visual

Visual identity: everything you need to know about this essential aspect of branding

When it comes to branding, what you see is what you get. At least, that’s how potential customers will feel. They’ll have no reason to give a visually unimpressive brand the benefit of the doubt—it’s up to the brand to earn that kind of trust. In branding, “what you see” is a brand’s visual identity.

Brand book guide design layout on an orange background
Brand guide by Ian Douglas

Visual identity is how you shape perception and create an impression through the visible elements of your brand. Images are a powerful form of communication, specifically because they do not communicate with words. They speak on a primal, emotional level and are thus more persuasive. But with great power of communication comes great responsibility: you’ll want to be extra cautious that you’re not sending the wrong message.

To make sure your visuals are communicating the way they should, we’ve compiled this guide to all things visual identity—by the end you’ll be prepared to create one that will inspire customers to pay attention.

What is visual identity?

playful brand identity design for taco shop with pattern, logo and cup
A colorful, playful & fun visual identity design by pecas

Visual identity is all of the imagery and graphical information that expresses who a brand is and differentiates it from all the others. In other words, it describes everything customers can physically see, from the logo to the interior design of a store.

Often, visual identity culminates in the development of a brand style guide which provides consistent instructions on how the brand should be visually represented at all times and in any situation.

The purpose  of visual identity is:

  • to create an emotional impression on viewers
  • to inform viewers about the nature of the brand and services/products offered
  • to unify the many different aspects of a business through consistent visuals

Visual identity vs. brand identity

Visual identity has an intrinsic relationship with brand identity.Sign up for our free, 7-day email course and learn to build the perfect brand identity.We’ll also send you creative tips, trends, resources and the occasional promo (which you can opt-out of anytime).Sign me up! View our privacy policy

On the one hand, brand identity is a holistic expression of everything that makes the brand what it is. It includes visual identity along with non-visual elements such as a brand voice, copy editing guides, a mission statement, core values, etc.

At the same time, visual identity is a distinct discipline that involves a different thought process and approach from brand identity as a whole. Though there is overlap, there are usually different professions involved in each. Brand identity is overseen by marketers, and visual identity involves designers and creative directors.

In short, brand identity describes who a brand is on the inside whereas visual identity expresses who a brand is on the outside.

The elements of visual identity

Visual identity is essentially a brand’s visual language. As such, its individual elements are, like words, the building blocks that allow the messenger to create meaning. Here, we’ll look at these separate elements that come together to form a cohesive visual identity.

Graphics

Graphics, in the context of visual identity, are picture assets that are drawn or designed. They can be as simple as forms and shapes—consider a Lego block or the Coca-Cola bottle and how these distinctive silhouettes signify their respective brands. Or they can be more complex, such as a logo, icons, or even full-scale illustrations or animations.

Typography

Hair serif typographic logo design
Lettering by ::scott::

Typography is the shape or styling of the text you use in your branding. There are many different types of fonts and each one can have a different effect on the viewer, including different degrees of legibility. For the purposes of visual identity, you’ll want to consider the wordmark to your logo, a headline font and a body copy font (which should be the most legible).

Color palette

Color is used to identify a brand through a scheme (no more than three colors are generally recommended) of very specific hues, shades and tints. This means brands do not simply use red or green but shiraz and seafoam. When used correctly, colors can generate some of the most powerful emotional responses in the viewer.

Label design for herbal product with varying color schemes
Label design by _Ossobüko_

Though the color palette often begins with the logo, these colors should be repurposed for all brand materials. Designers will generally need to assign a primary color (the main color for your brand), a secondary color (to be used in the background), and an accent color (for contrast on assets such as a CTA button). Keep in mind that the absence of color, such as black and white, is a perfectly valid color choice as well.

Yoga logo design incorporated into a photo
Branding design by artsigma

Imagery

Imagery describes photography and video content as well as any spokespeople who act as the living “image” of the brand in advertisements. When it comes to visual identity, designers must curate only those images that are the most representative of the brand’s personality and, most importantly, its customers.

Imagery is the element most related to the target audience because people empathize with faces and naturally want to see themselves reflected in the brands they consume. This means, for example, creating guidelines around whether any stock images or videos used should read as corporate or showcase everyday people, depending on whom your visuals are meant to be speaking to.

Physical brand assets

Physical assets are the material objects that contribute to a brand’s visual identity. Strictly speaking, this may not apply to brands who don’t have a physical presence and the nature of these assets will vary even within businesses that do. But as this is an important element of visual identity for physical brands, it is worth going over.

Logo design for a vegan brand pictured on packaging and an apron
Brand design by Huntress ™

Physical assets can include the layout and design of a store (think of how all Apple Stores look alike with white interiors and glass storefronts), the uniforms that customer-facing employees wear and the china, cutlery and tablecloths used in restaurants. All of these send a message to consumers, including the lack of consistency.

