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The Building Blocks of Visual Vocabulary: Consistency

     

Your Visual Vocabulary consists of the secondary design elements that are used in conjunction with your logo to form your brand identity. Your Visual Vocabulary is composed of the graphics, font styles, colors, and even the type of paper you choose.

Once you have determined the elements to use in your Visual Vocabulary, it is important to use those elements consistently throughout all of your marketing materials. This consistency will make your entire set of materials look like a family. Having a consistent set of marketing materials makes you look more organized and professional. It also makes your business more memorable, because the repetition of the consistent elements creates repeated impressions on your audience. The more you repeat your marketing images and messages consistently, the easier it will be for your clients to associate them with your business.

The four ways to create consistency in your Visual Vocabulary are:

1. Using the same or similar visuals and graphics throughout your marketing materials makes them instantly recognizable, which is becoming more important as marketing media messages become more prevalent and people become more inundated with them. The graphical elements that you can work with in your Visual Vocabulary include the backgrounds, text treatments (such as tagline styles), shapes, layout conventions, and the photo library you use.

Enhance your Visual Vocabulary's consistency by:

  • Repeating some of the same graphics across all of your materials. Your logo should appear on all of your marketing pieces and business documents. Other graphics to consider repeating include your tagline, your contact information block, line art, patterns, and any unifying background or decorative shapes or color fields.
  • Maintaining similarity in the type of visuals and graphics you use. If you regularly use photography throughout your materials and then switch to clip art for one piece, it will look out of place in your marketing story.
  • Placing key graphics in similar locations. By placing some graphics, such as your logo and tagline, consistently in the same place across all of your marketing materials, you will make your materials look like a family.

2. Using a small group of coordinated fonts across all of your marketing materials. Your company should have designated fonts to use in the following situations:

  • A logo font, which is typically not one of the fonts that come installed on Windows machines: it should be more unique and interesting. Some logos will have two or three different fonts in them. If this is the case, then consider using one of those fonts as the secondary font as well.
  • A secondary font, used for headlines, sub-headlines, taglines, special text such as graphics and captions, and decorative text such as pull quotes, which are the large quotes that are used decoratively in articles and documents. This can be the same font as is used in your logo. This is typically an interesting and unique font as well. This may also be used as the font for your contact information in your stationery, depending on its legibility.
  • A tertiary font is optional and may be used when the secondary font is not always legible, for mid-length texts such as pull quotes and contact information.
  • A serif text font, for lengthy printed documents. Printed materials are more easily read if they are in serif font rather than sans-serif font.
  • A sans-serif font, for shorter printed documents and on-screen use. Text on a computer monitor is easier to read in a sans-serif font than in a serif font.
  • A website font, which may be the same font as is used as the main sans-serif text font, depending on how that font translates for online viewing.

All of these fonts should have similar or contrasting characteristics. Choosing fonts with similar characteristics will make your fonts match and create consistency throughout your documents. Choosing fonts with contrasting characteristics will build visual texture and interest into your materials. For example, you could pick all thin, sans-serif fonts such as Arial and Frutiger to create a harmonious, matching suite of fonts. Or you could pick fonts with contrasting characteristics to create greater interest, such as using a serif font like Palatino for the headlines and then using a sans-serif font like Verdana for the text.

3. Using the same, limited color palette across all of your materials seems obvious, but many entrepreneurs try to make their marketing materials look more interesting by mixing up the color palette of each piece. But instead of making the materials look more interesting, this spectrum of color makes them look disjointed and uncoordinated.

You can create your color palette by:

  • The corporate colors established in your logo. Many logos are made up of one or two colors. You could pick one or both of these colors to make up your main color palette.

    If your logo has a lot of colors, you can choose a color or two out of your logo to use as your main color palette. Picking more than a couple of colors to use can make your materials look too bright and unprofessional.

