When it comes to developing a quality brand, it is all about consistency, consistency, consistency! To be successful, you need to expose your audience to the same material over and over again so that it becomes instantly recognizable.
For this reason, an imagery style guide (as part of a broader brand guideline) is essential. This document sets out the precise parameters that govern your visual marketing, making it clear to everyone in your organization what is acceptable communication and what isn't.
You may want to convey the following in your imagery style guide:
- Brand personality
- Mood and tone
- Lighting and shadow options
- Technical requirements (such as when resizing images for mobile devices)
Ideally, you want anyone in your organization to be able to pick up your imagery style guide and start using it immediately. It shouldn’t be overly technical - just some simple yet clear rules on how people should present your brand.
You can create a DIY imagery style guide yourself or get one from PENCIL ONE Imagery solutions, which includes both suggestions and a free template.
Why Are Imagery Style Guides So Important?
As noted in the introduction, imagery style guides are essential for keeping your brand messaging consistent. Consistency builds trust, and trust leads to sales.
Having consistent brand imagery helps for another reason, though - creating positive first impressions. New customers like brands that have consistent messaging across platforms. It's a telltale sign that you run a tight ship (and probably offer a quality service).
From a practical perspective, style guides help to keep your marketing consistent. You want everyone in your organization to agree on company colors and corporate persona without disagreements taking up time and creating confusion. This consistency allows you to shape the way your audience feels about your products, services or mission.
Finally, consistent branding facilitates better communication between marketing, external videographers/photographers, and product design teams. Everyone is working to the same set of rules, so there’s less room for variation.
Examples Of Companies With Consistent Imagery Styles
Some companies are particularly adept at creating consistent imagery styles across platforms and settings. The following are some excellent examples.
Spanish clothing brand ZARA has enjoyed substantial success, partly because of the quality of its clothing, but mainly because of its prowess in visual branding. The company’s art style gives you the impression that people who buy its products are effortlessly professional. Smartly dressed men in suits on grey backgrounds showcase the company’s latest products, all the while maintaining that trademark ZARA simplicity. Viewing the company style, you can see that it is elegant and sophisticated, exuding a sense of luxury, despite the affordable price bracket.
Wolf Circus also takes a decidedly minimalist approach, presenting models wearing its jewelry on neutral backgrounds. Where appropriate, the brand makes subtle use of gold, but otherwise avoids visuals getting in the way of the products. The main emphasis is on high-quality photography with slightly edgy models to set an intense mood.
Watch brand Daniel Wellington opts for contrast in the presentation of its brand, using black background and model clothing to contrast the luminous, fresh skin of the models wearing its products. As you view the company’s branding, you get a sense of professionalism, intensity and luxury, instantly telling you that you’re on the website of a firm that sells premium products.
Populum sells a range of CBD products for medicinal purposes. The brand makes heavy use of colors that you might associate with health and medical settings. The website is filled with tan and light pink images and text boxes, creating a relaxing and uplifting atmosphere. The brand style makes you feel like you’re interacting with a professional medical outfit, able to provide you with relief. The graphics are gentle, subtle and soothing, just like the products.
Context is a makeup manufacturer and vendor, selling lipstick, foundation, and a range of skincare products. Its imagery evokes a semi-clinical yet funky feel telling you that its products will improve the quality of your skin and will make you look great too.
And all of the company’s product photos feature a white background as if to signal their clinical purity. Interestingly, only the products themselves offer coloration, creating a striking visual contrast. The clever use of light, shadow, and depth are consistent across all the brand’s photography, making it more recognizable.
Scarters sells upmarket bags and satchels. Its artistic theme immediately presents itself as vintage, but in a way that is at home in the modern world. Its subtle yet classy products stand out against a decidedly retro beige background, instantly taking you back in time, achieving the brand’s goal. Scarters often show how its products look in a modern context by, for example, including a Macbook in the image.
HOW COMPANIES USE BRAND-STYLE CONSISTENT IMAGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Of course, brands don’t just use style-consistent images on their websites. They also have to translate them to the social media environment, which, as you might imagine, isn’t always easy.
HALO TOP CREAMERY
Ice cream company Halo Top Creamery depends on carefully constructed photos to sell its food. While all its images show something different (from stacked ice cream cones to scoops of ice cream with cherries on top made to look like muffins), there’s a definite theme. Every image features the company’s trademark playfulness and makes use of colors its audience associates with joy, such as bubblegum pink and candy yellow.
Many images also feature background patterns that emulate the flavors of the ice creams that they represent. So, for instance, photos of the company's vanilla bean tub come on a back and white polka dot background.
MUSE AND METTA
Muse And Metta sell a variety of premium kombucha products for gut health. Browsing through the company’s Instagram account almost feels like going to an exhibition at an art gallery, with paint streak motifs disrupting otherwise plain backgrounds. To create a striking visual impression, the brand uploads sets of related photos that work in tandem when viewed as a group. The theme across all its images is one of luxuriousness and vibrancy.
The Pottery Barn posts diverse images of high-end residential interiors. When you take a closer look at the company’s brand images on social media, you soon that they all have elements in common. The company excels in creating images of simple neutral spaces that appeal to a broad audience, each with a distinct feel. It’s style inspiration, but without any of the quirkiness you get with some designers. Every image in the collection communicates the brand’s and value that it offers. While the images differ wildly, stylistically, they are very similar.