5 Visual Branding Mistakes Too Many Businesses Make [With Bonus Guide to Building Your Visual Brand in Canva]

All graphics are built on a brand identity. Or at least they should be.

There’s a lot to be said about standing out, but all designs must first and foremost reflect a well founded brand identity. That’s the only way it will resonate with and capture your intended audience — not to mention, it can save you a lot of work.

If your visual identity really connects, then it’s more memorable and you spend less on promotions in the long run. If your look is consistent all throughout, the more your brand values are associated with your visual identity, and the more you build consumer trust and loyalty over time.

Our first piece of advice is this: invest in strengthening your brand’s look. It’s not that complicated — we’ve previously discussed in length how you can build a successful one.

This time we’ll be focusing on the don’ts and what to do instead. Here are some of the things to look forward to in this post:

Part 1    The 5 Most Common Visual Branding Mistakes
Part 2    Your Guide to Building a Visual Brand in Canva
Part 3    Free Visual Branding Templates

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The 5 Most Common Visual Branding Mistakes

Building a solid visual brand is an important step in developing your business, no matter what it may be. So take note of these common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

01. Design Inconsistency

We’ve all seen when businesses get lazy and decide to haphazardly use a color or a font outside of their usual style. Will it mean the end of the business and a dramatic crash in sales? Of course not, but over time if it continues and the business becomes lax with all aspects of their branding, it will impact their customer’s perception of the them.

Being inconsistent with your branding comes across unorganised and unreliable, and you run the risk of your customers confusing your business with your competitors and other brands. To easily overcome this and avoid future inconsistencies it is worthwhile establishing a defined style guide for your business, which you can read more about here.

A simple and effective way of giving all your images a consistent look is to utilize Canva’s Advanced Filter tool, which gives you greater control over each image’s brightness, contrast and saturation among other things, as well as access to a variety of pre-defined filter overlays.

The above design for the Wildlife Conservation Society by Pentagram follows a precise style guide to keep everything looking consistent.

02. Me-too Branding

When your competitors are killing it with their flawless branding it’s easy to fall into thoughts of copying aspects of their brand to help boost your own. This mindset leads to unoriginal branding and a lack of trust with your audience, as well as possible legal trouble.

With millions of business and logos out there in the world there is of course the chance that you will come across something similar as your own, but you just need to continually push yourself to be original and think about what you can do to stand out. Canva’s customisable layouts for every use and occasion are a great way to make sure your branding is always original.

Following the success of the City of Melbourne logo by Landor, many imitations popped up all around the world.

03. Trying to Appeal to Everyone

Having no specific demographic may seem like a great idea for your brand at first. The idea that if you can appeal to everyone then you are more likely to increase your sales, but there are very few business that successfully appeal to an unrestrained demographic.

You may be scared to focus in on a niche market in case you miss out on the larger market, but honing in on your target demographic is the best way to build a connection with your audience. Stop chasing approval and start focusing on forging an authentic connection with your desired audience by making your visual branding very clearly portray what you value.

04. Out-of-place Visuals

Once you focus in on your target demographic, really consider what kind of visuals will appeal to them, without being stereotypical. This may seem difficult, but think about how what might appeal to children would not be acceptable for a corporate branding.

You need to choose fonts, colors and imagery that will be suitable for your brand and audience. Avoid any cliche outdated stock photos and bad quality images as these will drastically decrease the impact and professionalism of your brand. Instead have a look through Canva’s extensive selection of free images to add to your next project.

Take a look at the above branding for San Diego Zoo by Landor. It includes fun photographs and organic typography perfect for its intended demographic of children and families. It’s always important to consider your audience and what will be appropriate for them.

05. Overreliance on the Logo

Your brand is so much more than your logo. Everything from your business’s name, logo, colors, fonts, slogan and imagery all make up your visual branding. Having a good logo doesn’t mean the journey is over. To create an effective visual brand you must carry this across everything you produce, from social media posts to gift cards.

To do that, you have to have an application-friendly logo — one that can be rendered onto the type of  visuals and colors you will be needing for your brand.

And don’t forget: Consistency is key. By maintaining consistency you will create an easily recognisable and unified brand that speaks to your audience and stands out from your competitors. Canva has got you covered when it comes to maintaining cohesiveness with the option of saving your brand kit, which includes all your carefully chosen logo, colors and fonts, to easily apply to any design.

These designs for Benevolent Society are great examples of applying the many design elements that make up the visual branding, that aren’t necessarily the logo, across different touchpoints.

