A Visual Identity Translates the Brand Story Into Images

Graphic design
The visual identity is just one of the many elements in the overall puzzle we call a brand. It shouldn’t just dictate how your company looks. It should express who you are. Our brand designers Lea Thagaard Thomsen and Andreas Jarner lead our clients in the right direction and help them find an expression that tells the story of their brand. But how do they translate a story in words into one in images? And what makes this work crucial?

When we talk about visual identity, we tend to emphasize the importance of looking good. Is that all there is to it? 

Andreas: Design and visual identity are not about looking good or being pretty. It’s about much more. It’s telling the right story in a way that resonates with the target group. And this is a story that goes beyond the visual. I would say that it’s more about what you radiate. Just like when you put on certain kinds of clothes. 

So, when do you say that an identity succeeded? 

Lea: The visual identity needs to work well together with the strategy and the core story by showing who the company is and expressing its values visually.

An identity works when it gives a good first impression and at the same time, makes you stand out from your competitors. Lea Thagaard Thomsen

An identity works when it gives a good first impression and at the same time, makes you stand out from your competitors. 

Andreas: Usually, as a brand, you have a product or service that you want someone to discover, experience, and eventually buy. In order to do this, you need to be able to tell the right story. It’s not about standing out or looking good/not looking good. It’s about visually saying the right thing the right way. 

A well-thought-out visual identity gives credibility. It can make the receiver believe in the company and assure them that what the company represents is aligned with who they are as consumers. I don’t necessarily think that the local pizza place needs a huge design makeover. Quite the opposite. They should radiate something handheld and slightly off. The opposite would probably scare people away. So, design is not always the answer. You need to be strategic about it and aware of the context.

Identity designed for Potential Project

If we take a look the other way around – what happens if the visual identity is lacking? 

Lea: You might have a great product, but if the visual experience is lacking, and you don’t use energy on the visual, you might end up looking or feeling indifferent. In a worst-case scenario, you end up making the clients feel nothing.

Andreas: Another thing is that you end up telling the wrong story. You might have something you want to tell, but if the visual doesn't reflect that, well, then you will start moving in the wrong direction and speaking to the wrong group of people.

It sounds like a delicate work with a lot of details to consider. How do you go about this when working with brands? 

Lea: All clients are different, so there’s no “one-size-fits-all” process. That being said, it’s important to talk to the customers about, who they are, what they want to achieve, and who their target group is. It’s all about establishing a good dialogue. 

As designers, our work is to translate the clients’ words into something a customer can see and feel. For instance, if they say their brand is something “Nordic” or “activist”, we show them how that could look. We then ask the customers if they relate to that expression of if what they meant by “Nordic” actually was something different. To do this, we use mood boards, look at the market in which they are present and their competitors. That way, we slowly approach each other and get closer to how to tell the story the best way possible. 

You can say that it’s a dance between us and the clients. Andreas Jarner

Andreas: You can say that it’s a dance between us and the clients. The more time you spend with them, the more you get to know them, the better we understand each other. 

The corporate visual identity of Nordisk Games

When talking about visual identity, you often refer to sticking to a so-called brand guide. Why do you need that?

Andreas: A brand gives you a set of rules  – rules that help you keep a red thread through your brand. This way you make sure that the original thoughts and design are, in fact, used strategically and correctly. 

The brand guide makes sure that the target group meets consistency on all platforms. If this is not the case, there’s a risk that it gives a completely different experience and blurs the story. The story becomes vaguer and this may result in people believing in you less and not understanding what you’re saying. 

Lea: It’s important to mention that there are different levels of brand guides and sticking to a brand guide doesn't necessarily have to be a big task. However, it’s always important to have in mind that people remember better visually, and there’s a bigger chance they remember something if it’s presented consistently.

Andreas: Of course, it’s allowed for a brand to, every now and then, to move out of its zone. But you have to be very aware of the rules to break them in a way that doesn’t make the story fluffy.

If you want to know more about how we help brands stand out, you can explore some of our work or get in touch. 

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