How graphic design applies visual identity

Graphic design is the process that takes visual elements and molds them into a cohesive visual identity. The following are the common instances in which a brand will create visuals, where graphic design will act as a roadmap for keeping them consistent, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Logo design for food brand
Logo and branding by AZ-Designs

Logo and brand assets

Logo and branding design is at the heart of establishing visual identity. A logo is the foremost symbol for a brand, and it informs many of the graphics, color and typography choices of the visual identity going forward. This category would also include identifying materials such as business cards, letterheads and social avatars/cover images, where the aim is primarily to distinguish the brand.

Business and advertising

Advertising is where businesses use their visuals to actively reach out to customers. This can come in the form of flyers, brochures, billboards, tv/magazine/banner ads and more. Because customers rarely seek advertising, the visual elements must identify the brand while going the extra mile to impress, entertain and persuade viewers.

Bold red digital brochure design
This digital brochure by Terry Bogard implements visual identity using branded colors and shapes

Web and digital design

Digital design is the space where consumers get to directly interact with your visual identity. Visual identity elements here are often expressed through hero or website images, interface color schemes and layout, social media content, animations, icons, buttons and much more. Because digital tools are made to be used, visual identity here must unobtrusively assist the user towards completing their task.

Web page design with geometric colors
This web design by ☪ekidot balances bold visuals with unobtrusive white space

How to design an outstanding visual identity

Define your brand identity

Your brand identity should guide the visuals, not the other way around. After all, your visuals are meant to express who you are, so it would make sense to first figure out what you’re all about.

While you don’t have to have every aspect of your brand figured out (as brands can and should evolve over time), decide on the basics of your brand strategy: what is your mission statement? What are your core values? How does your brand help people? Who are your buyer personas? What is your communication style?

Character illustrations showing a cartoon woman in different outfits
Picturing your brand as a person can help you decide what visual “outfits” fit. Design by NataMarmelada.

Questions like these, and many more, help you see your brand as a character, what she would look like and sound like if she were a real person. Seeing your brand as a person will make it much easier to recognize which visual “outfits” fit and which don’t when crafting your visual identity.

Familiarize yourself with the elements of design

Blue logo design of an abstract atom
Like chemistry, graphic design is made great by mixing the right elements. Logo design by Graphoenik.

In order to construct a visual identity that resonates with people, you must first be familiar with how visuals speak. This is where graphic design becomes important—it is also known as “visual communication” for exactly this reason.

Depending on how you implement them, each of the 6 basic elements of design will have built-in associations that customers will make, and only a select few will be appropriate for your particular brand. For example, some brand fonts might read as old-fashioned while others will read as modern. Some color meanings will convey passion while others will express coolness. Graphic design is ultimately a tool for visual expression, and a tool is only as strong as its user. It can make your life easier if you know how to use it, or it can be a hazard if you don’t.

Tell a compelling story

While graphic design is useful for communicating ideas visually, those ideas must come together to tell a captivating story about your brand. Visuals have the power to grab attention, but stories have the power to involve people. They root for the underdog, they scorn the villain, they swoon over the hero.

Environmental technology visual identity logo design
by Ezanov

Good stories are rooted in characters and conflict. Decide who your protagonist is and give them an obstacle to overcome: whether it’s your customers and their pain points or it’s your business and the noise of other brands who are neglecting their needs.

Take, for example, Ezanov’s logo for My Green Heroes. The green shades convey a sense of nature, and the geometric style of the leaf (along with the iPhone photo) show us that the brand is about technology. But it is the way the logo is arranged upright, with the colors transitioning from dark to light, that tells the story of an upward climb against environmental destruction. The photo of a modern man confidently sporting a suit gives us our character, poised to take action.

Above all else, your visual identity must adhere to storytelling’s most cherished rule: show, don’t tell.

Poster advertisement for online education
by isuk

Aim for simplicity

Clearly there are a great number of messages, ideas and stories your visual identity can communicate. So many options can be a blessing and curse.

To avoid confusion, it’s best to focus on one message at a time. Consumers will take in visual information within a matter of seconds, and unless they are actively seeking out your brand, they will move on just as quickly.

You have limited time to make an impression, so it’s essential to home in on the single most important takeaway, and focus the visuals around that. In the case of isuk’s poster design, the message is a promise of serenity, which is supported by every visual element—from the calming blue color, to the meditative photo, to the centered alignment.

Balance consistency with contrast

Given the sheer amount of brand collateral that will accumulate over years of business, your visual identity will inevitably involve many moving parts. The challenge is to make sure that every visual element, no matter its specific purpose or medium, looks like part of the same brand. This is where having well documented brand style guidelines can be crucial.

Versatile blue and red logo design for a Japanese brand
by goopanic

The other challenge that comes with visual consistency is redundancy: a brand that is too predictable can fade to the background. One of the core principles of design that separates design elements from the background is contrast. Look for opportunities to infuse your existing visual brand with new and varied contrast.

Consider, for example, the way goopanic’s branding design for Nippon Week begins with a logo and goes on to repurpose the shapes, colors, and typography to create brand new visuals from the old.

