Vision, Voice, Visuals and Versatility.Smart and attractive graphic design is one thing, but developing a cohesive and effective brand is something else. Here, we make sure your image reflects the essence of your brand.
Designers create layouts, graphics and logos, but the reality is that your audience doesn’t see a layout, graphic or logo; instead, they are looking for a sense or feeling for what you are all about, something we casually call a brand.
Today, with the rise of social platforms, you might not have as much direct control over how your brand is presented graphically, so it helps to remember our four Vs of brand development, namely: Vision, Voice, Visuals and Versatility.
Before putting anything out in the world, it is worth asking “is it on brand?”; but what does ‘on brand’ mean for you? That’s why it is important that everyone (internally) understands your overall brand vision, a name we prefer because the dictionary defines ‘vision’ as ‘the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom’.
Instead of starting with what is overly familiar today, imagine a near future and what will be important then; instead of looking outwards from your own point of view, recognise the wisdom in your audience’s point of view. The brand vision should turn your products and services into benefits and attitudes, articulated as a simple narrative or concept.
How your brand vision is expressed matters: It is not only what you say, it is how you say it that determines whether it is even read or heard. Of course, you may have a range of different products and services with different messages that you want to deliver. What matters is not the different messages but how they share ‘a particular opinion or attitude expressed’ in ‘a distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author’ to use a couple of dictionary definitions for ‘voice’.
Your brand vision will define your particular opinion or attitude, it might be repeated in a tagline, but it will probably remain as the subtext to a multitude of different messages. So finding your brand voice is not simply about content and grammar, it is about how the text is edited, expressed and presented – you don’t need to be a copywriter to make sure that everything and everyone shares the same tone of voice.
What you show visually is probably the first thing your audience notices, even if they don’t give it much time or attention before moving on to read your story. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but often forget that it comes before those thousand words. Too often images are added as an afterthought to illustrate something already written, whereas writers strive to create a mental image.
It helps to work visually from the outset (says George Orwell), even when developing your brand vision: It is not about a text or message, it is about creating a mental image in the mind of the viewer; even colours and abstract visuals communicate something, including quite strong feelings. It is no coincidence that ‘vision’ and ‘visual’ come from the same Latin root ‘to see’.
When you need to add something to your website, or post something on social media, or update your literature, or whatever, you are probably not going to start with the exact same image and text that you have used before. Indeed, your audience will get pretty bored if they keep seeing and hearing the same thing over and over again.
Versatility is the name of the game, although that does not immediately sit comfortably with a consistent brand vision, voice and visual. Or does it? When something goes viral (the fifth V perhaps?) a common meme may be forwarded with slight variations by millions of ‘users’. Like a meme, a brand should have a common concept that can be interpreted in different ways by different people – that’s the reason to remember all four Vs.
Not sameness, not repetition, simply work that rhymes.
That sounds like you. We make a promise and keep it.
SETH GODIN : THE PRACTICE
Four V or not four V, that is the question?
Do you strive for a common vision, voice and visual that is versatile enough to accommodate a variety of interpretations, or do you leave it to chance…hoping things will come together into something more cohesive in the longer term.
Whilst we use the four Vs as a sequential process in crystallising contemporary brands, we also recognise that the audience arrives at it in the opposite direction. Today, you probably only notice something when you see or hear it three or more times (in slightly different versions), you start to form a mental image, informed by the tone of voice, and begin to understand the opinion or attitude behind it.
When your audience does that, you start to have a brand.