You might be in the beginning stages of creating your brand, or even considering a refresh or “facelift” of an existing one. Your brand and encompassing visual identity are integral to who you are as a business, and is vital to establishing your presence in the marketplace.
Regardless of where you might be in the branding process, there is no doubt that at some point you will need to ask yourself, “Should I follow the trends?”
What is Visual Identity?
Your brand is the overall corporate image of your company, and conveys emotional aspects such as its values, purpose, personality and goals. Your visual identity is just a part of this, and focuses solely on the visual aspects which help to form the corporate identity as a whole.
Your visual identity effects how you will be perceived, and has the power to generate an instant reaction from the consumer—either positive or negative—without any former knowledge your business. The thought of this can be pretty scary, and for this reason, it is very important to choose your visual elements wisely.
Usually one of the first steps in this process, your business name is likely to stay with you for the lifetime of your brand, so this is a pretty serious commitment! But there’s no need to get cold feet, a carefully chosen and thought-out name can effectively set you a part from your competitors.
If you are offering a very specific product or service, your name might be straightforward and to the point. This can be effective since your consumer becomes aware of what you are offering right off the bat. But what if you are looking for something more creative and unique? Is it ever a good idea to follow trends in naming your business?
Just for fun, let’s take a look at two cringe-worthy trends from a while back that we are all familiar with:
1.) In the early 2000s, adding a lowercase “i” before the product name: iFryer, iRemote, iPancakes anyone? At the time these may have sounded pretty cool and futuristic. Today? Not so much.
2.) Purposeful “cutesy” misspelling of common words: Puppy Luv Groomerz, Kewl Kleaners, Xtreme Kustom Decalz 4U…
Ok, so these might be on the extreme end of the “please-don’t” spectrum, but there are some less obvious trends and pitfalls that are easy to fall into. These might be overly obscure names, adjective-noun mashups (QualiBrands, NutriFoods), or dropped vowels just to name a few. In some cases, these trends can work for their brands, but too often they can come across as overused, cliché and even silly.
Again, your business name doesn’t have to be super creative and outside-of-the-box to be effective, but if you are looking for something that stands out, find something that is unique and meaningful to you. Play with your words, consider literary techniques such as assonance, consonance, subtle rhyming or even playing off of colloquial sayings. Avoid following too-trendy styles, which can age you with time.
Your logo is more than likely going to be the most recognizable part of your visual identity—and hopefully for all the right reasons. Although we are taught otherwise, when it comes to first impressions of a brand by its logo, we can’t help but judge a book by its cover.
A logo should be unique, timeless, simple, inviting and aesthetically pleasing. If executed correctly, it will effectively communicate who you are as a business and what you have to offer. If executed poorly, it could give off the wrong impression and potentially turn consumers away from your brand. You could have the best product or service in the world, but if your logo doesn’t communicate your brand, it could be confusing or even off-putting to the consumer.
When it comes to logo design, many seem to follow the trends. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t want something unique, but perhaps it is a.) more difficult in this day and age to come up with something that hasn’t been done before, or b.) it is easier to imitate existing brands that are already successful. However, your logo provides some of the most room for creative freedom, so why give up your chance to create something that is unique and meaningful to your brand? With that said, there is a difference between creative and garish, so it still important to be aware of what works and what doesn’t.
There are so many do’s and don’ts out there when it comes to logo design that it would be impossible to list them all here (If a logo is reminiscent of WordArt, there is a good chance it falls into the “don’t” category). While we could focus on the bad for hours, there are, however, so many examples of good logos out there right now. We’ve learned from our past mistakes, and today, many are opting for clean, timeless logos that will look good for years to come. It is difficult to argue with the fact that some of the best and most timeless logos of all time (not just in the past 10 years) have been simple in design. In this way, it is good to continue on with this current trend of simple, meaningful design as long as the actual elements of the logo are unique to your brand.
Just steer clear of anything super trendy, complicated or cheap (aka clipart and drop shadows). It’s easy to convey your message through a detailed and complex design, but it takes far more creativity to convey the same message through simple design.
It’s okay to follow some design trends with caution, but remember that your logo should set you apart from your competitors, not mimic them.
It can be so easy to find yourself following trends when it comes to font choices, especially as part of a logo/visual identity. Font styles that are popular at the moment are everywhere and are easier to access, but this can be dangerous for the longevity of your brand image.
But if you want your image to be readily accepted by the consumer, wouldn’t you want to follow the trends? This is true to an extent, but it is important to find the right balance between what is current and what will stand the test of time.
Consider a trend that is very popular right now. We are all very familiar with the handwritten, calligraphy-style fonts that have been trendy for the past year or so. While this font style is beautiful, and may very well convey your business image at the moment, how will we perceive them 3, 5, 10 years from now when we are tired of seeing this style everywhere, and a new trend has taken its place?
Following the trend of using an overly-stylized font in your logo and visual identity has the ability to date your image faster than anything else listed in this article. Think about your goals. Will your business or brand only be relevant for a few years? Or do you want it to last a lifetime?
When it comes to choosing a typeface for your logo, consider using a font that works well with current trends, but won’t date yourself later. A good example of this would be a clean, classic, sans-serif font. They are popular now, but because they aren’t overly stylized, it is unlikely that they will appear very dated in the future. If you are looking to stand out, another good way to go would be a completely custom font. Think outside-of-the-box and create something completely unique to you and your brand that hasn’t been done before.
Remember, like a bad perm, you don’t want to be looking back at your font choice 10 years from now and asking yourself, “What was I thinking?” At least you can hide your yearbook photos deep in the closet in hopes that they will forgotten—destroying evidence of a bad font/logo will be a little more difficult.
Don’t forget your colors! Many might consider color choice to be a less important part of a visual identity, but colors have stronger emotional triggers than most of us are aware of.
The good news is, unlike font choice or design trends, pleasing color palettes have more longevity. Since colors are more closely tied to unchangeable emotional responses, if you choose colors that speak to the right emotions now, there is a good change they will speak to the same emotions years from now.
While you may not have to worry about falling into trend pitfalls as much here, that doesn’t mean that careful and thoughtful selection of your brand’s color palette won’t require much thought. Research the psychological properties of different colors and how they relate to our moods and emotions. With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment with color pallets or unexpected color combinations, especially if your brand is less on the conservative side.
Now Go Get ‘Em!
While there are millions of brands out there seeking to grab our attention, the successful ones share a common goal of creating an effective visual identity that communicates their brand in a way that is creative, concise and has a lasting positive effect on the consumer. Always be aware of current trends, and feel free to experiment with them, but don’t follow them like sheep—this will save you from future regrets!