Know when to step back and when to stand out

Packaging pouch design for banana chips with illustrated elements
This packaging design by Mj.vass takes advantage of its visual identity’s bold colors hand-drawn, curved shapes to stand out on store shelves.

You might assume that the purpose of a visual identity is to be noticed at all times. After all, it’s hard to communicate visually if no one is paying attention. But there are times when the best visual identity is one that flies under the radar.

Consider a website that users are trying to navigate or a newsletter where they are looking for information. Having a web background of vibrant yellow might align with your brand color guidelines, but imagine how distracting that would be for a user trying to read your copy. Visual communication often works on an unconscious level, and you can trust that your message is getting across even with a minimal implementation.

On the other hand, sometimes it makes sense to wear your visual identity loud and proud, if you’re attempting to differentiate your product from other products on the same shelf, for example. It’s important to recognize when it’s time to stand out and when it’s time to step back.

Logo design for a technology company featuring bright colors and round geometry
Colors and type choices will differ depending on the medium. Design by sheva™.

Design for the medium

No visual identity exists in a vacuum: once you develop any visual asset, the time will come to send it off into the real, or digital, world.

A visual identity for an online brand will naturally look different from a brick-and-mortar brand, where tactile experiences such as textures and die cuts will go a long way with consumers. Different media can even drastically change how your visual elements come across: colors that appear bright in the digital sphere will be darker when printed.

Similarly, serifs are considered the most legible typeface style in print, but sans serif are more legible on a computer screen. Wherever your visual identity takes you, make sure you’re adequately prepared for the journey.

Picture your own visual identity

Visual identity is a powerful tool for telling a brand’s story and connecting with customers. Because it is so effective at communication, the wrong message can have dire consequences. Understanding your own brand identity will guide you on your visual journey, but the best way to make sure you get a visual identity that fits is to work with a great logo and branding designer.

personal branding

Personal branding secrets: 7 steps to building an outstanding personal brand

Everyone knows the importance of good branding when it comes to your business—but what about building a personal brand that’s associated with you as an individual? Never underestimate the power of personal branding—when done right it can be your most valuable asset.

personal branding illustration
Personal branding can be your super power. Illustration by OrangeCrush.

But how do you create a successful personal brand?

This article is going to show you the secrets of personal branding and walk you through the steps you need to take if you want to create an outstanding personal brand for yourself.

Let’s start with a definition of what personal branding actually is all about:

What is personal branding?

Personal branding is what shapes the perception of an individual in the eyes of the public. Personal branding is all about building your reputation, creating an image of yourself for the outside world and marketing yourself as an individual. Essentially, your personal brand is the story that’s told about you when you’re not in the room.

It may feel a bit uncomfortable to think of yourself as a brand. But the truth is that everyone already has a personal brand. What do people say about your work? What adjectives do they use to describe you? Are they positive or critical?

Your story is also being told online. What’s being said about you in the virtual space? You have a choice to actively manage your brand or leave it to chance.

Building a personal brand intentionally will allow you to tell your story as you want it to be told, to establish yourself as an expert and leader in your field and to connect with your customers and clients beyond your products and services alone.

Personal brand examples

There are some characters in the world of business who are larger than life. They’ve mastered the art of personal branding and they know exactly who they are and what makes them unique.

Personal brand example: Screenshot of Gary Vaynerchuk’s website
 Gary Vee (Vaynerchuk) is a great example for a successful personal brand built around him as an individual

A prime example for an expert in personal branding is Gary Vaynerchuk, who successfully brands himself as Gary Vee, the brash businessman who tells it like it is and isn’t afraid of self-promotion or voicing his opinions loud and clear.

Personal brand example: Screen shot of Marie Forleo website
Marie Forleo’s whole business is built around her quirky personal brand. It lives on marieforleo.com and she even has Marie Forleo TV.

Another great example is Marie Forleo’s personal brand, which is built around her own quirky personality and motivational, supportive attitude. Her personal brand is beautifully designed, has an authentic feel and is all about encouragement for female entrepreneurs.

Examples of outstanding personal brands are everywhere—and the way an individual chooses to shape their personal brand depends on what image they want to create and what they want to achieve. Think Oprah. Richard Branson. Beyoncé. Gordon Ramsay. Personal branding can be extremely diverse.

Look at virtually any successful Youtuber, blogger or business person with an online fan base and you’ll see that their personal brand plays a major role in their success. It’s their personality that makes them approachable, trustworthy and memorable. Their businesses are built around them as a person, which makes their business and person literally inseparable. Personal branding is their biggest asset.

So, how do you actually go about building a personal brand? Here are the 5 steps you need to think about:

1. Understand why you’re building a personal brand

Okay, so it’s clear that you need a personal brand if you want to be successful. But how exactly is it going to help you? What are your specific reasons for wanting to create a strong brand? Getting clear about what you’re trying to achieve with your brand will help you map out the steps to get there.

Personal branding for freelancers

Personal brand example: Screen shot of Freelance to Win website
Daniel Margulies built a personal brand as a freelance copywriter making six figures on Upwork so successfully that he now doesn’t even do freelancing anymore and coaches other freelancers on how to make more money!

