What makes a great brand? Is it one great product? Two? Or is it a more general, ongoing dedication to having a consistent message and level of quality in everything you do?
At Beyond Design, we’re believers in the power of great products. But almost as important is the consistency of your visual brand language. Your visual brand language (VBL) is a protocol or series of protocols that help your products fit together visually and in the way they function for users.
Think about some of the world’s most recognizable brands, not just their logos or typefaces, but the products themselves. You could pick out their products in a lineup of ten similar products in a matter of seconds, even without ever seeing a logo or nameplate. They could release a completely new product that they’ve never produced before, and you would still be able to identify the brand immediately. Why? Because they’ve developed a consistent visual brand language, and followed it effectively.
Bottom line: quality design makes your products great. Visual brand language makes them yours.
Elements of your visual brand language might include:
The general shape and design of your products. Do your products feel like they belong in the same family? Are your products curved or angular? Sleek and delicate or heavy-duty and tough? They don’t need to look exactly alike but should look like siblings or at least cousins.
Your brand’s colors should, of course, get incorporated into your products, but you can also create a unified color system for specific elements of your products that are shared (power buttons, controls, handles, etc.)
The materials and textures you use should be consistent when possible, helping your products feel comfortable and familiar in your customers’ hands.
From grips and buttons to knobs, handles, and controls, the distinct physical parts of your devices should be consistent whenever it makes sense from a user experience standpoint.
Yes, your brand’s logo and other identifying markers should be consistent wherever possible
But does your business need a consistent visual brand language? Here are some reasons why it matters.
Consistent Experiences Reduce Learning Curves
User experience is essential for creating products customers genuinely love, and one of the most critical elements of that experience is how long it takes your users to understand how your product works. When you leverage the power of a visual brand language, you’ve erased the first barrier for your users to understand your product. If they already know what the power button looks like, how the interface functions, and how to navigate the site, they’re more likely to have a positive overall experience without experiencing frustration.
Streamline Your Design Process
Your visual brand language shouldn’t be a burden that you endure to reap the benefits it brings— it can make your design process more simple, streamlined, and cost-effective. Removing decision points about designing your products is a great way to improve your process. For example, when all of your products use the same general handle design, you’re not starting from square one for each new product’s handle. Meanwhile, your customers enjoy the benefit of a consistent visual and tactile experience. You can rarely improve both your process efficiency and customer experience with one stroke, but that’s the power of a visual brand language.
VBL Sets You Apart from Other Brands
Your visual brand identity is a tool for distinguishing yourself in the market. There may be other companies that produce a similar product to yours, and it may even have certain advantages like a lower price point or broader feature set. But your visual brand identity is a tool you can use to set yourself apart and provide customers with that intuitive sense of recognition.
Familiarity Leads to Positive Perception
Did you know that people are more likely to respond to something positively merely because they’ve seen it before? It’s true— study after study had revealed that when people were exposed to certain words or images and then asked to communicate how favorably they felt about that word or image, they feel much more favorably about things they’ve seen before. The finding of this study remains true even when the study participants weren’t consciously aware that they’d seen them before, and was even true of words or images that might otherwise cause a negative association.
That’s right. Even if you aren’t aware you’ve seen a brand before, you’re more likely to react positively to its products if they’re familiar to you. Why else would brands work so hard to get their logos, messages, and products in front of as many people as possible through advertising?
This principle applies to product design, too. When a customer is at the store and glimpses your product, they’re much more likely to react positively to it if it triggers feelings of familiarity in their brain. It lets your customers feel like they already recognize your product when they see it for the first time.
Every day, our team at Beyond Design helps clients create world-class products with a consistent visual brand identity.