your brand is unique and not mistaken with your competitors, first analyze the visual branding of your competitors.
Competitor logos, color schemes, font choices, tone of voice, and overall design can provide powerful insights for improving your own brand identity.
If you don’t know who your competitor is, just Google it with your topic.
For our example of ‘colorful leather’, type on Google ‘colorful leather brand’.
From here I find two websites.
One has premium and refined brand imagery.
One has a bold and colorful one.
This is why knowing your brand positioning and personality is so important, to decide the kind of look and feel you want your brand to have.
4. Make a mood board
A very effective way to capture your ideal brand imagery is to create a mood board with all the inspiration you collect.
Basically, a place to collect all your references.
You can dump all the inspiration you have collected into a blank canvas on a tool of your choice.
Just put them in a Powerpoint or Illustrator file.
I also use Canva for this.
Just type in ‘brand mood board’ to get dozens of mood board templates.
Choose the template you like and customize it. Replace it with the images you have and add colors if you’d like.
Hand this file over to your designer to create a logo and other designs!
5. Create a logo
When creating a logo for your brand imagery, keep it simple yet memorable. Your logo should help you in your brand storytelling, so ensure that it matches your brand to a T.
It’s always a good idea to get creative input from others when developing your logo – ask friends, family members, or even coworkers for feedback on ideas and what they think should be included in the design.
Your logo is one of the most important elements of your brand imagery. Once done, it should also last a while and not be changed often.
While you can always create a logo yourself by using online software, I would highly recommend letting a designer work on your logo. Share your story and your mood board with your designer, and count on her/ his experience to get a perfect logo for your brand.
6. Choose a color palette
Colors are incredibly powerful when it comes to creating an aesthetic for your brand.
It’s not just about picking colors that look nice together, but colors that evoke certain emotions in your audience
Your logo will include your primary brand colors.
But those are not the only ones you need to do your brand marketing.
Choose an entire palette with colors you can use for all your marketing materials like your website, brochures, etc.
7. Choose your brand typography
Brand typography is a crucial element of your brand imagery.
Think about what typeface will resonate with your audience, and how you want to convey your message.
Choose a collection of fonts that accurately brings out the personality of your brand.
8. Define your style & tone
Your style and tone should also reflect the core values of your brand—it should be consistent across all of the visuals associated with it,
For example, do you prefer photography or illustration, or both?
These are all important questions to ask yourself when defining the style and tone of your brand imagery.
Here is an example of Semrush which like most other SaaS companies use graphics and illustrations instead of photography.
9. Identify a source for your brand imagery
If you need to keep creating brand material consistently like for social media, your blog posts, or your website in general, you need a stable source of images, graphics, videos, and other elements.
Here are some websites that you can use to get visuals:
I use Canva for most of my brand imagery. Canva Pro has a huge collection of visual elements, so I always find something that suits a brand.
Some examples of Canva’s library include:
- 71 million stock images
- 4.5 million graphics
- 2.5 million videos
- 3000 free fonts (you can also upload your own)
- 14 animation effects
You can also remove backgrounds and edit images in Canva.
Canva free gives you 200,000 photos for free.
Canva Pro gives you access to premium photos from Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.
So for $9.99/ month, you get access to premium photos from 3 different websites.
One drawback of Canva, however, is that it doesn’t have vector images, only flat ones like jpegs.
This means that if you want a set of icons for example, that you want to edit and use on your website.
For that, I use websites like Flaticon which gives you hundreds of icons for free.
You can download and edit them with a vector tool like Adobe Illustrator.
Create a brand kit for your brand imagery
Once you have defined your brand imagery including logos, typefaces, color palettes, etc., gather all of them in a single platform, like a brand kit.
A brand kit helps you ensure consistency in all your brand imagery and makes it handy for easy reference when designing new content or communications materials.
Brand imagery examples to inspire you
By now you have an idea of what brand imagery is and how to create your own imagery for your story.
But some more examples can’t hurt, right? So here are a few more.
Ceres is a global NGO dedicated to sustainability. Following its story and commitment, it’s quite natural that its logo, color scheme, and visuals, all follow earthy colors and visuals.
The logo is green, for example.
The photography is natural but premium. The simple icons lets you quickly grasp the topics.
Goodlife Fitness is a gym, but its story is not about aspiration to have the best body with images of people with six-pack abs.
Its brand story is about regular, everyday people, complete with love handles, who are committed to staying fit and healthy.
The brand imagery reflects these people, and the bold colors uphold the brand attributes of fun, passion, and strong dedication to fitness goals.
Everlane is a retailer of low-cost, simple, understated, but high-quality clothing.
Its story and positioning is about ethical factories and transparency in their pricing and supply chains.
This positioning resonates deeply with millennials who care less about brands than ethics, less about profits than brand purpose.
The brand imagery of Everlane is simple and no-frills with muted colors and features millennials in all brand and marketing campaigns.
Workday is a cloud-based software that combines financial management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human capital management (HCM).
Its brand story is about fun, dynamism, and collaboration, as teams from different departments work together with Workday.
The brand imagery of Workday thus upholds these brand values with loads of color and dynamic graphics.
Brand imagery guidelines
1. Make it unique
Whether you opt for an eye-catching minimalist look or prefer a vibrant mix of colors, make sure your visuals help tell the unique story of your brand and set you apart from the competition.
You don’t have to stick to any certain industry standards. Get creative, get bold.
The most important thing to remember is that your brand imagery and visual identity should match your story and your brand values, and resonate with your audience.
3. Use high-quality visuals
The quality of your images or graphics is important in conveying the quality of your brand.
Whether you use photography, icons, video, or all elements together, avoid using low-resolution or amateurish-looking visuals as they will reflect poorly on your business.
High-quality graphics uphold a more professional brand image.
3. Be Consistent
It’s important to be consistent with your brand imagery across all channels.
This means using the same colors, fonts, and overall visual style in your website, social media, marketing materials, and any other place where your brand is represented.
This will help create a cohesive and professional look for your business.
3. Adapt and grow
Your brand may not remain the same forever. After a certain time, you have to work on your brand evolution, a key component of which is brand imagery.
So while you work on your visual identity, keep room for growth based on your brand evolution.
Brand imagery conclusion
You cannot reach every one of your audience individually, so you need to share your brand story with them through your brand imagery and brand messaging.
Your brand imagery can have a powerful impact on if and how much your audience connects to your brand.
So know your audience in detail, and spend some time working on the right visual look and feel. Conduct research if possible and get feedback before you finalize your brand imagery.
Do you have any tips to create the right brand imagery for your story? Do share!