As a freelancer working on a project-to-project basis, a personal brand is absolutely critical. Your personal brand will help raise awareness that you exist and will build credibility and trust so that more clients seek out your services. Ultimately, a strong personal brand means that clients will come to you instead of you having to hustle to find them—saving you time and money.

Personal branding for entrepreneurs & business owners

As a business owner, you should already be building your business brand. Your brand strategy will include your overall purpose and your values, the benefits that your brand stands for and how you’re different from your competition, as well as tangible elements like your logo and the colors and typography found throughout all of your materials. But behind your business brand there’s also a personal brand.

Look at Richard Branson. He has 11.3 million followers on Twitter—compare that to the Twitter accounts of his properties Virgin Atlantic (556K), Virgin Galactic (171K) and Virgin Media (225K). As he declares on his profile, he is a “tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality.” Branson uses his personal brand to support his different ventures and to get people to buy into his companies.

Personal brand example: Screen shot of Richard Branson’s Twitter profile
Richard Branson is notorious for his fun-loving attitude, his passion for what he does and his belief in work-life balance for himself and his employees.

People are naturally interested in other people and their stories. They want to know why you set up your business in the first place, what you stand for and what talents and quirks you bring to the table. Cultivating a strong personal brand will humanize your business and allow you to develop stronger relationships which will lead to broader exposure.

As an entrepreneur, you’re also likely to start more than one business over the years. Your current business venture may fail (hopefully not!) and you may sell your shares and move on to your next project—but your personal brand lives on.

2. Take control of your P.I.E.

Blueberry and blackberry pie with a piece missing
A delicious P.I.E.: Performance, Image and Exposure. Via Erol Ahmed.

Unfortunately working hard or having great ideas is rarely enough these days. No matter what you do or what your goal is, the secret is to be in control of your P.I.E.: PerformanceImage and Exposure. All three pieces of your professional P.I.E. need to work in your favor if you want your personal brand to succeed.

Performance is fundamental, of course. You need to deliver quality results in your work. Image is about what other people think of you—it’s your personal brand! And the final piece, Exposure, is about making sure that people know who you are and what you stand for (I’ll show you how, below).

Try to figure out where you can improve: do you deliver top results, but your image isn’t great? Is your image fine, but you’re lacking exposure? You need to pay attention to all three for the best results.

3. Find your brand story and create your brand framework

Classical columns holding up a ceiling
A strong story is built on core foundational pillars that together support the overall objective behind your personal branding efforts. Via Dogancan Ozturan.

Before you start telling your story, you need to work out what that story will be. What do you want to be known for? What will make you stand out against your competition? It’s important that you develop a deep understanding of your brand personality and personal brand identity.

A personal brand framework, or story, consists of a number of key elements:

Brand purpose

What is your overall purpose, your ‘why’? Why do you get up in the morning and go to work? What is it that you’re ultimately trying to achieve? This could be professional success or helping or supporting others with your product or service.

Core values

Brands are more and more value driven today and your personal brand must be even more so. What do you want to stand for? What do you value most of all in your personal and professional life? Creativity and innovation? Integrity and respect? Discipline and dependability? Try to come up with five core values.

Brand benefits and reasons to believe

A brand needs to be clear about the functional and emotional benefits it delivers to its customers. When it comes to your personal brand what are the hard and soft skills that you bring to the table? What are your unique strengths? Hard skills are applicable things like (in my case) writing, coaching and mentoring, public speaking, workshop facilitation, business strategy, branding and marketing. Soft skills are attributes like self-motivation, strength, independence, quick thinking and open mindedness.

Next, you’ll want to consider the evidence you have to support those claims. What awards and accolades do you have? What qualifications or client testimonials? Make a list of all of your degrees, awards, credentials, testimonials, prominent media appearances and key examples of your work (i.e. a YouTube channel with your best speaking engagements or a professional blog that features your top writing examples).

Tangible branding elements

Finally, a brand will always have tangible elements like a brand name, logo, colors and fonts—your brand design. What are the tangible elements of your personal brand?

Online, this will include the colors and design elements you use on your website and social networks. Many freelancers who build a brand off of their name also get a personal logo design to use on business cards, their website, etc. Offline, personal branding encompasses your physical appearance including your grooming, the clothes you wear and how you speak, as well as any memorable personality quirks!

Creating a personal brand framework

An example of a personal brand framework
Just like a business brand, your personal brand framework considers your overall purpose and values as well as the ways in which you bring them to life through daily practice. Via Anna Lundberg.

Create your own personal brand framework (you can follow the format of mine or create your own format), print it out and stick it up where you can see it. As you would with a business brand, you can now use this personal branding framework to guide all that you do, bringing your online and offline personal brand in line with your best self.

What sets your personal brand apart?

Now consider your brand story and framework in comparison to everyone else in your chosen field. What’s special about you? Why should someone choose to work with you instead of your competitors?

