4 Reasons Your Company Needs a Visual Identity Guide

May 31, 2016
Posted by Russ Waddill on May 31, 2016 5:14:34 PM

Your identity is what sets you apart from the millions of other people on the planet. It includes your unique fingerprint, your physical stature and facial structure, your height and weight, and the color of your hair (if you still have some) and eyes. Today, technology has allowed for even your DNA to be part of your unique identity.

Your company's visual identity is not much different. It is the collection of all the visual elements - logo, name, font, words, statements, colors - that make your company identifiable to those that either already know it or want to know it better. Frankly, your company's complete brand identity made up of the experiences of customers and stakeholders IS your company's DNA.

So why then, would any company want to neglect something as critically important as a visual identity guide? They wouldn't!

Read more to learn and understand:

  • 4 reasons why every company needs one
  • A real example from a client organization


Reason 1: Hold strategic partners and vendors accountable

Nearly every company uses outside vendors and printers for sales and promotional items, letterhead, business cards, signage, and other marketing material. A few might be large enough to justify that expertise in-house, but the era of outsourcing work such as this began long ago. Every printer and promotional item company has their own process. While there is overlap in software they use, providing them with a complete brand visual identity guide helps them deliver what you want - a perfectly finished product. In most cases, vendors can pull your logo directly from the guide if it is a high resolution document, eliminating the need for multiple files and different versions to be sent back and forth. Furthermore, it allows you the opportunity to hold them accountable to a clearly defined set of standards that they must meet or create again at their expense. 

Reason 2: Keep your team from experimenting 

Every company has those employees who believe in their creative flare, even though their job responsibility may not ask them to display it. Maybe they want to buy casual polo shirts for their team and put the logo and their department on them to build a sense of teamwork. Baseball caps with a version of the logo branded on the front would look good. We have seen each of these examples, and many more, utilized at both client companies and former employers. It rarely turns out desirable without strict guidelines.

One particular client is a 100+ year old high school, Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School. Prior to involvement, through many years and changes in personnel and resources, the name didn't change but the visual identity of that name and their mascot - the bulldogs - evolved quite a bit. Our team got involved during the beginning of a strategic planning process and we noticed their visual identity had gotten out of hand. Every sport and many departments were using the school name, logo, and mascot in different ways. I toured the school and literally found 12 different bulldogs on posters, bulletin boards, and signs throughout the hallways and on the buildings. In the absence of specific guidelines and accountability, most will simply take the path of least resistance and put their creative talents to the test. That is exactly what happened at MKCHS.

We shut it down immediately. We created a detailed MKCHS Brand Identity Guide for Academics and Athletics. We also insisted that the Office of Advancement for the high school be the enforcer. Any department on campus not following the guide would not be allowed to sell, wear, or display the branded product. Additionally, if it was something they needed, it had to be re-printed at their department's expense. Most school budgets are tight, and MKCHS is no exception. The response was actually precisely what we hoped for and it has been a blessing for the school's brand, as well as their perception in the community.


Reason 3: Maintain consistency across channels and mediums

With the ubiquity of technology, the way your brand identity looks online has become a huge priority. A great website is the hub for a company's brand online, but it is just the beginning. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have different visual standards. Online versions of traditional media like newspapers and magazines display ads or might mention your company in a story, so insuring your brand identity is properly represented is key. Then there are still offline opportunities like trade shows where displays and signage are critical. While business cards and letterhead have declined in importance over the last decade, they are still important tools to make an impression in a personal way with a thank you note or in more formal correspondence. Sales and promotional items also typically play a role in marketing a company that might include clothing and hats, or more functional items like pens, flashlights, or toys.

The bottom line is the volume and breadth of where a company's visual identity lives now is staggering. Insuring that your logo appears as consistently on a trade show banner or a custom Rubik's cube as it does on your website is reason enough to develop a clear and concise guide for everyone to follow.

Reason 4: Save time and effort of your marketing team

When a vendor or employee from a department has a question about the logo, who do you think they call? That is correct - of course, it's the marketing team! That person might be 'experimenting' with an idea (not part of their job). Or they may be an outside vendor with a question about a color or pantone, spacing, font or an alteration of some sort. Arming the marketing team with a simple, clear, and precise guide answers 99% of most visual identity questions. It allows them to immediately send the guide along to anyone - internal or external - who might be using an element of the brand. Or, better yet, it is sent along with the original project instructions to make sure there are no questions. This frees them up to their primary job, generating qualified leads in the most cost effective manner possible for your company.


Maintaining the integrity of your company's visual identity is an important job. It is certainly one made easier by the existence of a visual identity guide. The process of constructing one is also a valuable exercise for your marketing and sales teams. It forces each to think through where the brand identity will live and how it will manifest itself across many different mediums and marketing channels. Once the guide is done, It will cause less confusion, help eliminate questions, and clarify your company's brand.


cover2_9-Step_Checklist_for_Creating_Your_Brand_Identity-1.jpgDoes your brand identity need updating? Or maybe you need a new one altogether.

Download our helpful and simple-to-follow branding planner: 9 Step Checklist for Creating Your Brand Identity, and get:

  • A proven step-by-step process to create a blueprint for your brand identity
  • All the questions you should be considering when refreshing your brand

Learn More