This morning The 365 Guide is returning to an old theme – but an important one. Every travel agency should have a “visual system” – elements of their brand representation that are immediately recognizable as belonging to that agency. Typically, the visual system is made of a color palette, a logo, font, and other imagery. Most of us understand the importance of a strong logo and visual elements. We are surrounded by the success stories of companies that have logos that are immediately recognizable, even if we cannot easily remember exactly what elements are a part of the logo. But a complete visual system goes well beyond a logo. Good visual systems require that a company’s brand be represented in the same way in every media in which it has a point of contact with the public and that each element of the visual system be consistent each and every time – and that can be harder than it looks.
Your travel agency’s visual system is the one area where you should be most willing to invest in the advice and assistance of a professional. Most of us are not graphic artists and attempts at successfully designing and producing a first rate logo as a “do it yourself” project fail more often than succeed. Remember that your visual system is often the first impression most people have of your company. Your logo, for example, is not your brand, but it represents your brand message. If you want your brand message to convey professionalism, it should be designed and crafted by a professional. “Do it yourself” is not the message most of us in travel want to convey to the public!
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A good designer will work with a creative brief, spending time with you working on understanding your brand message. Your color palette will be a prime consideration as will the typeface that is used. Colors have a meaning culturally and psychologically. Several rounds of brainstorming and samples are the norm. The time involved will cost you, but the stakes are high and merit the investment. Ideally, you will then work with the same designer or one who fully understands your visual system for signage, stationery, brochures, invoices, document jackets, itineraries. blog, website and even advertising templates. Every media you use in your practice should carry the same look and feel. Most designers will provide logos of various sizes as well as black and white. All of the elements need to look good in each size and in black and white as well as in the colors of choice. The typeface needs to be easily readable at each size and at a distance. Make sure to obtain in writing from your designer the color, font and design specifications used in your visual system so you can easily communicate those items to future designers.
Spend time looking at the visual systems of a few successful companies in the travel industry and some popular brands in culture. Study the elements of their system and note how consistently those elements are used in each instance. Remember that these companies have spent millions in research and development. It’s a good idea to leverage their investment for yourself by learning from their efforts.
The key benefit to a visual system is the way in which it allows your agency to project a consistent brand image. The visual elements of your brand project your company’s personality – it has to be right. A visual system will make every subsequent creative effort you undertake easier as the basic elements are already decided. In fact, over the long term the cost of creative should be less with a consistent visual program in place. Consistency makes it easier for people with travel on their mind to find you. Properly exposed over time, the public will actually develop an emotional attachment to your company’s visual look and feel. Therefore, once you have a visual system in place, make any alterations to it with caution. Tropicana orange juice spent a lot of money learning this lesson the hard way. Rather than radically changing any aspect of your visual system, carefully make consistent alterations in your graphic design.
Place your visual system front and center in all of your points of contact. Your visual elements should look as good on your car as they do on your business card. Make sure that your logo and other visual cues appear “above the fold” on your emails and newsletters. Look at every piece of marketing and advertising collateral you produce for consistency in your visual system.
Tomorrow – Final Considerations