Companies often call this their “USP”, their Unique Selling Point and it’s particularly important in a crowded industry. Are you the only one in your industry with a sense of humor? Do you have a unique perspective or special skill that no one else has to offer? Your personal branding should clearly demonstrate what makes you different and put your USP front and center.

4. Assess your personal brand as it stands today

Now that you have created the story that you want to tell, let’s take a look at the story that’s currently being told today.

What does Google say?

How would you go about finding out more about someone? You’d Google them, right? It’s pretty standard. In fact, 70% of employers use Google to check you out while 70% review your social media profiles as part of the hiring process.

This is officially an excuse to Google yourself! What comes up first? Is it your personal Facebook profile or your LinkedIn page? Click on the Google images tab: which photos do you see—are they pics that you want professional contacts to see?! Do you even show up at all or are the search results dominated by someone else with your name?

If the picture that’s being presented on Google is far from the professional image you want to project, or if you’re not appearing at all, then you have some work to do!

Personal brand example: A google search for anna lundberg
When I first started managing my personal brand—as I was quitting my job back in 2013 and considering next steps—Googling my name would bring up the 15-year-old victim of a car crash along with a Swedish university professor. As you can see, I still have a TV presenter there on the right to contend with! Via Anna Lundberg.

What story are you telling on social media?

Now let’s review your social media profiles and see what story you’re telling there.

Facebook is often the biggest culprit. Your profile might be full of rants about some injustice against your local team or drunken photos with the guys at a sports bar. Maybe you complain about having to go to work with a huge hangover every Monday morning or you post lots of cat videos. What about those flirtatious group selfies when you’re out with the girls? Now is the time to consider the image that might form in the minds of prospective clients, partners, investors or employers when they see these pictures and updates.

Consider setting up a separate page for your business persona and limit your existing Facebook profile with strict privacy settings. That way, only your closest friends and family will see your selfies and rants. (Or, better yet, keep them to yourself!)

The other big one is LinkedIn. Is your profile up to date? What’s the message coming through in the recommendations and in any updates? What kind of content are you liking and commenting on? An out-of-date and inactive—or super negative—profile doesn’t make a great impression.

What would a prospective employer or client think of you based on what they find online? Repeat this assessment of all of your social media profiles and make a note of any changes you’d like to make. Read more about social media branding here.

How do you come across IRL?

When it comes to your offline presence, it’s a little harder to assess what story you’re telling.

Try asking your colleagues, friends, business associates and former clients how they’d describe you if they were to recommend you to someone—see if they mention the key points that you want to be pushing.

Pro tip: don’t try to be someone you’re not, most people have a sixth sense for inauthentic behavior. Personal branding works best when you’re being authentic and not trying to play a role you think you should be playing.

It’s also useful to take an honest look at your physical appearance. Are your clothing and accessories (this includes any tattoos or piercings) appropriate for the audience you’re trying to appeal to? You may not think looks matter, but people still make a snap judgement about you in the first moments of meeting you. What do you want their takeaway to be?

5. Share your brand story with the world

Now that you know how you look to the world today, you can begin bringing your new story to life.

But it’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it. Be sure to create an appealing look and feel and use a consistent brand voice on any platform you’re active on. Along with your words and actions that’s what going to convey your personality and create a complete image of who you are.

An example LinkedIn profile
A professional photo, a compelling headline and a carefully crafted summary will ensure that your LinkedIn profile attracts the right kind of attention. Via Anna Lundberg.

Learn to love LinkedIn

There are so many different social networks out there, but for the professional world LinkedIn is the chosen land. Here are some quick tips:

Invest in a professional photo

It’s worth investing in good photos—at least request the services of a friend who has a proper camera if you don’t want to spend any money. You need good lighting, a neutral background and a nice smile! No pouty duck faces or badly cropped wedding pics please.

And, while we’re at it: whenever you upload a photo of yourself, make sure it’s optimized for search (e.g. anna-lundberg.jpg).

Customize your headline

Come on, you’re so much more than “freelancer” or “side-hustler”! Consider using your elevator pitch—you have one, right?—or at least its key points to capture all that you can do.

And if you’re an employee, don’t lean on your job title. Instead, use words that illustrate the core responsibilities of your job. If you’re trying to start a business or looking to change career tracks you’ll want to use language that will help you ignite the process of moving toward that new direction.

Write a compelling summary

The summary section is the first thing people will see after the title and it’s a prime spot for incorporating the key elements of your personal brand framework. This is your opportunity to let the reader know who you are and to pique their interest so that they dig into the rest of your profile.

The summary should be written in first person (“I work with…”). Think about who you’re talking to and your key messages. Highlight your biggest achievements and if necessary explain any gaps or deviations that might not otherwise make sense in your professional trajectory. Try to provide a call to action, like your email address so you can easily be contacted.

Elaborate on your work experience

Job titles alone don’t say too much, so be sure to continue to tell your story through each of the positions or projects that you note on your profile. Highlight key responsibilities and achievements that support your main message (remember that “credibility” piece from your brand framework in #2).