A Guide to Building Your Visual Brand in Canva

Building a brand and developing its identity requires a process of research, strategic thinking and planning. This process can be broken up into five steps which can be shown below through Flourish & Bloom, a local online florist who used Canva to create an impactful visual branding from scratch.

01. Visual Research

In this initial stage of building your visual brand you will need to clarify your goals and vision of your brand. It is import to conduct research on your competitors and your target audience to better understand not only how to differentiate yourself, but also to learn what visuals and tactics work since their audience is likely similar to yours. Although you want to avoid emulating your competitors, you can’t ignore them either — consider your target audience’s motives and beliefs and try experiencing your competitors from their perspective.

Knowing inside-out what your brand’s personality is and what the industry looks like will help you gather materials for your moodboard. This will act as inspiration and reference materials for the visual identity you will create. Gather images from Pinterest or all over the web and compile them into a moodboard using Canva’s collage-maker.

02. Communication Objectives

Now you need to combine all your findings from your research into a clear plan of attack that will map out your brand strategy. Things to consider are your specific demographic, your brand values and attributes as well as any advantages you have over your competitors. At this stage, you will have to clearly define your communication objectives.

Your communication objectives are the “takeaways” you want your audience to glean from your visual identity. In the case of our hypothetical brand, “The Bloom”, we wanted to communicate that it is a quintessential yet contemporary flower shop — thus the vintage type and unconventional arrangement of the final logo.

Bloom Logo_Steph-07
Logo development of our hypothetical brand "The Bloom Flower Shop"

03. Strategic Design

This is the step many businesses start with. Either skipping or rushing through the Research and Strategy steps which unfortunately leaves them with no real direction or insight when it comes to constructing their visual branding. In this step you will bring your research and strategy together to creative a cohesive visual branding identity.

Drawing from your moodboard, and keeping your target audience in mind, choose colors and fonts that you think would be appropriate for your brand. Canva has an ever expanding library of fonts, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there is the option to upload your own. You want to create the right tone of voice for your brand.

Here’s what we did for The Bloom Flower Shop.

PRIMARY LOGO
Outline different applications for the logo.
Copy of PRIMARY LOGO - STACKED
Untitled design (28)
Flowers are the music of the ground from earth's lips spoken without a sound. (2)
Decide which fonts you'll be using for your materials.

04. Reliable and Consistent Visual Imagery

In this step we discuss the imagery you need for your brand pack. A successful visual identity is recognisable and cohesive, but also flexible across a range of applications — especially when it comes to image-centric applications.

For this, you will need to define what kind of imagery you want associated with your brand and how to place your logo and other elements in them.

Untitled design (27) (1)
Have a clear definition of what images you will be using for your brand.
Copy of Flowers are the music of the ground from earth's lips spoken without a sound. (1)
Establish a consistent placement for your logo.

Consistent font styles, text spacing, color, layout and photo styles were implemented to keep the brand pack for The Bloom as cohesive as possible.

05. Brand Package

As mentioned earlier in our list of five common mistakes, inconsistency is one of the most prevalent. To avoid this, it’s important to develop and establish strict standards and guidelines for your branding. We’ve shown some of the elements that need to go into your style guide throughout this section — make sure to invest in this before going all out on your brand materials.

Here’s how we’ve applied the style elements outlined above onto The Bloom’s brand package.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.50.03 PM
Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 5.17.49 PM

Watercolor images were sourced here.

Free Visual Branding Templates

To get you started on your visual branding adventures, we’ve collected some of Canva’s best designs and organized them into the mini brand kits below. Click on any of the designs to start designing!

For more awesome designs, check out this collection of 50 free brand kits!

Conclusion

We all know beauty comes from the inside, and a healthy and productive business are key, but a strong visual brand for your business is something that is worth the investment and will continue to pay off as your business grows.

Creating effective visual branding requires a lot of hard work, but don’t let this scare you off. Once you break down everything into smaller more achievable goals, you will soon find yourself powering through each step, and to make things even easier be sure to utilize all the tools Canva has available.

By avoiding the five mistakes too many businesses make and following the visual branding guide above, anyone has the ability to properly create really easy and super impactful visual branding for their business using Canva.

Happy designing!

Elly is a Graphic Designer living and working in Sydney, Australia. She is a lover of all things design related and enjoys finding ways to combine her passion of traditional art forms, design and photography. She thoroughly enjoys a good hand lettered design or a colourful repeat pattern and it is near impossible to show her a cat video she hasn’t seen.