Creating a Unique Brand Identity

Visual identity can make or break a brand, Sharmadean Reid shares how she developed The Stack’s visual identity, to help you discover your's.

By Sharmadean Reid

4 August 2022

isual identity is extremely important to your brand. A good, strong identity should leave your customers in a position where they can easily identify your brand from a picture or asset, even if there are no logos or brand name. Creating a visual identity is one of my favourite parts of creating a new brand, and it’s an art form that requires a certain finesse.

So I wanted to pass on everything I learned when creating my brands - such as Beautystack and The Stack - so you can start on the right foot.

Someone once told me everyone nowadays is a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. And it stuck with me. Too many people are chasing their tail, trying to be just like someone else. Why would you want your brand to be the same as another? Why not be you?

It should be unique. It should take inspiration from a much deeper place within you. Don’t look at what others are doing; look at what you’re doing. Who are you? What drives your brand? What resonates with you? Which life experiences are imbued in your brand, even if you don’t realise it? Your brand should speak to you. If it doesn’t, how can you ever trust it to speak to your audience.

Let’s look at an example from my life.

The chances are you know who Rupert Murdoch is. Even if you don’t know this Australian-born billionaire, you definitely know his brands: Sky, Fox, The Sun, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post. His influence is huge, and it all started when he inherited his father’s local newspaper.

Just look at him now. It’s hard not to be in awe of him, despite what his media empire said. It had so much power, and that contributed to my own personal oppression. Like the magazines that told me I wasn’t enough, the movies that made me doubt myself, and so much more. And it got me thinking, what if women owned the media? What if women wrote and owned the world’s biggest newspapers? I felt that women-owned media would empower women, rather than knock them down. This was the seed from which The Stack sprouted.

‘Too many people are chasing their tail, trying to be just like someone else. Why would you want your brand to be the same as another? Why not be you?’

I took off with this idea. I thought about women; I thought about when the news was at its biggest; I thought about the places we associate with newspapers and what journalists were writing about. The inspirations just came to me. Tina Brown. 1989 to 1997. London and New York. Big business. Scandal. Corporations. All disparate ideas but together would make something wholly unique.

Your idea will be built on a foundation much like that. So ask yourself, what has brought you to your idea today? What factors, big and small, molded you into the woman you are, one with a dream to do something greater? Find that why and your visual identity will follow.

Take that string, pull on it, and find where it goes. Pour over all the music, films, documentaries, books, diaries, podcasts, magazines, and even locations that play a part in your idea. By absorbing as much relevant media as possible, you can begin to notice patterns that will influence you further down the line. Live and breathe it so you can fully understand it.

The more you look, the more you’ll see those patterns. For example, when I studied newspaper and magazine covers, I noticed the similarity in typefaces. They were mostly sans serif. And the pictures used were faded with muted colours. And in the films I watched, really strong splashes of blue, red, and green were common in the offices. I took to Pinterest to find pictures and build a mood board, finding those colours in pictures that also had the vibe that I knew I wanted The Stack to have.

Creating a mood board is vital for communicating ideas to others, but also helping you identify what your brand is and where you want to take it. It may also help to add a sentence or two to explain or describe your brand.

By doing this, you slowly build up what matters to your visual identity. You start to find those typefaces that represent you. The colours stand out more. And it helps build on the more complex ideas: your ethos, personality, and motivations. In the end, you can answer the question of ‘who are you’ with ease.

The Short Stack

Don’t let your brand be a copy of someone else’s. Dive deep and discover new, different ideas. With your expansive mood board, you should not only be able to see where to take your brand, but also easily relay your ideas to others too.

By Sharmadean Reid

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