Get recommendations from past employers

Testimonials and reviews are great for building credibility and trust. Don’t be shy about asking people explicitly—even giving them some examples of the kind of things you’d like them to mention. People usually won’t write something unless you ask.

Add your key skills

Make sure that your most important skills and strengths are included in the skills section. You can also shuffle them around so that the three most critical skills appear at the top.

Select your social networks of choice

You won’t have time to actively manage every single network that’s out there so choose carefully. Think about who you are, what type of business or industry you’re in, and who your clients are.

Twitter

Personal brand example: Screenshot of Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter profile
Guy Kawasaki is a top influencer on Twitter. Note that he has pinned his tweet about his latest online course. With 1.5M followers, he must be doing something right!

Use that professional picture you’ve had taken and make sure that your Twitter bio captures your story (remember that great example from Richard Branson?) and that your tweets are consistent, too. Add a bit of personality, though, as simply sharing industry articles can get a bit dry! You can pin a key piece of content to the top of your profile to make sure that it’s the first thing peoples see when they land on your profile (instead of your random tweet about the hot guy you saw on the train this morning).

Facebook

Personal brand example: Screenshot of Joe Wicks’ Facebook page
Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, has built a following of 2.7M million on his “public figure” page thanks to his regular Facebook live workouts, YouTube videos and other engaging content. Note that his personal brand is front and center here.

Creating a specific Facebook page for your professional connections is  a good idea if you’d like keep your private life private. You can choose an “author” page or “public figure.” Make sure that your ‘About’ section is completed, you’ve linked to your website and you’ve got a high-quality profile picture and cover image. You can (and should!) let your personality shine through here but keep a professional tone and build a page that would make your grandma proud!

Instagram

Holding a phone about to do a live video on Instagram
There’s no point in setting up an Instagram account if you hate taking photos and don’t like sharing insights into your lifestyle publicly. Likewise there’s no point in getting into Facebook Live if you feel uncomfortable on video or building your brand on Snapchat if your target audience is in an older age bracket that doesn’t use it. Via Hans Vivek.

If you’re a creative person, or you’re passionate about food, beauty, fashion, and so on, then a more visual platform like Instagram can be a great way to build your personal brand in a beautiful way. Again, make sure that your bio captures the essence of your story and that your pins and posts support that story.

Create a personal website

If you want to get serious about building your brand you need to create a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy—it just needs to look attractive and professional and have your bio, your CV and your contact details, with links to your social network profiles. But you can take it to the next level with additional information, materials, articles and a newsletter—there’s no limit to what you can do!

You can set up a basic site using a website builder or you can create something more sophisticated with a custom web design. No matter which route you decide to take, get a custom domain name (www.janesmith.com rather than www.janesmith.wordpress.com) and get someone to proofread all the copy for you, especially if you’re not a native English speaker (that goes for all online platforms!).

Oh, and while we’re on domains: Please, please, PLEASE don’t use a Hotmail address for professional contacts. It’s embarrassing. Really. Gmail is the standard these days so at minimum you should get something like janesmith@gmail.com. It’s even better if you can secure your own domain name e.g. hello@janesmith.com—oftentimes you can get this along with your website.

And once you’ve done all this great work to update your profiles and platforms you’ll want to make sure that they evolve with you. Be sure to check in now and then and keep your profiles updated.

6. Build your personal brand’s online presence

You’ve sorted out all your social profiles so that they’re up to date and telling the right story. Awesome! But while it’s nice to have this basic online presence, if you stop there no one’s going to know that you exist. To make real connections you need to be actively engaging with real people.

Screenshot of starting a new story on Medium
To really tell your story, you’ll need to start creating content. It can be as simple as sharing your perspective on a hot industry topic or giving an insight into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of your business. Via Anna Lundberg.

Create relevant content

You can start that process by sharing and commenting on other people’s content that is consistent with your personal brand values and messages. A graphic designer would do well to like a LinkedIn article that promises 7 killer tips for logo design or to add her perspective to a page titled Must-have skills for any graphic designer—but should probably avoid getting sucked into long controversial threads on the policies of the current POTUS. (That last one goes for all of us!)

Once you’re comfortable with this kind of interaction, you can start creating and publishing your own content. It’s completely up to you which format you choose. If you love writing then adding a blog to your personal website could be a good idea, or you could write articles on Medium or LinkedIn. This will also help you show up higher in search rankings. If you’re a bit of a chatterbox, why not try podcasting or vlogging?

Maybe you prefer to hide behind a camera, in which case sharing your beautiful photographs on Instagram might be the best fit for you. You may have to get out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill, but you’ll be surprised at how fast you improve with a bit of consistent practice.

Don’t forget good old networking

Throughout all of these processes, be sure to stay in touch with existing contacts, talk to strangers at conferences and other events and look for opportunities to speak and share your content. A lot of people find networking uncomfortable but it’s really just talking to people—and you can definitely do that! Look for ways in which you can add value and help others and you’ll find that people will do the same for you.

7. Pursue a personal branding strategy

Finally, whichever formats and platforms you choose, whatever content you create and put out there, be sure to do so with intention. Each blog post you write, each tweet you send, adds another piece to the puzzle that is your personal brand. Your personal branding strategy is the bigger picture of the brand you want to build.

