visual brand identity

Visual brand identity: we talk about it with expert Francesco Sapuppo, guest of Moka Adv

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In today’s competitive market, a key role is played by the visual brand identity, a fundamental means to remain competitive in the digital-marketing arena. But how do you create an effective visual brand identtity that can ride the wave in a sea full of competitors? Moka Adv interviewed an industry professional, Francesco Sapuppo.

A graduate of the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, he collaborates with international advertising agencies such as Italia BBDO and Young & Rubicam. For 10 years, he was owner and creative director of I’m new, a multidisciplinary agency specialising in product & identity design. During this time, he designed the visual identity, catalogues and international events of the Europe Theatre Prize, the most important European award for contemporary theatre. In addition, he was in charge of communication for SICEP Spa, packaging and P.O.P. actions for Latte Sole Spa and educational activities for the daily newspaper La Sicilia in Catania, coordinating its editorial formats and multimedia projects.

Since 2010, he has worked as a brand designer, art director and communications consultant for companies in the tourism, wine, retail, medical and food sectors. His clients include:

Read on to find out how important visual brand identity is in communication!

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visual brand identity

Interview with Francesco Sapuppo, visual brand identity expert

Hi Francesco, thanks for joining us. Let's start with a point-blank question: what aspects should not be underestimated to create a strong visual brand identity?

The logo is often relied upon, placing great trust in the strategic value of its modern and distinctive graphic sign, its aesthetics and the seductive power of an attractive design. But a beautiful logo and its declination on the various media (retail, coordinated print, icons and company cars) are not enough to create a strong identity. An effective visual identity must visually envelop you in the brand experience, it must be the bearer of the brand value system, it must translate the system of signs and colour perceptions into an immersive experience between the consumer and the exclusive world of the product/service.

Furthermore, I would certainly not underestimate the importance of colour, which has great power in recognisability and distinction from other competitors. Another element not to be underestimated is the calibrated use of key frames, fundamental resources, distinctive elements of visual identity, original to attract, convince and distinguish a brand.

Lastly, I would not underestimate the importance of the font. I would take great care in choosing the institutional font. A distinctive font greatly helps recognisability and reinforces stylistic consistency in brand communication.

Visual identity is an ecosystem that extends the brand vision, tells a story of belonging, gives the brand authority and enhances its products, which are anything but commodities.

Is it possible to use AI as a tool to improve one's visual brand identity?

Undoubtedly, in design as in so many other fields of application, AI can support designers and communication experts in identifying new conceptual styles for innovative visual identities.

Personally, I believe that at the moment we are far from an immediate or massive application of artificial intelligence on the design of a visual brand identity, I believe more in the inclusion of AI as a support tool for designers, due to the fact that visual communication follows changes and aesthetic and sociological rules, linked to the customs and geographical area of the country in which one operates.  

What is the trick, if there is one, to have a unique, non-mass identity?

The question is as interesting as it is ambivalent; it can be read from two different positions:

In summary, therefore, there are no tricks, just a lot of culture, not only of sign and aesthetics.

visual brand identity

Why are many visual brands identity not effective? What mistakes are most frequently made?

A visual brand identity may be weak but still be successful because it supports a relevant product/service in terms of consumption and demand. Conversely, an aesthetically and design-relevant project may lose effectiveness because there are criticalities in the commercial proposition or product offering of the brand.

In essence, the effectiveness (and longevity) of a winning image goes through the combination with a winning product. If we exclude the sales aspect and consider identity as the aesthetic design of a brand, I would say that among the most frequent mistakes are:

1. Terror of restyling

Restyling (or brand adaptation) is a necessary step in the evolution of the brand and the relationship with consumers. Many entrepreneurs do not want to touch a brand that has accompanied them since the beginning of their business.

2. Fear of daring

Clients often rely on ‘me too‘, which is not exactly ‘copying’, but rather relying on established communication strategies, following the design path traced by other brands. In my opinion, one has to enhance one’s uniqueness, which is always a strong point.

3. Thinking local

Many entrepreneurs hardly ever look at international realities, they rather focus on a visual language that speaks a reassuring and, I would say, local language. In Sicily there are many examples of entrepreneurs who invest millions of euro in their companies, provide employment and have solid, fast-growing realities, but at the same time are represented by literally ‘homegrown’ brands, considering them successful. This is not the case, having a working company does not legitimise having a brand that betrays the basic rules of visual communication.

What is a brand you admire or would perhaps like to be inspired by?

There are so many, I choose Audi to represent well-designed projects. Audi has been investing in recyclable materials, environmental sustainability, safety and technology for 30 years. This also makes the Audi brand (the two are never the same thing) synonymous with quality and innovation. The brand has a strong and recognisable identity because it carries forward solid values. The Audi brand identity always arrives with the same ‘tone of voice‘, on printed media (below the line) such as brochures and information folders, on TV media, website and online platforms, through retail and all dealerships.

The METADESIGN studio has been following the Audi project for some time now, taking care of its all-round communication, a visual identity perfectly consistent with the company’s mission.

What are buyer personas and how are they used by companies to create their own visual identity?

The above-mentioned case, i.e. Audi, gives me the opportunity to answer the question more easily. Audi is perfectly clear about its typical customer, the target audience (or buyer persona), and builds cars with the caring parent or the single professional, the demanding girlfriend or the detail-oriented admirer in mind. For every need, there is the perfect car model, designed for each of them. The strength of the brand lies in being perceived as a premium segment, with strong brand equity, i.e. the smallest (or cheapest) model and the tallest model are recognised for high quality and spread across all models, equally.

What do you like most about your work?

The design of the product, rather than its launch (the advertising part). This has been my passion and the driving force that, for over 30 years, has led me to a profession made up of rigour and method, masked by a lot of creativity. Today, I am excited about the world of branding, growing a company together with its distinctive values, using new and exciting media and strategies.

It is an exciting journey into the world of the other. To communicate with target groups, it is essential to know the tastes, habits and desires of the person with whom we have established communication. Any project requires a deep connection with the expectations of those who use our goods and services, banally referred to as ‘consumers’.

Would you also tell us what you like least?

I like less the system in which my work is embedded, that is, how it is perceived at the national level. There is no real culture of merit, it is not a rewarding system and we have one of the highest taxes in Europe. You have to be like the salmon, if you have a personal idea of doing communication, you have to go against the tide, even fighting against those who are supposed to incentivise you.

What questions would you ask a customer to figure out the best strategy to implement?

I always ask clients where they are looking, not only with respect to business objectives. They are the captains of the ship, if they have clear ideas, I will do everything to put my experience at their service and adopt the best branding and communication strategies to achieve their goals.

Anything else to add?

Thank you for this interview, you have given me a nice opportunity to exchange and, I hope, compare notes.

Thank you, it was a pleasure!

visual brand identity

Choose Moka Adv

The importance of relying on a specialist for visual brand identity is crucial. Visual brand identity is the distinctive visual aspect of a brand or company, comparable to the face of a person, which helps to recognise them among a thousand others. As we have seen, it includes elements such as the logo, the strategic use of colours and typefaces, which together build an effective and memorable brand image.

Relying on a specialist allows you to:

In addition, the synergy between visual identity and brand identity comes in very handy to create an emotional connection with the audience. Moka Adv can help you win the competition by ensuring that the brand message is conveyed in a clear and impactful way. Contact us!

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