One of the biggest markers of professionalism when you’re interacting with a company is brand consistency. The big brands we interact with everyday utilize brand consistency constantly. Take a look next time you go out to a restaurant or store. Colors, fonts, and imagery will be consistent no matter whether you’re looking at a menu, brochure, label, or sign. It allows brands to build trust by establishing a personality with recognizable elements; they sink into our brain until it’s second nature. Have you ever seen the McDonalds arches in any other color than yellow (or maybe white?). Imagine seeing them in blue or green. It just seems wrong!
When setting up a website for your brand, or even a social media account, remember to use consistency in your visuals. It will not only help create the consistency you need to build brand recognition, but it will make your life a lot easier!
Create a Mood Board
Before you even begin deciding on what your brand visuals will be, do a ton of research. You can do this by creating a mood board. It’s a way to compile visuals that you want to use to inspire your brand. The components of your mood board can be anything – photos, screenshots, video, printed materials, etc. Anything that communicates the tone, mood, and feeling of the brand you want to create.
Say you are heavily influenced by the sleek and futuristic approach Apple takes. Your mood board might look something like this.
Create a Branding Document to Establish Brand Consistency
Once you have your inspiration, you need to put together a branding document (or style guide) with your elements, not those of others. It’s possible you arrived at this post with brand elements already in mind or established. This is where you document them and say to yourself, “That’s it – I won’t deviate from these elements!”
A Branding Document can be as simple as a one-sheet PDF or as complex as a multi-page booklet. They can include things like:
- Your logo and any variations of it
- How to display and not display your logo
- How much space/padding should be kept around your logo
- Your brand colors and their hex values, Pantone values, etc.
- Your fonts and fonts that shouldn’t be used
- Examples of the type of imagery that should be used with your brand
Here are a few examples of pages from the Branding Documents of some big-name brands.
- It’s best to choose no more than 3 fonts – one for headers, one for body text, and one to use as an accent.
- Your header and body text should not be cursive/script. If you really want a cursive/script text for your header, it should be loose enough to be easily read when small.
- The 3 fonts should look good together, but not too similar to each other. If your header and body text are very, very similar, it may look like a mistake that they aren’t identical.
- Every designer has their own opinion on how to build a color palette. I recommend starting with one main color that you know will be the identifier of your brand, then choose a secondary color that is complementary to your first color. Explore examples of those two colors together (Pinterest is a great resource!) and pick 2-3 other colors that go will with your first two. They should range from light, medium, and dark.
- Avoid colors that are extremely bright, like neon yellows, unless they will be used purely as an accent color.
- Avoid bright colors for body text, which should always be a neutral black, gray, or white (if your site has a dark background)
- What kind of imagery do you want to use? Apple almost always uses bright, high-def realistic images in it’s advertising. They know that visuals and richness are important to their customers. A brand like Basecamp uses lots of cartoons and illustrations. Basecamp is already a fun-sounding name and they want to take something like business organization and make it fun. What kind of images communicate the ideas you want to share?
- Once you pick a type of imagery, stick with it. Pick 2-3 images you think represent your brand perfectly and compare all other images to them. Do they look good together? Do they tell a united story?
- Pick images that contain at least one of the colors in your palette!
- It’s helpful to decide on shapes and textures that best represent the brand. This could be things like leaves, exposed brick, geometric shapes. Explore brands similar to yours – what textures and shapes are they using?
- Does your logo utilize specific shapes and textures that you can carry through?
How to Maintain Brand Consistency
Once you’ve decided on all your branding elements, I recommend observing how your favorite brands implement brand consistency. Go to the website or Instagram of your favorite restaurant. Ask yourself:
- What 2-3 fonts do they use consistently?
- What is their main brand color? What are their supporting colors? How do they use them?
- What does all their imagery have in common? How does it support their message?
- What shapes and textures do they use a lot? How do they use them to support their message without distracting from the content?
I’ll use my favorite restaurant, Chipotle, as an example.
- I can see they use the font in their header, a lot, as well as fun hand-written text.
- Their brand color is the deep red they use in their logo, but they also use a lot of earthy browns. They use a blue-green color for an accent.
- All their imagery is very earthy and not polished or crisp. It supports the idea that their food is hand-crafted and doesn’t contain a ton of preservatives.
- They use organic shapes of food very often, as well as the scribbly, doodly type of illustrations. Primarily shown here in the ripped off piece of notebook paper.
When implementing your own brand guidelines, always run through this checklist when publishing content (from a Facebook post to a blog post to a new website design!)
- Am I using my fonts in a way that is not only branded but easy for users to read?
- Am I using my main branded color and at least one other supporting color?
- Am I using colors that clash with my branded colors?
- Is my imagery on-brand? Does it match up with my 2-3 favorite images?
- Did I use my shapes and textures well? Do they support my message without distracting from my content?