Having a strategy will keep you on track and ensures you’ll end up where you want to go. It’s your vision and roadmap that everything you do should to fit into.

Now it’s time to take the steps to ensure that the image people end up with is the image you want for your personal brand! Want more branding tips? Here’s how to create a great brand identity for your business.

cocacola

Product branding 101: help your product stand out from the crowd

People love Coca-Cola, but they don’t often have a strong opinion about the other brands their local supermarket sells, even when they taste exactly the same as Coca-Cola and cost half the price. Why? Two words: product branding. Coca-Cola isn’t just soda; it’s Americana and polar bears and Santa Claus. It’s iconic red and white script and six-ounce glass bottles. It’s comfort and familiarity. These perceptions of Coke (as something so much more than carbonated sugar water) is successful product branding in action.

If you’re developing a product, you should be developing its brand. Clearly identifying who the product is for and how you want the world to perceive it will guide the decisions you make through its development. These understandings may even fundamentally change how the product works or how it’s made.

But what is product branding?

Product branding, put simply, is the process of branding a product. It’s the identity you give your product so it stands out in a sea of competitors and connects with the people it meshes with best. That unique identity is your product’s brand, and each of the tangible aspects of that brand is your product’s brand identity.

Confused? This should help:

  • Your product’s brand is how the world perceives your product
  • Your product’s brand identity is the collection of things that comprise its brand, like the font and colors in its logo and the way it’s packaged
  • Branding is the action of creating a brand identity and from it, a distinct brand

For some products, the branding is loud and clear.

coca-cola bottle against red background

via cocacolacompany.com

collection of colorful Nintendo products

via Nintendo

collection of Apple products

via Apple

white Supreme hoodie

via Supreme

With others, not so much.

The degree to which you brand your product depends on your type business and on the product itself.

free weight set

Some products have less obvious branding. Via ashleyborden.com

young woman wearing a pink zip hoodie

via Kohls

Because let’s be real here: when you’re building a shed, you probably don’t care much about the brand of nails you use. You might care a little bit more about the brand of hammer you use, and you probably care more than that about the brand of paint or shingles you go with.

Branding takes on greater significance for certain products than it does for others because things like perceived quality, sourcing, perceived value and functionality simply matter more with certain products. You don’t care about a nail’s brand because that nail is going to get hammered into a 2×4 and never seen again. In contrast, you probably compared two or more brands of shingles to find one that’s durable, waterproof and attractive—because going with an inferior brand could mean spending more money and weekends repairing and replacing that roof.

pallet of nail boxes
They’re nails. Their boxes tell you everything you need to know, but there’s no brand engagement beyond that. Via Home Depot.

When you were choosing between available shingle brands, each company’s branding helped steer you toward your final decision. Branding differentiated the shingles rated for rainy and snowy climates from the ones that weren’t and the shingles that are designed to last more than 20 years from the ones that might not make it past one.

Define your product’s unique brand

Defining your brand accurately requires some self-reflection. Take some time to dig into who your product is for, where it fits into its unique market and which characteristics make it unique. Explore these factors to find concrete answers about:

  • Your values. Are you an employee-owned company that prioritizes responsible labor practices? Maybe environmental sustainability or making high quality products accessible to lower-income buyers is a goal for you and your company
  • Your buyers’ values. What do your customers care about? What are they looking for from a product like yours?
  • Where your product fits into its market. Is it priced higher, lower or about the same as competing products—and why? Is it available on every store’s shelf, in select boutiques or from your online shop exclusively? Is it meant for a specific demographic among your buyers?
  • The characteristics that makes your product unique among its competitors. Is your product the only option in its category that comes with customer support for life? Or is it the only one they can get without having to leave the house? What differentiates your product?
white and black line drawing product label for a sleeping bag

Black and white keeps it simple, line drawings keep it casual. Product label design by Luz Viera.

intricate vintage-inspired watercolor orange juice label

This type of label reads pretty differently than a straw stuck in an orange, no? Label design by Agi Amri.

You can demonstrate all those points through thoughtful product branding design. Effective product design (and by extension, product packaging design) starts with visual choices like:

  • A color palette. Take a look at our guide to choosing brand colors to learn more about how the colors you use in your product design impact how buyers perceive your product (and by extension, your company).
  • Fonts. Just like your color choices, your font choices determine how your brand is perceived. Read more about different fonts’ effects in our fonts guide.
  • The shapes you use in your logo and product branding design. Shapes, too, convey brand personality traits and steer viewers’ perception of your brand. Rounded shapes tend to feel softer and more inviting, whereas squares evoke a sense of security and triangles can create feelings of movement, urgency and drive.
  • The design styles and imagery you use in your product branding. For some brands, simple line illustrations say it all. For others, photos are a must-have. And for others, abstract 3D graphics capture who they are perfectly.
cardboard box with green and brown labeling

For eco-friendly products, green and brown are often the go-to palette. Product packaging design by mirza yaumil.

collection of tea canisters in jewel-toned packaging with different zodiac signs on them

Even with a unique design for each tea blend, the collection’s branding is consistent and clear. Product packaging design by brandstrategy.

