What Is A Visual Communication Strategy?
Visual communication is defined as “the practice of graphically representing information to efficiently and effectively create meaning.” A Strategy is “a plan of action designed to achieve a major or overall goal”. OK, so it’s visually representing specific information for the purpose of achieving a specific goal. Sounds easy enough to understand and execute. But it’s impossible to communicate anything visually for someone who's always customizing who they are or who’s objectives are unfocused. Before I go any further, I’ll like to apply a bit of context to the thoughts of prospective clients who fall into those aforementioned categories.
It has occurred to me that when founders new to business and the concept of branding for services think of a “strong brand”, inclusivity is what’s really at the helm of their endeavors because they associate popularity with money.
And so, influenced by this misguided concept they’ll contradict everything foundational to who they really are because “coming across as a ‘for everyone brand’ is much safer and financially promising than building the understanding that they’re only for a specific type of client”. At the same time though, these are the same people who want to be seen as an expert, who expect their visual brand to illustrate their strengths, and who expect their reviews to help them gain the trust of more potential ideal clients when their very inclination to be unfocused defies all they are supposedly seeking. So in ignorance, they throw money at any poor soul (a designer) who believes their calling in life is to turn water into wine when the first and easiest lesson anyone with a laptop and internet can learn is if you try to market to everyone, you’ll reach no one.
It may not look like it, but telling someone that “even though they’re not your type of client you’ll still take their money” is the antithesis of specificity. Who cares if they’re longing to pay you. Good for them for recognizing you have something to offer. That doesn’t mean taking them on as a client won’t weaken the perceived value of your brand and eventually destroy your business. That’s how referrals work! One bad apple will tell another bad apple and before you know it, the people who really need you don’t even recognize who you are anymore.
Try representing such madness visually without ruining your own credibility as a visual brand strategist in the process.
Strong Visuals Are Built On...
Foundational principles that connect them to the type of clients who make the brand relevant, successful, fulfilling and exciting. I’d give you an example.
Two days ago one of the lead mechanics for a major oil company in Trinidad contacted me for a One-Page Website for his business. Upon speaking with him, it became clear to me that although his business had reputation, could benefit from being online, and he could pay me, his inability to sustain his presence online didn’t put him in the best position to become the right client for me. So, I helped him understand why he wasn’t a good fit and told him what he needed to do to get there. He smiled in agreement, probably noticing the point I made he hadn’t previously considered. But thankfulness aside, it was quite evident that despite being stunned by it, my principles also pleased him.
Personally, I’m not interested in playing the “look how many websites I designed” game. And while I’m not the least bit fanatical about the importance of making money, earning it is just not as fulfilling when it's not connected to someone I’ve actually helped. So while I want to admire the pride my clients will feel just from the ability to say ‘I have a website’, I’m much more interested to know that what they paid for is actually working for them. And in order to accomplish that, I need to be clear on the problems I’m qualified to assist them with through what I do best, which is design.
Having those standards for how I define an ideal client is like having a still small voice to help me accurately measure each decision I’m making to ensure the marketing potential of my brand has a chance to be even realized.
A different designer will be guided by different principles, which is fine. My point though is without that north star to hold you accountable to whatever the end goal is you’ll easily veer off course. Most green onliner’s obviously don’t think in these places because they can’t. If you casually ask them how their visual brand is positioning them, you’ll either get crickets because they don’t know on account of never thinking about it, or you’ll probably hear “I’m building a gallery of my work”; a picture is worth a thousand words right? So ideally (in their minds anyway), it's saying what they do.
Good designers know that’s not how it works.
What To Do If Your Clients Are Struggling With Their Visual Strategy?
The voice is always about being an advocate for change, but expressed in the most impactful way. The lack thereof (as much as there are founders who truly only care about the money) will influence someone inherently well intentioned being about their ends.
Recognizing that will help you approach sparking inspiration in the type of client who just need a bit of guidance more effectively.
I’ve condensed visually communicating the story of a service-based business down to 6 key parts.
The title: it serves to convey the message (in tone and atmosphere) of the cover design.
The subtitle: it specifically explains the story further complimenting the title.
A brief introduction: some books have them on their covers. But, its purpose is to prepare the reader for the unfolding story inside the book.
The blurb: this is something written by specific people to push the credibility of the book.
The name and title of the author: for identification purposes.
And finally, the cover design: it integrates with your title and conveys the atmosphere of the story being told.
Use it to avoid the bull, and build an online presence the client is authentically connected with.
This will also help you understand what their visuals and copy should be focused on outside the website and why.
You'll know when they're straying from whatever that blueprint looks like, if while diying their posts they get the type of questions in their social media comment section that suggest their audience has ‘the wrong story’ (i.e is confused). That’s a sign someone is off the message they're sending on the website or not connected with it.
Occasionally clients slip through the cracks and lie about who they are. But, if you sharpen your detective skills, you'll be able to pick up on these things before even working with them.
Another sign is if they have a set way to onboard a client on their website, but on social media they’re doing something completely different, like maybe, telling people to DM or email them to become a client. This is real basic stuff, but it’s some of the most hardest principles to uphold because they're also boundaries, and having boundaries can misguidingly make you feel icky when all you want to be is "liked". But it would defeat the purpose of warning business owners about trying to appeal to everyone if having a successful brand meant being liked by everyone.
Which brings me to my final point…
How Design Leads To Revenue
For service-based businesses, your images give viewers an opportunity to expereince in part what its like to work with you, and the messages you pair them with adds context for the viewer to relate to and connect with. It's the absence of a brand's understanding of the relationship with their ideal clients that leads to their inability to generate revenu from the designs they invest in. I help my clients control how they speak about what they do, but its never without a moment where I'm not cautioning them on the dangers of posting for posting sake. Posting an image that has no connection to what's being written or what you're known for is confusing. And you know confusing messages get tuned out.
Service based businesses are person to person businesses. That means encouraging relationships that eventually lead to business is the nature of your marketing. You can't very well nurture relationships without engagement, and for that to hapen, your audience need to understand and relate to what you're sharing. So while I can appreciate wanting to make money with your content, that's just not how it works! People need to feel like they know you first, and if that comes in the form of answering questions about your brand's "lack of inclusivity", that's also important because it's part of creating a strong visual brand as much as it is to highlight someone singing your praises.
I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB **Already understand what you do? Put it online in one day with a One-Page website! **Learn more about The One-Page here **Or, Sign up to receive these weekly articles in your inbox if you’re not quite ready to work with me yet. And please share my article if you liked it