Building a visual identity – creating compelling graphics

Pause – If you haven’t already, check out our first blog post in this series. You can read it here

In public relations, we often talk about crafting language or materials that tell a brand story. We associate certain words, phrases and concepts with the essence of a company, and we use these words throughout our materials to reinforce key messages for our constituents. As PR professionals in a world where digital and promotional lines are blurred, we are often tasked with creating companion elements that assist in telling the brand story. From photos to videos and graphics, it’s expected that we can tell a strong client story visually and linguistically. 

Though many of us are multitalented, we don’t all possess the je ne sais quois to create gallery-worthy photographs or Addy-worthy graphic materials. There are amazing professionals who specialize in these disciplines. However, that doesn’t mean that our photos should look like they were taken with a disposable camera or that Microsoft Paint images are acceptable for social media. We can use the tools we already have at our disposal, many of them free, to create a brand story that is compelling to customers and impressive to clients. Use our tips and tricks to inch closer to visual excellence, even if you don’t have the most refined artistic pallet. 

Let’s talk about graphics. 

Fonts, colors, icons and text positioning are all as much part of a brand as your mission statement. Your visual representation on your website, social media pages and printed materials says a lot about your brand. Enlisting a professional graphic designer is an amazing option if you have the budget to hire one, but sometimes, that’s not feasible. Fortunately, we have tools in our arsenal that help us work with what we’ve got. Before you do anything, create a free Canva account. This site will be your best friend for creating compelling social media, website and email marketing graphic elements. 

Pick three fonts. 

Graphic design for non-designers is about consistency. Start by picking three fonts: one header font, one body text font and one “fun” font. If a professional designer created your website or initial branding materials, consider reaching out to them for the names of the fonts used. Stick to those fonts like they’re your life raft in the open ocean. Do not abandon them, do not stray from them. You’ll pick up on this theme, but creating a professional look and feel graphically is about consistency. (TIP: If you’re tempted by fonts like Comic Sans, slowly step away from the computer. Seriously, no one should use Comic Sans.)

Pick three colors. 

Do you have a logo? If so, what colors are in that logo? There are likely two or three key colors you use in your logo, on your website and in your printed materials. Incorporate those designs into all of your graphic color pallets moving forward. You can use tools like Adobe Color to help you find shades that coordinate with the colors in your logo – but don’t go wild. Most brands have a set of three primary colors and three or four secondary colors. If you’re a rookie, start with you three primary colors and stick to them! (TIP: You can almost always add white and/or black to your color pallet for additional color options.) 

Pick a photo treatment.

If you use our tips in our first post to take good photos with a consistent brand feel, then this step is less important. But many of our clients rely upon guest or submitted photo content to build branded materials. In these instances, you can’t always control the photo quality, but you can make edits either on your phone or in your graphic design software to make the photos look consistent. Choosing a photo preset treatment (like black and white, high saturation or low exposure) and applying that preset to all of your photos will help unify your photo look. Drop some text in your newly selected fonts and colors overtop and, BAM! You’re cooking with fire!