What is the difference between visual identity and brand identity?

This is a commonly asked question. The simplest way of looking at it is that comprehensive brand identity will cover how to apply the core elements such as your logo, colour palette, typography etc. Still, your visual identity covers every aspect of how your identity is projected and includes the use of photography & film, illustration, animation, and iconography.

The line is often blurred as more detailed corporate identity guidelines may include guidance on applying some aspects of the visual identity. Similarly, some visual identity guidelines or brand books will guide the application of core elements of the brand.

We have a detailed blog that clearly outlines: What is Visual Identity? https://www.toastbranding.co.uk/corporate-identity-blog/what-is-a-visual-identity/  that states

“A brand’s visual identity design is made up of a variety of visual components that serve to represent and distinguish it. It specifically refers to any observable elements, like a logo or brand colours, that aid consumer in recognizing a brand. This increases brand identification by combining all branding elements into one style.”


Corporate identity design examples


Corporate identity design examples


So which do I need?

The answer is both. A brand identity guideline should outline how you apply your branding strategy and maintain your core messaging and values. Whilst a visual identity will cover how these are communicated by everyday communications such as brochures, leaflets, social media and animations.

Time spent now on getting your identity sorted is time well spent and will pay for itself in the future through leaner more effective marketing and communications. The price of not doing this is harder to qualify but could cost you significantly more through weak brand messaging, inconsistent communications and missed opportunities and sales.

An example of Brand identity guidelines

A great example of a brand identity guideline that Toast has recently created is Caboodle, which lays out how to recreate the fundamental elements of the brand architecture.

It visibly layouts out how a logo should look, its scale, context, colour and placement.

It specifies which fonts are to be used, their size and their application.




Colour palates are stated, along with their reproduction guidance, including CMYK and Pantone references.




Brand identity guidelines should be a live and active document that is constantly being referred to and applied. Too many times brand identity guidelines are created but then not applied, which is much worse than not having them in the first place.

An example of applying a visual identity

This example shows how closely the two are but perfectly demonstrates both.

We were invited to help Elton John’s AIDS Foundation with creating a brand identity guidelines document to help both internal teams and external suppliers apply the brand correctly.

The Brand book we created did this but simultaneously embodied the visual identity allowing readers to not only know the correct application but embody how it could be applied to a piece of communication.

Everything about the brand book, from cover to cover, informed, guided and inspired the best use of its visual identity.

EJAF Branding Work Brand Book Cover 1

Why is visual identity important?

It is very easy, given the ambiguity on the subject, to think that you only need a brand identity guidelines document.

This approach leaves the application and maintenance of your visual identity up to chance, at best. At worse, your visual identity will become disjointed, and confused and contradict or undermine your brand identity.

If you have gone through the effort to create a set of brand identity guidelines, it makes sense to ensure that any created visual communications support and strengthen the brand.

Benefits of having a visual identity

There are many benefits to having an informed and well-planned visual identity, with blog posts and books written on how they can make or break your brand. For simplicity’s sake we focus on the top 3 benefits, which we outline as:

  1. Improved brand recognition, differentiation & trust.
  2. Greater reach on marketing campaigns.
  3. Builds stronger relationships with the customer.

1. Improved brand recognition, differentiation & trust.

A cohesive visual identity is essential for your customers to first identify and engage with your brand, qualify what makes you different from your direct competition and finally build trust in your brand’s products or services.

This level of relationship should be the ultimate goal of any brand and should be supported in any way possible.

2. Greater reach on marketing campaigns.

Any brand that benefits from a strong visual identity will always have a head start on the competition regarding any marketing or advertising, as the piece can focus on the promotional elements rather than the brand introduction or qualification aspects. This inbuilt extension for any marketing campaign is already paid for so marketing budgets can achieve more.

3. Builds stronger relationships with the customer.

As mentioned in benefit one, building and maintaining trust between your brand and customers is no mean feat.

Once achieved, Trust can be a force multiplier when it comes to making a customer an advocate or brand champion. Having a relationship with your customer that allows them to promote your brand values and mission willingly has immense value and should be nurtured and encouraged in any way possible.

Need help with your Visual Identity?

Toast has been helping clients with their brand and visual identities for over two decades, creating them from scratch, updating or evolving existing ones, or applying them consistently and effectively. If you have concerns about creating a logo, developing a visual identityrefining your branding or any aspect of a brand application, Talk to toast today.

Do you need help with your branding?

If you would like to discuss your branding, logo or identity project, call us on 01295 266644 or complete the form.