You are meeting a man for the first time to see if you want to engage his business for services. When you meet, he has on a finely tailored conservative suit — nothing flashy, just very professional. It’s a good first impression.
Now, what if this guy has a face tattoo? Maybe some teardrops? You might think twice about who he is and how he will handle your business.
How important is visual consistency?
Without a consistent visual message, it’s hard for others to understand who you are. At best, inconsistency is interpreted as a nuisance. At worst, people will think you are trying to be something you’re not. Neither of these impressions is what you’d want for your business. To do well in a culture that values authenticity, you have to be consistent.
The problem is, as a business, identity is a creation of sorts; it’s something you’ve established to craft people’s perception of your brand. It doesn’t necessarily come as naturally as your personal identity; instead it’s a project to be worked on and maintained.
Your brand has to be recognizable, believable, and perceived a certain way. Being reliable builds up trust; it builds loyalty. There are so many superstar examples in the marketplace that exemplify the concept of consistency — Apple, IBM, Disney, The Home Depot. Walk into an Apple Store and it feels like you’re literally inside one of those perfectly simple iPhone boxes.
Your customers should feel the same way when they walk into a branded trade show booth, open a promotional email, or watch one of your how-to videos. The experience should say, “This is familiar. This is known.” It should bring your brand to mind even if your name is never mentioned.
So how do you achieve that consistency? Color, fonts, design elements, photography style and packaging are all useful in reinforcing a corporate identity. Your customers aren’t necessarily design experts, but they inherently know when things work and when they don’t.
Each element will send a message — and each should tell the same story. For example, a tech startup that wants to connote a modern, cutting-edge impression will use very different fonts and colors than a traditional insurance company, which wants to communicate stability and compassion.
Once the hard decisions have been made (including passionate arguments over Gotham versus Benton Sans), you have to communicate it to the corporate masses. If those parameters aren’t effectively shared, rogue business units will do whatever they feel is best rather than the style that has been established. Old logos, inappropriate images, or worse (Comic Sans!) are likely to show up on internal and external materials if a thorough style guide is not readily available.