  • The same hue or shade. You can extend your basic color palette by using tints or shades of those colors. For example, if you have a navy blue in your logo, you can use a lighter or medium blue as another piece of your color palette, and it will still coordinate.
  • Complimentary colors. Every color has a complimentary one-an opposite-on the color wheel. For example, yellow and purple are complimentary colors. This is the best route for extending your color palette if you have a logo with just one color or a logo that's black plus one other color. You can extend your color palette easily by using the compliment to your corporate color in your materials.
  • Neighboring colors. Think of a rainbow. If you create a color palette of neighboring colors, you'll create a harmonious and calming feel to your marketing materials.
  • The same type of colors throughout your materials. For example, if you use all bright colors, all soft colors, or all complex colors as your palette, you can mix up your color palette and still keep a feeling of consistency throughout your materials.

The exception to these rules is when your color palette is mixed up in an intentional way to enhance your brand message, or when you've assigned different colors to different service or product lines. For example, a company with a "bright," "playful," or "energetic" personality might want to mix up its color palette between pieces. Or if you have multiple product or service offerings, you might want to assign each offering its own main color, and use those distinct colors to differentiate your marketing materials for each offering.

4. Using coordinating papers for your printed materials. Paper can be an inexpensive way to add some interest and depth to your Visual Vocabulary. You can do this in many ways:

  • Choosing high-quality paper to print on will always make your materials look more professional. This typically means choosing a thick paper for your business cards and a coordinating paper from the same product line for your letterhead.
  • Using glossy paper only when appropriate is best. Glossy paper might be great for a business card or a brochure, but it's not appropriate for your letterhead or other pieces that might need a personal touch. Glossy always looks higher-end and distances your materials from your reader.
  • Colored or textured papers can add to your Visual Vocabulary, if they work with your brand message. If you are trying to create an artisinal or hands-on look to your materials, consider colored or textured paper. For a technical or medical look, stick with smooth, white paper.

Creating consistency through the repetition of the four elements listed above will make your business appear more professional and memorable. Consistent materials will also make you appear more credible and trustworthy. Consistency can help your business marketing efforts to be more successful.

Consistency bonus

There are a couple of bonus areas in which you can create consistency:

  • The copywriting style that you use. Make sure that you consistently write in the same voice, use the same style of copyediting, and are addressing the same type of audience in your writing. Your materials will appear much more unified and cohesive if you do.

    Repeating some of the same words throughout your materials helps you to frame your customer's point of view about your services. This can help you to become known for the topics that you address in your materials.

    Some copyeditors will create an individualized "style guide" to edit your documents against, which will help you to create a consistent tone of voice across all of your documents, articles, and communication. Ask your copyeditor if they can provide this valuable service.

  • The timing of your marketing. Timing is important. For example, if you traditionally send out an eNewsletter on a set day of the month, at a set time, your readers will come to expect to receive it then. If you send out four postcards per year, space them out evenly so that people receive consistent messages from you. Consistency in timing also makes you appear more professional.


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About the Author

Erin Ferree is a branding coach, design genius and strategic thinker. She's been told that her right-brain, left-brain combination of creativity and logic is hard to come by... and that it's what small business owners need to be successful. She loves connecting the dots between passion and profit, mixing strategy and inspiration and shaking things up.

She deeply enjoys working with entrepreneurs who want to help more people and look good doing it. Who want all of their branding and marketing to make sense and speak to their ideal clients. And who want an open, honest, inviting brand with integrity - instead of using icky, pushy, sleazy marketing tactics and trickery.

She's branded over 450 small businesses in the last 10 years. She's been published in so many books and periodicals that she stopped counting. She's shared stages with some awesome people - like Michele PW, Linda Hollander, Lisa Cherney, Sheri McConnell and Kelly O'neil.

She also enjoys hugging her corgi-dog Stanley, cooking and throwing parties so her friends can enjoy them.

Small business branding, brand coaching and logo design articles at http://www.brandstyledesign.com




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