An Image Style Guide is a huge part of a brand’s guidelines for marketing and advertising. It’s also one of the most important aspects of building a brand and having that brand spread its message far and wide. With a consistent and clear approach to style and branding, it becomes much easier for a brand to make its mark and become recognizable to its target audience.
An ideal example of a good approach to style and branding is Wolf Circle, a company with a fantastic Image Style Guide in place. Their guide outlines how its logo should and shouldn’t be used, as well as discussing its color palette usage in an in-depth way. Everything from typefaces to different kinds of imagery is discussed and examples are provided.
With that in mind, what should your Image Style Guide include?
1.1. Image Personality
A Visual Solution
Image personality refers to the way in which companies employ images to mold and shape the way in which people perceive its products, services or its general mission. Images matter because they’re immediate and they tell us important things about a business and what it’s trying to achieve. Image personality is a visualized solution that businesses make use of.
Businesses obviously want their target customers to feel certain ways about their products and the things they’re trying to sell. Even if it’s not about selling products, they want their target audience to feel a certain way about them and their mission or goals. Images will be one of the key things that help to shape and shift those feelings in various ways.
Consistency is a key part of image personality. That matters because people will feel as if something is off and doesn’t quite match if you have an approach to image personality that isn’t consistent with the overall brand personality you’re trying to create. You should look to achieve a level of consistency across these various approaches in order to convey the right overall brand image to your target customers and consumers. That’s the best way to create customer loyalty over the long-term too.
In order to get a better idea of how image personality can be done right, it’s worth looking at a couple of companies that are setting a good example. Comparing SOKO GLAM and NIUCOCO helps us to see how different approaches to image personality can be successful and what makes for the right approach to image personality too.
SOKO GLAM uses images that are clean and use light, often pastel-colored backgrounds with the company’s products at the forefront of the image. Their latest range of products plays up to the scientific aspects of their products, with descriptions of the properties and ingredients accompanying images that their products next to test tubes and other transparent lab equipment.
Source from: https://sokoglam.com/
NIUCOCO, whose image personality has been shaped by PENCIL ONE, is another beauty and skincare company, but it takes a different approach to image personality. It uses shades of brown to play on the coconut theme, achieving a more rustic but aesthetically pleasing tone with its images. It conveys an image of nature and authenticity that goes with the kinds of products the company is promoting and trying to sell to its target audience.
Source from: https://niucoco.com/
Matching the Personalities of Your Customers
One of the things that it’s important to keep in mind is the way in which customers are drawn to brand personalities that they perceive to be similar to their own. They want to be able to identify with the brands they love and the products they buy. If those two things can align and your business can create an image and brand personality that people see as similar to their own, making sales will become a lot easier.
To exemplify what we mean by this, you simply need to look at a brand such as Stussy. It’s a streetwear brand that’s long been associated with the Californian skate and surf scene. With the help of imagery that it uses to its advantages, it’s been able to create a brand personality that exudes cool free-spiritedness. This matters because that’s exactly the kind of personality its target customers can identify with. They see themselves as laid back and enjoying pursuits that are in tune with a free-spirited lifestyle, such as surfing or skating.
The Correct Vocabulary
There are many ways in which we can talk about image personality and there are many words you’ll notice being thrown around. It’s important to understand some of these words and phrases so you can start to effectively articulate the kind of image and brand personality you’re looking to create for your company. Conveying ideas and creating images will be much easier when you’re using the words and getting everyone on the same page.
Some brands look to create image personalities that are elegant and subtle, classy and sophisticated. You might describe your image personality as simple yet clear. Another company might describe their desired image personality as bright, vibrant and stylistic. It’s up to you to find the words that properly identify your brand’s image personality, but those are some that are often used by companies like yours.
1.2. Tone & Mood
The Power of Tone
The tone of your image style guide matters a lot, as does the overall mood you create. By achieving the right tone, you’ll create a mood that’s in keeping with the kind of image and brand personality that you’re most interested in creating. If you don’t get the tone right, it’ll be very difficult to get the mood of the brand image right as well.
The process of selecting and refining the tone is incredibly powerful. It will dictate how your images turn out and what they say to your audience. That’s why it’s so important to take this seriously and to really work on it before finalizing your approach.
The Tone of Colors
It’s important to think about how different colors can create different tones and moods in your imagery as well. For example, you can look to warm colors if you want to create images that feel welcoming, vibrant and exciting to your target customers. The best examples of warm colors are different shades of red, yellow, orange and even certain browns.
Then there are cool colors that can be seen as refreshing or replenishing. These cool colors can also be very relaxing, which is a tone that certain kinds of companies will want to create through their image personality. Greens and violets are best for this, and blue can be used as well. But blue can also have its own connotations and can be used to indicate sadness or melancholy.
If you want to create a tone that feels classy and classic, using black and white colors can be the best way to go. They can be used together to create a nice contrast and this can also be very memorable as well. It’s a classic choice but it’s one that can really pay off when it comes to creating a classy and stylish tone for your images and overall brand personality.
One of the biggest and most successful brands of them all is Coca-Cola, so when looking at how tone and mood are used by brands in their images, it makes sense to look to one of the companies that does this best. Their photos exude happiness and joy. The red imagery is exciting and warm, and they use images of people together.
The tone they’re creating is undoubtedly one of positivity and humanity. It’s not about being alone, it’s about sharing a coke with others. This adds a very social dimension to the brand personality and it works very well for the company. Consumers are enticed by that and they see a lifestyle and a way of being that’s undeniably attractive to them. That’s clearly important and it’s a brand personality strategy that’s worked very well for them over the years.
