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Brands are people in disguise: Visual experience is your pick-up line!

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 1, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

Like people, brands should aim to have a look, a style which helps identify them in the crowd. Unlike people however, when making a first impression brands are limited in how far they can elaborate their own story. Often your company’s first and only direct dialogue with a customer is visual. So, if the visual experience of a brand fails to capture who you are, forget about explaining “the drycleaners lost my best suit!”

A logo, color scheme, iconography, and typography represent the framework of your brand’s visual experience. This graphic story line will communicate to your consumer who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best at it.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

Designing for your consumer means thinking like your consumer.
Think about who your consumer is. Design a brand around what will speak to their mindset, capture their eye, and rattle their emotions. The key to designing a successful brand is having the ability to objectively place yourself in the position of your customers. Analyze your consumer. Never assume your opinion represents the majority.

Be daring with purpose.
Be sure bold graphic gestures are executed strategically. For instance, where several small gestures (unrelated) could distract from your message, a single bold gesture, when executed correctly, can make a clear and powerful statement. Be sure this bold gesture does not alienate future markets. The graphic elements you are developing now should have a lifecycle of 20 years! Always use research and statistics to support the graphic decisions you make.

Your brand’s symbol isn’t just an app icon!
More and more I am introduced to entrepreneurs interested in icons, symbols, singular marks for their new brands. “I’m looking for the bird from Twitter, or the F in Facebook.” Whenever these two symbols are compared to each other I immediately raise a red flag. A comparison like this tells me they’re missing the point.

The bird (Larry) from Twitter has been a fundamental success story both as a precedent for future brand identities in strategy, as well as generating the power of its brand value assessment. The relationship between sound, symbolism, successful graphic guidelines, and incorporation of their company wordmark connects the user to the true action and purpose of their company. Simply put, you tweet using Twitter. Compare that to the F in Facebook or the G in Google and well…hopefully, I’ve made my point.

A symbol is more than something users can click on when thumbing through a mobile device or visitors can see on the outside of a storefront. A symbol is a company’s family crest. A symbol for a brand is its story, an element that sets the precedent for current and future outward communication. Be it digital, print, or video a brand’s symbol should be thoroughly researched, vetted, and strategized as to how its connection with future marketing campaigns will unfold.

Never pick a “beautiful” typeface!
“Beautiful” is a scary word in design. It suggests two things:
1. Everything that is not beautiful is ugly, at best average, and another word for failure.
2. Beauty is anything but in the eye of the beholder.

When it comes to typography you should only be concerned with answering the why. The “beauty” is in the success of the communication.

Your typography should be reactionary. By reactionary I mean, in predicting your consumer’s general associations with the details of curves, angles, serifs, san-serifs, thin lines, thick black letter, bold type, or italics that make specific references to eras, values, and goals your brand is suggesting. Ultimately associations to typography choices will affect how your consumer relates to your brand, including who and what they associate your brand with.

Typography guides User Experience designers in prioritizing content. Typography aids Graphic Designers in developing signage, creating iconography, or even landing a pitch presentation. Typography is a fundamental communication tool and may decide whether your brand can successfully speak to your consumer, or lose them at the start.

It’s important to ensure significant value is also placed in selecting complimentary and contrasting wordmark typography. An accompanied typeface selection is just as valuable as the typeface used for your overall brand’s wordmark. These selections aid in prioritizing content on your website, brochures, business cards, and signage. Be sure you are consistent in usage of typefaces. Continuity is key to ensuring graphics, video, and signage have a unifying message.

Michael Luciano Abbate is Lead Designer and Head of Experiential Identity at REPENSO. Check out Michael's work and connect with him at

[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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