Resolve to Have Consistent Visual Language

We get it. You downloaded a really cute new font which you couldn’t wait to use. You got a great deal on yellow t-shirts even though your company colors are navy and gray. You could fit everything on that banner if you just squished your logo down a little bit. Nobody will notice, right? Wrong. Humans excel at pattern recognition, which makes us great at picking up on visual inconsistencies. If you usually use a slick sans serif typeface and suddenly send out a newsletter set in a fun handwritten font, if you ditch your navy and gray and go canary yellow to save 10% on your t-shirt order, if you disproportionately scale and distort your logo to fit—

Humans excel at pattern recognition, which makes us great at picking up on visual inconsistencies. If you usually use a slick sans serif typeface and suddenly send out a newsletter set in a fun handwritten font, if you ditch your navy and gray and go canary yellow to save 10% on your t-shirt order, if you disproportionately scale and distort your logo to fit—you need to brand check yourself. These choices can read as errors: disruptions in the carefully crafted pattern that is your visual brand. Why are these disruptions in pattern a problem? Visual consistency makes you look professional and trustworthy, while being inconsistent makes your message harder to deliver and diffuses your brand’s impact. Want to brand check yourself? Follow this four-step plan.

1. Create a cheat sheet: Looking through old files to remember what typefaces you’ve used can be time consuming. Make retaining consistency easy by pulling together all of the elements that make up your visual identity in one place. List your colors, the typefaces you use, the variations of your logo that are acceptable (read: SANCTIONED by your designer), and anything else that you’ve compiled in your brand arsenal on a cheat sheet that you can quickly reference.

2. Compare and contrast: Gather up any printed materials, take a look at your website and social media, and pull your ads together in one place. Now compare these items to your cheat sheet. How do they stack up? This is a self-audit of your visual identity. If you randomly started using a scrawling handwritten font mid-2016 or traded pastels for bold colors, ask “Why?” and “Was this change successful?”

3. Adjust and commit: If you’re consistently using a color that wasn’t in your original palette or if you’ve adopted a softer typeface to lighted your look and you feel these tweaks better reflect your company, embrace the change. Update your cheat sheet to include any developments that authentically represent your brand. If you realize that canary yellow just doesn’t set the right tone, return to your original palette and recommit to your established visual identity.

4. Apply consistently: Reference your adjusted or reaffirmed cheat sheet with every new project you undertake from updating your Facebook cover image to ordering your company’s team t-shirts for that upcoming charity bike ride. Use it as a tool to maintain a consistent visual language and foster your brand’s ability to connect. Congratulations, you’ve just brand checked yourself.

Sarah Morgan Karp

Senior Designer