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What Makes Graphic Design Great

Seeing is believing, and graphic design is what brings concepts you want to share to life.

We live in a world that’s become increasingly fueled by visual media. The rise of social media has completely transformed how we consume and understand content:

  • A great photo
  • An excellent thumbnail
  • Engaging visuals

No matter what medium you choose, the right visuals can turn any average piece of content into a viral phenomenon. 

And this is why, more than ever, it’s critical for your brand to have powerful and cohesive graphic design. 

Thinking critically about the graphic design behind your brand and exactly how it represents your organization’s values is a necessary part of brand architecture. 

Making an Impression with Graphic Design

For better or worse, humans have a tendency to jump to conclusions. 

We often make judgments before we have all the information before we make all of our choices. The first impression you make is often the most important one. 

In this world dominated by social media giants, this first impression usually comes in the form of visual design:

  • An image of a person
  • An advertisement
  • A statement piece

These are just a few examples to consider. There is always a visual element associated with your message. 

RIP Comic Sans

Graphic Design Has Come So Far Since the Early 2000’s

Think about the times you’ve occasionally stumbled upon an old website from the early 2000s. You’re probably picturing colors that clash, strange blocks of texts scattered around the page, and the dreaded Comic Sans font. 

Odds are, you can’t remember much of what was actually on these old web pages. Why? Because the thing that stuck out the most was the awkward, clunky graphic design. 

Excellent graphic design doesn’t just set you apart, it makes you memorable; what first impressions are all about. Because even if somebody completely forgets everything about you or organization, what they won’t forget is how they felt when they interacted with your brand — and that’s because good design goes above and beyond just the visuals. 

Good Graphic Design is…

Evocative – Inspire the Right Feelings

Graphic design done well evokes a sense of wholeness and makes people feel complete. The themes that visual design provides a brand with sets the brand identity across multiple channels and platforms that are central to this one idea.

Good design can package and convey your brand’s values faster than a mission statement and more memorable than a manifesto — which is why it’s important to get it right. 

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

The ideas you’re representing must connect and build upon each other. Additionally, the process must begin at the very foundation of any brand and organization — its “why.” Once you can define your brand’s mission statement, purpose, and core values that turn your brand from a product into realtime value, you can develop visuals that support its value.

Elements of graphic design can be compared to any personality. When thinking about your brand and its services, what feeling do you want to evoke? How do you want to appear to your audience? What would your mission and supporting core values look like if you could have them appear on someone’s mobile? While this all might sound like a feat — to put ideas, beliefs, and purpose on paper — when done, it can be the single most telling aspect of your brand.

In 2020, any brand or organization that exists without a clear, compelling, and defined visual presence is doomed to disappear. A way of thinking through why this is is to consider graphic design as the vehicle of your message. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” So, when competing organizations have the same or similar message to provide, it matters how you can differentiate that message.

Consistency is Key 

One of the most important aspects of graphic design is cohesiveness. 

But more importantly, this focus on cohesion goes beyond individual pieces. There has to be some consistency between the content you produce, the platforms you operate on, and the way you represent your brand to the world. 

The best way to do this? A style guide. 

A style guide is the infrastructure that your graphic design is built on. It’s the thing that ties your values together across the platform, medium, and individual team members. 

Crafting a style guide must begin with the audience in mind. Who is your audience? Start by building a “persona board” to identify your audience’s demographic and psychographic traits such as their online/offline habits, age, location, lexicon, industry, needs, capital, and so forth. Defining this audience will help break down which visual elements will appropriately and effectively share your message.

Here’s a glimpse of our own style guide:

Here are some of the things you need to consider:

3 Key Branding Elements of Graphic Design

1. Typeface

Carries weight to the words you write

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-20/why-fashion-brands-all-use-the-same-style-font-in-their-logos
Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-20/why-fashion-brands-all-use-the-same-style-font-in-their-logos

When it comes to graphic design, most people tend to focus on the graphic pieces. What they overlook is the role a strong and unique typeface plays in conveying your brand’s message. 

A few questions to consider when choosing the right typeface: 

  • Does this typeface match the character of the brand?
    • Is it light, playful, with lots of movement, or is it bold, with strong edges?
    • Does the typeface create tension with how tightly spaced together the letters are (kerning)? Or does it create a laid back, welcoming feeling?
    • Does the typeface look elegant, accessible only to a certain elite or person? (I like to ask myself, would this wordmark/typekit fit in at a motel or would I find it at the Ritz Carlton?
  • Do the above answers meet the criteria and characteristics of the audience?
  • Does the typeface demonstrate visual hierarchy? (Are there different versions within the same type family that can draw a visual map from what is most important to what is least important on the articles or content you publish?)
  • Will this typeface look great on anything the brand designs/creates? For example, t-shirts, water bottles, thank you notes
  • And #1… is it legible? Many fonts look great at first glance, however, will it be difficult to quickly get your message across on mobile screens? Or will someone scroll through because it was too difficult to read?

