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Harness the power of your images
When used correctly, imagery is one of your most powerful tools in making you stand out from the competition. A visual language guide will ensure that the imagery you employ is homogeneous, does exactly what you want it to do and that your entire organisation speaks in images in the same way. But what should you keep in mind when creating this kind of guide? Find the answers in this article with communications strategist Peder Lingdén.
About Peder Lingdén
Peder is a communications strategist at the auditing and consulting company Grant Thornton in Sweden and has roles as marketing manager, strategy and concept manager, publisher and communication consultant on his CV. He has extensive experience in optimizing narrative communication in different channels and formats. In addition to many years as a communications specialist, he has also taught photography and worked for a number of years as a freelance photographer. Visual communication lies Peder warmly about the heart.
Woman practicing yoga in her home. Image ID: scandinav_9xtb
What does the concept visual tonality mean?
– Most agree that images are powerful and evoke emotions. But far from everyone has reflected on what it is in the images that set the tone. An image can be loud, low-key, cold, warm, clear, slow and fast – just as when communicating verbally. If you want to start an airy and harmonious yoga studio for example, you may not use signal colors such as red and yellow or use detailed, grainy black-and-white images with strong vignetting. The latter, however, can work if you want to start a cozy New York-inspired neighborhood cafe.

– Visual tonality is about your tone, how you say things in images. All activities can be presented in a variety of ways – your particular philosophy, your personality, should appear in the images and all of their elements.

What can you gain by thinking carefully about visual tonality?
– Our brains love images, it is easier for us to remember them than words, and they often have a more direct effect on us. As such, visual communication is very powerful and if it does not speak the same language as you speak in general, your audience will be confused and have less faith in you.

– Conversely, it is also true to say that if you are meticulous with your visual tone of voice and leverage the power to communicate coherently – then you are onto a winner.

Why should you have a guide for the visual language, in your opinion?
– If you do not have any documentation or guidelines, it is very difficult or even impossible to remain consistent in your visual communication. Different stakeholders will pursue their own direction and likes and tastes. This is not an ideal situation.

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People often talk about homogeneous imagery, what do they mean by that?
– If you are going to have credibility and come across as authentic as a communicator, it is important to be consistent. Of course, we all have different personality traits – brands too – but if you are hard-boiled one day, soft and considerate the next day and something else on day three, we simply become confused. Who are you, actually? Having a homogeneous imagery means that you have chosen a visual path and are sticking to it.

How do you avoid a visual language guide simply becoming yet another policy document amongst the pile?
– It has to be readily accessible and fun to read. It is rewarding to work with image styles as it feels natural to use examples, mood boards etcetera, that are easy to take in. Then you also need to include the educational aspects, naturally – show why tonality is both important and fun.

What basic components should a good visual language guide contain?
– In addition to educational and clearly presented guidelines, you need detailed context. How does your visual language fit into the grand scheme of things? What connection is there between visual identity and future goals? You do not want a document that says you should have short depth of field and strong colours, you want a document that tells the whole story and why short depth of field is so important for you in particular.

What should you definitely not do when you create a guide?
– You should not go on opinions and tastes.

What is your best advice to someone to get started?
– Start at the right end and do plenty of solid preparatory work. Start with brand and identity, do a stock check of your personality traits and take it visually from there.

Colleagues/students who brainstorm/do preparatory work. Image ID: masma65967
Read more from Johnér, here.