Brand Identity and Visual Identity – What’s the Difference?

Explaining the differences between visual identity and brand identity can be tough, especially when the terms are often used interchangeably. But it’s simple, really. Visual identity is simply a key part of brand identity.

A while back, I created a graphic for this blog post to show how both brand strategy and visual identity work together as part of a greater whole of a complete brand identity:

Good brand strategy builds a strong foundation upon which we can build a complete identity for a brand. Even in the castle graphic, you can see that visual identity is part of a complete brand identity; it makes up what we can see and sometimes touch… it’s the visual presence of your company.

In this post, I want to expand on the parts of brand identity, and offer a new visual to help you understand how visual identity is an important part of that.

I like to think of the components that make up a brand identity like puzzle pieces. A complete brand identity includes things like your brand story, brand voice (brand personality), messaging (how a brand communicates with its target audience), brand name, tagline, services &/or products offered, etc. The new graphic displays six of these to help you visualize brand identity.

Brand Identity: The Core Essence of Your Brand

At the heart of any brand is its identity. It encapsulates a multi-dimensional narrative, encompassing elements such as the brand story, brand personality, brand name, services and products, verbal identity, and, of course, visual identity. Here’s a deeper dive into the components of brand identity:

  • Brand Story: Your brand’s journey, values, and mission make up its narrative. It’s the foundation upon which your brand is built, setting the tone for the brand’s personality and vision.
  • Brand Voice: (Sometimes called Brand Personality.) The character and traits of your brand determine how it interacts with and appeals to your audience. It shapes the emotions and experiences associated with your brand.
  • Services & Products: What you offer, the quality of your offerings, and how they fulfill your audience’s needs are essential aspects of your brand identity.
  • Messaging: (Sometimes called Verbal Identity.) The language you use, from your tagline to your brand voice, is a part of the conversation you have with your audience.
  • Visual Identity: As a significant component of brand identity, visual identity encompasses elements such as your logo, iconography, colors, photography, typography, brand patterns, and other illustrations. Visual identity is the visual representation of the brand’s values, personality, and mission.

Let’s pull the visual identity puzzle piece out and take a closer look.

All of those things (plus others not pictured like brand collateral, product design, package design, illustrations, etc.), when designed well, work together to present a cohesive, professional image that has been strategically customized to engage your desired audience.

Visual Identity: The Visual Language of Your Brand

Visual identity represents the external, tangible aspects of your brand. It’s the part of brand identity that people readily see and interact with. Visual identity elements serve to visually communicate the broader aspects of brand identity:

  • Logo: A logo is the flagship of your visual identity, serving as a symbol that encapsulates your brand’s personality, values, and mission.
  • Iconography: These icons and symbols reinforce your brand’s message, providing quick recognition and understanding to your audience.
  • Colors: The color palette you choose significantly influences the emotional response of your audience. It sets the mood and personality of your brand.
  • Photography: Imagery conveys a wealth of information. The photographs you select should harmonize with the brand identity, evoking the right emotions and associations.
  • Typography: The fonts you use in your branding materials are more than just letters; they embody your brand’s voice and personality.
  • Brand Patterns and Illustrations: These elements, unique to your brand, add depth to the visual identity, making it instantly recognizable.

The Complete Puzzle: Brand Identity and Visual Identity

While brand identity shapes the essence of your brand, visual identity is the visual expression of this essence. Visual identity is not a separate entity; rather, it’s a vital piece of a larger puzzle.

If you’d like to work with me to build or refine an incredible brand identity that includes all of these important pieces, let’s talk!