BW mission’s typeface is a combination of 2 font families:

1. Dharma Gothic’s family

(bold, thin, condensed, straighter corners, rounded corners) and Acumin Pro. We chose a combination of these fonts because of the contrast they provide.

  1. Dharma Gothic is bold and brazen, clear about making its introduction. We lead powerful content with strong titles, and we highlight guest and client features with this typeface because they are equally compelling and carry strong experience and powerful messaging.
  2. Acumin pro is digestible for long-form content and smaller text on social media posts. It is unique in that it is of a different family from traditional copy typeface, and it is easier going and playful to read without being too laid back. The content we create is accessible to all, and we want anyone who is reading it to feel good.
Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 3.14.46 PM.png

2. Color Palette

The right brand colors speaks volumes to your overall brand identity.

Psychologically, certain colors have the ability to evoke emotions in us that we can’t articulate, but feel on a visceral level. Understanding what symbolism certain colors connote will help you disseminate messaging that better aligns with your brand

How 9 Different Colors Make People Feel

This list from CoSchedule Blog highlights the different feelings associated with each color:

  1. Red: Anger, embarrassment, passion, lust
  2. Blue: Calmness, intellectual comfort, and trust (why water makes most calm!)
  3. Yellow: Energy, happiness, caution (think of how the Sun emits energy!)
  4. Green: Greed, environment, growth envy, friendliness
  5. Purple: Royalty, pride, magic, mystery
  6. Grey: Depression, regular sadness, stoicism
  7. Black: Eliteness, intense, control, coldness death
  8. Pink: Cheeriness, embarrassment, love
  9. White: Pure, emptiness, clean, shock

With the power of colors in mind, choose a set of colors that align with your organization’s mission by considering the following:

  • Are you on a mission to inspire people and build community? 
    • A good color would be green for growth and friendliness, and or blue for feeling comforted by community
  • What would resonate with your ideal customer? 
  • Which tangible associations are you going for? 
  • What’s your gut reaction when you settle on a choice?

How We Chose the BW Missions Brand Colors

BW mission’s colors are hues of blue, white, and offwhite. As an organization that works with successful professionals, blue establishes a feeling of intellect, security, calmness, and trust which our consumers can place in us.

Blue encapsulates our brand ideals and can effectively contribute to graphic design across all of our brand kits and social media content. The white is sparingly used for BW Missions.

Instead, we incorporate an offwhite that comes off less harsh, shocking and empty, and brings a purposeful, elegant, and intentionality accent to the blue.

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 3.17.26 PM.png

3. Shapes

Carry symbolism and rhythm

Choosing the correct shapes and or elements for your brand’s style guide is a step that many forget. Shapes and various elements can come in all different, well shapes and sizes.

Whether it is a line, circle, rectangle, logo, or illustration, it should provide a message and evoke a feeling that any word or color cannot alone. In creating a shape, keep in mind that shapes carry an essence of movement. Always.

A line represents momentum, continuation. A line with two endpoints represents meeting points between two entities. Circles resemble cycles, openness. Squares give off a stern figure… and the list goes on! 

Graphic Design 101: The Law of Similarity. The Law of Similarity is the guiding principle to Gestalt’s design principles, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts.”

The central point to this theory is that the human brain processes and associates congruence, balance, colors, and shapes to make general perceptions and assumptions.

Individual pieces used together to create the sum need to be synchronized. A few elements that affect the synchronization of a shape’s form include balance, continuation, proximity, and order.

Source: http://cdn.verticalmeasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/gestalt-theory-why-design-is-important-for-content-marketing1.jpg
Source: http://cdn.verticalmeasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/gestalt-theory-why-design-is-important-for-content-marketing1.jpg

At BW Missions, we incorporate shape into our text and forms. Our main BW MIssions logo tilts upward to showcase growth and momentum. Because our clients are all about forward progression and movement – they are on a journey together and we are helping elevate them.

The brush stroke that we place throughout our content, behind our main logo, and on our website, symbolizes leaving a mark wherever we go. The brush stroke’s texture is gritty, rough almost, which also symbolizes the nature of our team and our client’s endurance to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Visual Brand Identity Takes Time

A graphic designer is extremely important to have on your team to make sure these variables of your visual brand identity is created and created well.

Our designer, Zac Oransky, has been with BW Missions from the start, which helps us to continuously and seamlessly visually represent our brand better over time.

Recalling that one of the most essential aspects of graphic design is the illustrative cohesiveness and of brand identity, a graphic designer is the best way to make sure that the endless amount of content you create is perceived universally as your brand; that no posts on different platforms leave your audience confused. That your brand is one.

Creating the visual components of your brand takes error and brands evolve with the times, which makes graphic design always relevant and always requiring human creativity.

The importance of intentionality behind a design — is seen and felt. When done properly, a high- quality graphic design strategy acts as another powerful tool to set your organization apart in an ever-crowded marketplace.

When the choices are hard to make, people go with the product or service that makes them feel good — and if you can win people’s hearts, you can scale your business, spread your mission, and stand out.

For Thought Leaders
Leah Walsh

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