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Mention the terms “brand” or “branding”; Most non-marketers will think of iconic logos. Brands like Coca-Cola or Apple might come to mind, or the Ferrari horse. These three brands have one thing in common: they all benefit from a strong visual identity.
Anyone who comes across their logo and other visible representations of the brand automatically recognizes which company these images refer to. Although brands are more than their visual identity, it would be wrong to underestimate the importance of logos and other elements in brand recognition.
While designs continue to vary widely between leading and emerging brands, one trend has been dominating brand identity design lately – the tendency to simplify their visual identities. As more and more brands revamp their look and feel, their efforts focus on one overarching goal. They all strive for a more recognizable and memorable brand image.
The benefits of simplifying visual identities
Before delving deeper into the benefits of simpler visual identities, it’s worth clarifying what we mean by this term. Visual identities are more than just company logos. They are visible representations of a brand, including colors, used on the company’s website, social media channels, in the design of physical stores, and as part of the organization’s logos.
For small businesses, having a logo and choosing a corporate color or two may be sufficient. However, the larger an organization, the more likely it is that the company will have a visual identity made up of a number of elements. In these cases, marketers typically develop branding manuals to ensure consistent usage.
But why should visual identities be simplified? Here are some of the main reasons:
- Instant detection
- Stronger emotional connection
- Greater trust in a brand
Visual identities can make a brand instantly recognizable. The simpler a logo or other element is, the faster customers can memorize and identify it. That has never been more important than it is today. On average, Americans see in between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. That amount has doubled since 2007 and has quintupled since the 1970s. By simplifying visual identities, brands can stand out from the crowd and be noticed by consumers.
Consistent, clear visual identities build trust in a brand and strengthen brand awareness among different target groups. This trust forms the basis for an emotional bond between consumer and company, supported by a strong visual identity. The proof is in the company’s bottom line: more than 50% of consumers tend to spend more on brands they have such an association with.
Related Topics: How to build a brand identity that creates a high value-added business
Simplifying a brand’s visual identity can mean the difference between being instantly recognizable and leaving customers in the dark. Here are some of the brands who recently decided to make their businesses more visible:
- Pinterest and Airbnb went from italic logos to clearer fonts. Both brands also added a visual element that can be used as a standalone icon.
- Payment broker Klarna, ride-hailing app Uber, and even search engine giant Google have also simplified their logo fonts for a sleeker, more modern look.
- While Coca-Cola hasn’t revolutionized its typeface or logo, its marketing materials and packaging have become simpler in recent years, giving a classic brand a fresh look.
Related Topics: How brands can use authenticity and emotional connection to differentiate themselves online
Best practices to simplify visual identity
With the exception of Coca-Cola, brands may depend above all on a solid online presence. They must be instantly recognizable across multiple platforms, not only by their name, but also by the smaller visual representation of that name. So Pinterest and Airbnb added an icon to their logo.
These icons are now used as identifiers at the top of browser tabs or as the equivalent to profile pictures. Google and Klarna simply chose to use the first letter of their brand name for this purpose. How is this best practice? Very few brands exist today without an online presence. When building a visual identity, all the necessary elements to represent the brand must be considered.
Other recommended course of action contain:
- Starting with mobile-first designs. Mobile devices with smaller screens generate a large percentage of the world’s internet traffic. The simpler a brand’s visual identity is, the easier it is to recognize it on a smaller screen
- Choose clean, sans serif fonts. These fonts may seem boring at first, but they typically stand the test of time better than more playful fonts and will grow and evolve with your business.
- leave room for change. Brand identities that are too detailed can limit the activities of the company. A simpler, more generic look and feel allows the company to change course without the need for immediate re-branding.
Challenges in simplifying visual identity
Can simplifying visual brand identities go too far? Yes, it is possible to oversimplify the look and feel of a brand.
The dangers include losing identity and creating a brand that is indistinguishable from the competition. Looking at some of the case studies above, it is already clear that simplified brand identities lead to brands looking more alike.
Brand marketing teams need to simplify visual identities without sacrificing brand personalities. Otherwise, the simplification process can harm the brand. Strong visual identities allow customers to instantly see what the brand is about and how it aligns with their values.
Simple but strong visual identities are created from clear brand identities. They consider the history of the brand, fundamental design principles and remain aware of the different media in which elements of the visual identity are displayed. These outstanding visual identities combine brand personality, consistency and simplicity in equal measure and leave an unforgettable impression on customers.