Having been involved in creating and developing businesses and personal brands for 15 years, we still receive requests for website creation where the clients’ needs are rather vague, or they get scared off when asked more detailed questions about the visual plan. This is a very important topic, and we will talk about why these questions should not be left unanswered.
When responding to an inquiry, we often ask about the company’s content, values, or initial visual plan, and we frequently receive a vague response. The client then probably moves on to someone who does not delve into details as much and the client is relieved of having to think too much.
Let’s now focus solely on visual culture and examine its impact on the entire value chain that supports the company.
The entire company structure is based on branding. This includes production, services, employees, reputation, appearance, and attitude. It is essential to establish all of this when the company is newly created, or even when it is an emerging startup.
It is important to understand what the company can offer to existing and future customers. Consumers are generally not interested in whether a company has a product or service; they are interested in a solution to a problem that concerns them.
However, the company’s need to produce and offer something does not necessarily equate to the consumer’s need to purchase it, so prior knowledge, customer analysis, and self-positioning and -establishment are necessary. A certain visual culture could certainly be used to help recognize the broader product or service offered.
Understanding the customer is closely related to branding because it helps to spread the values, mindset, and attitudes that are important to the company. In addition, launching a new product, service, SaaS (software as a service), or any application is much easier with well-thought-out and forward-looking branding.
I have asked many clients how they see their company developing in, for example, five or ten years.
Many respond with several strategic answers and almost always with some expansion plans.
However, when I ask them about their vision for their brand in, say, ten years, their enthusiastic talk often turns into empty searches and uncertainty.
Why? Probably because defining the nature and direct connections of a brand is difficult because the company’s development and plans are also linked to the brand’s development and plans. Focusing on visual culture makes the situation even more complicated.
From my own experience, I can say that achieving a company’s visual unity is teamwork that brings together the company’s management, marketing team, human resources department, production, and many other departments that give the company its face. Often, an external partner is involved, whose task is to develop and refine strategic visual culture.
These examples show the evolution of visual culture from different angles, reflecting their respective challenges and opportunities:
First example: A company starts production for the domestic market as a new entrant, mainly making various subcontracting agreements. They manage well and develop. As a reliable subcontractor, there is no need for the company’s brand. After a couple of years, however, the company feels that it could start operating more under its own name. A specific name is created, a website and social media accounts are established, and the company starts operating as a new entity, although it already has several years of experience.
Until now, the absence from the picture has lost the opportunity to be widely known, which would have brought new customers or even new partners for subcontracting. When the economy goes through tough times, subcontractors are usually the first to be let go, so keeping the opportunity to operate independently is always beneficial, even for risk management purposes.
Second example: A company owns a restaurant that is doing well mainly due to its good food and cozy interior. The restaurant has a visual identity that can be found on the door, menu, and social media, but that’s about it.
At some point, the company opens a new successful restaurant in another city, and the idea of expanding the chain becomes increasingly exciting to the owners. They decide to go for a franchise.
The franchisor provides the necessary documents that the franchisee must comply with. The company starts to follow the instructions, and it becomes apparent that the current visual identity is inadequate or does not support the necessary regulations for franchising. The existing concept may start to crumble since the necessary requirements do not support the existing minimalist and casual approach.
Third example: The ecological footprint of companies is becoming increasingly important and is gradually entering the visual identity and broader behavior patterns of companies. In the recently completed brand update of the Design Council, the goal was to achieve the smallest possible footprint, thereby supporting the Design for the Planet movement. Although the Design Council had previously used red as its main color, it was found that red is the most efficient color mix for printers after pure tones. In addition, it was decided to reduce the use of large images in the visual identity for the same reasons. The image material was made smaller and covered with a red-based filter, making the entire material consistently supportive of the colors and more efficient when mixed by printers.
To illustrate clean color surfaces, a selection of patterns was added, with the aim of reducing the amount of colorable surfaces. Using uncoated papers, less printable surfaces, and so on, is less burdensome for material production. Red pixels are more energy-efficient on screens than blue or green ones, and dark surfaces (dark mode) use less energy. CMYK colors are mixed from several tones, which is more efficient than using SPOT colors that usually contain large amounts of polluting materials. The ecological footprint is an important value in the branding value chain, as it is currently good to use it to enhance the reputation of a brand, that is, it is popular to be “green.” In addition, of course, saving is beneficial to the company itself. I recommend reading more about the Design Council’s post on Creating Climate Conscious Branding.
Focusing on the visual brand of a company, climate neutrality of brands has received increasing attention in recent times.
For example, when it comes to printed materials, questions arise about when to print, how much to print, in what format, and what finishing techniques to use. Important aspects include color technology, binding, and post-processing. Attention is also given to digital creation and channels, such as how applications are designed, what color solutions they use, how convenient (and fast) the media used (images, videos, animations, fonts) are, and whether the information transmitted has enough contrast for users to read the content without having to adjust their device screens. There are many possibilities, and it may not be possible to implement everything on a company-wide scale. However, it is already reasonable to deal with these issues to keep the brand’s life cycle fresh.
In conclusion, the lifespan of a brand depends on different fields and solutions. It is important to monitor the nature, impact, and progress of the brand and make necessary changes accordingly. We can try to anticipate technological developments, but keeping them in line with the brand’s development seems impossible. That is why it is important to keep up with the times and not get stuck in old values. Changes are happening so fast now that it is only possible to plan potential developments on a maximum five-year basis, as it is difficult to predict major developments or attitudes over a longer period.
The environmental aspect mentioned is certainly a new way to approach visual identity and the brand more broadly, but some companies have already taken more direct and clearer similar steps. For example, when updating their fleet, hybrid or electric vehicles are preferred, production is waste-free, recycled fuels or their own production waste are used for heating production units. All of these are certainly optimization opportunities for the company itself, but the positive and green impact on the brand, reputation, and overall corporate culture should not be overlooked.