But that’s not all; branding goes beyond visual design. Branding touches every interaction the customer has with your product, like the packaging your product arrives in and the way they interact with your customer support team. You can take branding in a ton of different directions to build a stronger relationship with your audience, like collaborating with another product or service that’s on your buyers’ shopping lists or creating a totally unique buying experience through omnichannel shopping.

Create your product’s brand identity

As we mentioned above, your product’s brand identity is the collection of tangible “pieces” that make up its brand. These include:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Social media presence
  • Product packaging
  • Product labeling
  • Taglines
  • Copy voice
  • Product names
  • Email/messaging design templates
dark blue and orange product label on a bottle
The color palette, the imagery used and even the shape of the bottle are components of this product’s brand identity. Logo and product packaging design by brilliant__.

Take the visual design elements you identified for your brand and use them to design the components that make up your brand identity. For example, the Nature’s logo is the primary focal point of its van wrap design, which uses the brand’s color palette and includes its tagline.

green van wrap showing a sun logo and information about a product
Your brand identity can include anything you decide to brand, like a vehicle wrap! Vehicle wrap design by Priyo.

Chances are, you’re probably not going to find some super designer who can create all of the above for your brand. So to avoid having your logo designer create something that says “we’re as transparent as taut cling wrap!” create a comprehensive brand identity guide. A brand identity guide is an in-depth guide that lays out everything your team needs to know about your brand, like its color palette, fonts, logo variations and overall voice.

Map out your brand plan

Once your product has a clear, consistent brand, it’s time to get that brand out everywhere. Everywhere it makes sense for your brand to be, that is. Nowadays, everybody must have an online presence. That means a website and social media. But which social media platforms you promote your product on depends on what your product is and which demographics it’s meant for. If your product is a line of ergonomic office furniture priced for Gen X and Boomer c-suite executives, don’t promote it on TikTok because Gen X and Boomers aren’t on TikTok. But Facebook and LinkedIn? Yes.

Facebook cover page showing a man with a beard, scissors and the beard care product
Take time to find out where your audience hangs out most online. Facebook cover design by BryanMaxim.

The same goes when you’re choosing where else to maintain a brand presence. For some products, print ads make sense. For others, they aren’t very effective. Similarly, some products have audiences that connect really well with influencers, so getting your product into those influencers’ hands and onto their platforms is key to reaching your ideal audience. If you go the influencer route, make sure you take the time to find influencers who have the same values as your brand and your target audience. Otherwise, you can end up with an ineffective campaign at best, and an embarrassing nightmare at worst.

Then there’s the way the venues selling your product fit into its branding. Does limiting availability to your website give it the exclusivity it deserves, or should the product be available on every big box store shelf across the country? There’s a lot of room to fit in between these extremes, like making it available only through select retailers, either online or in brick and mortar shops.

geometric wine label and mockup of a bottle with the label

When a product’s only available from its creator, it feels more exclusive than products that can be found in stores. Logo and product packaging design by brandstrategy.

collection of vegan grill products

You might want your product available on every possible store shelf. Or, you might not. Product label design by Mad pepper.

Maintain your product’s brand

Product branding doesn’t end when your product hits the market. It continues through your interactions with buyers, any new products you release and business pivots you decide to take.

A few examples of actions you can take after your product launches to build and maintain your brand include:

  • Supporting specific causes and charities
  • Running promotions, giveaways and contests
  • Collaborating with other brands to create new products
pink Nike sneaker
One famous brand collaboration in the sneaker world is Nike and Off-White. Via StockX.

Just like you carefully vetted the social media platforms on which you maintain a presence and which influencers you work with, think carefully about the promotions that are most on-brand for you. For a pet food brand, donating products or a percentage of every sale to animal rescue organizations is a good fit. For a fashion brand, it makes sense to collaborate with another brand that your audience buys regularly—maybe a beauty or footwear brand.

white shampoo bottles with colorful labels
For a beauty brand, a raffle for free products can be a great promotion. Product label design by ve_sta.

Product branding also extends to how you interact directly with your product’s buyers. If your product’s branded as simple and hassle-free, a no-questions-asked return policy maintains that brand persona. Similarly, a friendly beauty brand might start every email to its subscribers with “greetings, beautiful babes,” while an auto parts brand might answer commonly asked questions on its website FAQ-style with “hey, gearhead.”

Brand your product, be successful

Your product may be the best in its category, but if you don’t put the work into branding it effectively, it will get lost in the sea of options your buyers must consistently wade through. And if it isn’t branded appropriately, the right buyers can miss it—and other buyers may initially be interested, but turn away when they realize it isn’t what they need.

Even if your product is in its earliest developmental stages, now is the time to start creating your branding strategy. Read our guide to the process of branding to get an in-depth look at every step of the branding process. It’s never too early to set your product up for success!