More than just a pretty face...



Your logo is not your brand identity… it is not even your visual identity.

It’s at the heart of it, but it’s only one part of the puzzle.

It is the most basic visual element that enables people to recognise your brand. But how you visually communicate your brand itself is so much more.

The world of branding can be confusing. There are so many different terms, many used interchangeably. It can be tricky figuring out how all the different pieces fit together.

To understand what a visual identity is and how it’s so much more than just your logo, you need to first understand what your brand is. And how this along with your verbal identity combine to build your overall brand identity.

Confused? Don’t worry. In this piece, we break down each of the elements.



Quotes Geoff Bezos

Think of your brand as your personality.

By viewing your brand as the equivalent of a personality in a person, it’s easier to understand how each element fits together in a bigger picture. What are the factors that influence peoples first impression of you and your personality?

People’s perception of your brand is influenced by everything they see, hear and experience when they encounter it. It’s a gut reaction. An emotional connection. And as Jeff Bezos says, it’s what people say when you’re not in the room.

And in business, we have a huge opportunity that by creating a strong and clear brand identity. A personality for our product or organisation.

Diagram 2

Influencing how your brand is seen.

A key part of your brand identity is influenced by what people see, your visual identity. And that goes so much further than a logo.

When you meet someone, you may recognise them by their face. But your overall impression of them, is formed by a whole combination of visual cues. Ones that can often be processed in a split second based as you take in their body language, expression, clothes, style and overall appearance.

The same is true for a brand. And if you’re trying to develop your brand, it’s critical to think about each of these visual cues and how they’ll influence what people think and feel.

Below, we look at five of the key parts of creating a visual identity.


Logos gif

1. your Logo

Your logo is at the heart of your visual identity. A good logo should be distinctive and memorable to help you stand out. It should be simple so that people can easily recognise it.

It should be timeless and futureproofed – you need a logo that will still be relevant in 10 or 20 years. It also needs to be versatile to work across the range of applications you might use it on, whether large and small formats, or horizontal and vertical formats.

And finally, your logo should be relevant – it should reinforce the essence of the personality of your brand, whether that’s fun, or serious or bold. Your logo is an opportunity to reinforce that positioning.

Your logo can take a number of forms. It can be a wordmark like Google; a letterform with a single letter like the M, for McDonalds; a pictorial logo like Twitter; or an Abstract logo like Nike. What will best fit for you brand will depend on how you are trying to position it.


2. Your colour palette

Here we’d choose at least two primary brand colours and two to three secondary brand colours. Colour is such a critical part of branding and is such a key visual way to communicate tone. Because each colour has specific phycological responses.

Red may donate excitement and love; yellow playfulness and optimism and blue, trustworthiness and strength. And when choosing your brand’s colour scheme, it’s critical that the colours selected represent your brands personality and differentiate you from competitors.

Check out our Colour Codes article to find out more about the psychology behind the hues we choose and how you can make your colour palette work for your brand’s development.


Chanel Logo gif

3. Your Typography

This part of developing your visual identity, involves the selection of typefaces for all communications. There may be a primary font for body copy, a font for titles and headlines and a font for highlighting certain copy.

The type of font you choose is a critical decision. And it’s one of our favourite things to do here at TOTEM. Because matching the right typeface to the right brand is so important. Every typeface has a personality or mood, it communicates a feeling.

And while choosing the wrong style can lead to inconsistent and confusing cues on what your brand stands for, perfect alignment between a font and a brand can help reinforce and solidify people’s perception. Be that as a modern or traditional, quirky or conservative, playful or serious, or as an elegant or casual brand.


Waterford Greenway billboard

4. Your Imagery

We all know the saying – a picture paints a thousand words. And it’s true. Your choice of imagery – on your website, on printed collateral or on social media says so much about you. It’s your visual tone of voice. Your style of presenting yourself.

If you want to be seen as a natural and authentic brand, but you constantly use clip art images, how do you think your audience will actually perceive you? How do you want to feel to people – exciting, vibrant and forward thinking? Then you need to choose imagery that really conveys those emotions.

And probably the biggest challenge of all. If the corner stone of your brand is to stand for quality… do not use poor quality images. This is probably the biggest one where brands fall down. When the audience encounter a clash of messaging – you are telling them ‘we stand for quality’ in 4 words, but a poor-quality picture is painting a different picture of your brand with 1,000 words and can have a hugely detrimental impact on perceptions of your brand.


5. Your Brand in Action

Finally, there is the option to develop specific graphic devices and template treatments that can help build a unique and distinct style that is instantly recognisable as your brand.

This may be stationary templates, banner styles, graphic devices that can be used or specific treatments like badges that can be applied to emphasise certain elements.

These aren’t essential or necessary in every brand identity, but can be a powerful way to create even greater visual distinction. And can ensure all your collateral, all the different agencies you work with, produce elements that tell part of the same story and reinforce your visual identity and ultimately your brand identity.


The Key to Implementation

One thing that should be clear by now – that the key is consistency. And that’s where developing a clear Visual Identity Guidelines is critical.

Once each of the five elements have been developed, we would design a comprehensive, but concise, master visual identity guide…


Your guide’s most basic job is to teach everyone who sees it—whether it’s an employee, a member of the media, or a printer—what your brand is and how to effectively implement it. Your guidelines will contain information on colour, design style, typography and visual tone of voice.


It is important that the new identity guide illustrates the personality of the new brand. TOTEM will make that personality evident in the identity guide. This will help your team take your brand’s visual tone of voice and really make it their own.


At the end of the day, your identity guidelines need to be enforceable, and that means that you need to clearly spell out the don’ts in a plain-and-simple fashion!


Before you get started

We hope this article has demystified some of the key elements in a visual identity, and how it’s so much more than just a pretty face… more than a logo. Combined with your verbal identity, they create an identity a personality for your brand. And ensure that at every touch point your brand essence is communicated and reinforced.

Which begs the question…

… can you define your brands essence?

What is your unique USP? How should your brand feel and sound? What do you promise your customers that is unique and different from your competitors?

Don’t worry if you can’t answer these questions, straight away. Because before we embark on developing any of these visual elements these are the questions we can help you to first answer.


We guide brands through a process of understanding where they are now, identifying their ideal positioning zone and then we create impactful, simple, brand creatives that stop your audience in their tracks – getting them to reappraise you.

We specialise in helping brands like you shift the dial for what you stand for in the heart and minds of your customers.