Their brand also works with nostalgia by using certain repeating themes and concepts that they keep coming back to. This is certainly true of their holiday season ad strategy with the Coca-Cola truck that returns each year and invokes happy memories that many people link back to their childhood.
Source from: Google Image
Another company we can look to as a fine example of how to get image personality right is Matouk, which has been PENCIL ONE’s client for two years now. They use calming and relaxing images and colors that invoke a lived reality. They sell high-quality luxury linens, and their images show these products being used in homes. They combine realistic and authentic photography with images that are aspirational for their target customers.
They also use images of couples, which helps to appeal to people looking to create the same happy, homely images that are being displayed in their photos. The images are usually bright and make fantastic use of sunlight to add their joyful, happy quality that’s also relaxing and authentic.
Source from: https://www.instagram.com/matouklinens/?hl=en
1.3. Color Pattern
When it comes to the color patterns that you use, it’s important to be as consistent as possible with the colors you go with. That means ensuring that the logo and brand colors are consistent too. You only have to look at any successful brand to see how common this is done and how successful it is. When you think of a brand, you immediately think of the colors that are associated with that brand, and that’s a sign of a good image personality.
For example, you’ll immediately see the red and black colors of Coca-Cola when you think of that brand. And the same can be said of just about every other brand out there. When you think of Apple, you see their classic, understated focus on black and white. And when you think of McDonalds, you’ll see yellow and red. There are no doubt plenty of other examples you could pick out and highlight yourself that achieve the same consistency. It’s what you’ll need to as well. Most importantly, ensure your logo and the colors you use for your branding match one another.
GOODFOR is a PENCIL ONE client and they manage to keep their branding and logo very consistent in terms of the color pattern selected. They take a very elegant approach to branding and their color pattern. When you visit their website, you’ll see that their logo uses a white typeface on a graded blue background. This is then replicated through the other types of marketing, website design and advertising employed by the company across the board.
Most importantly, you’ll notice that the background color for the company’s images are often the same as the logo images. Aqua blue and green backgrounds are used consistently. The products are then showing on top of the backgrounds in a very straightforward and clean way. It helps to make the products stand out in a fun and effective way.
Source from: PENCIL ONE eCommerce Photography
1.4. Lighting & Shadow
Lighting & Shadow Consistency
Lighting and shadow also need to be taken into account when creating a solid brand personality. These things can be easy to overlook, but when it comes to the visual impact of the images you create and use to promote your company, they matter a lot. Using shadow and natural light can show authenticity and realism, for example.
Whichever approach you end up taking to lighting and shadow, what matters most of all is consistency. You shouldn’t take one approach on some of your images then an opposite one in others because that simply creates an ugly inconsistency that’ll really stand out for all the wrong reasons, and that’s the last thing you want. Plan out how you intend to use light and shadows and what kind of effect you’re looking to create, and then keep that approach consistent across the images you create.
BODHI uses natural light and is happy to display shadows in its images. This is something that it keeps consistent across its digital images, helping to create an image personality that is strong and recognizable. This is something that’s very important and they do it well. PENCIL ONE helps BODHI create these images and the lighting and shadow effects that are used in them.
These lighting and shadow choices are informed by the kind of brand personality the company wants to create. As well as keeping these choices consistent across the images it creates and uses online, it also ensures that the lighting and shadows say something about the company and its products. That’s something that your image style guide should take into account too.
Source from: https://bodhibeverlyhills.com/collections/all
The Correct Vocabulary
There’s a wide range of common words that can be used to describe the lighting and shadow aspects of a brand’s image personality. Natural lighting is a phrase you’ll pick up on a lot and it can be used in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, depending on the products and the tone the company is trying to capture.
When it comes to shadow, you’ll probably most commonly hear them described as hard or soft shadows. Hard shadows are very stark and clearly defined, where as softer shadows are, well, soft. Soft shadows offer a more cozy effect if that’s what you’re looking to create.
1.5. Scene & Accessories
Which Scenes & Accessories to Use
Setting the scene is obviously a key part of taking images for your brand’s website or online presence. The scene says as much about your brand and its products as the images of the products themselves do. Ensure the scene conveys what you want it to and shapes the perceptions people have of your business in the right way.
Accessories are really important as well. They can add a little extra detail and depth to your images when they’re chosen carefully and intentionally. However, when it comes to choosing accessories and setting the scene in your images, it’s important not to overshadow your products or the most important aspects of your image. And they shouldn’t contrast in any way with the brand personality you’re trying to achieve.
The settings used by GoodFor tend to focus on daily life and everyday cooking scenes. This grounds their scenes and products in reality and shows customers how they might use these products in their daily lives and routines too. This also helps to create a focus on the healthy, organic aspects of their products and the brand personality they’re looking to convey.
On the whole, these settings help to make the brand seem more relaxed and approachable, which is vital for a company such as this one. It goes to show how important the right setting is when it comes to taking product photos and creating an effective brand personality.
Source from: https://goodfor.co.nz/
1.6. Technical Requirements
It’s important to understand the technical requirements of image-making as well. Think about things such as the angle of the photographs. They need to be shot at an angle that enhances the appeal of the image and the subject of the image. Dimensions are important because you should create images for specific purposes and placements, and that means having dimensions in mind ahead of time. Resolution is also key because you need high-quality images; any pixelation or low resolution will look terrible and be immediately noticeable to your customers.
The Key Message to Take Away With You
First of all, consistency matters more than anything else. For your image style guide to result in an image and brand personality that’s effective and achieves what you want it to, it has to be consistent and there’s no getting away from that fact. Without consistency, it won’t work.
It’s also important to focus on creating images that convey the values that your brand holds dear. It should help to shape the way in which people perceive your brand and its products. That’s what strong images can and should do for your company.