The Visual Elements


Once the logo has been designed we need to start thinking about the design habitat that it is actually going to live in, and with what other “creatures” it is going to share this living space. These other creatures are visual elements that will group themselves around the central figure of the logo, that will help it and complement it, and bring it into focus. And together with the logo they will create the system that we call the Branding Identity, or the Visual Identity of a company. This identity is displayed in a branding manual, which displays all of the usage standards of the visual elements; and at the end of this page we will also talk about putting together a dummy publication, showing a few selected pages.

The visual elements that we will talk about are the 4 important ones – logo calculations and logo clear spacing, logo usages, colors and fonts – although you should be aware that in a full branding identity many more standards regarding the usage of images, shapes, auxiliary icons,  paper / publication formats are formulated to strict standards. We will touch on some of those towards the end of this tutorial.

We will start with the logo calculations and logo clear spaces which denote 2 things: 1) the ratios of space measurement inside the logo itself, and 2) the minimum amount of empty space that needs to be left around logo when it is placed in close proximity to other objects on a page.


Above you see a logo which has been placed inside a diagram made out of dotted lines in which see a whole bunch of values that are the multiples of a basic increment called “x”. The value for “x” is usually taken from an element of the logo itself. In the one above it is the x height of the lower case letters, in the one below it is the width of the logo icon.


You will now decide on what the value for your “x” will be and how much clear space around the logo should be maintained.

And here is how you would show this (and explain it) in a branding manual:


Logo usages: These are about if / how the logo can be used on dark backgrounds, what the color version of the logo is and the like:

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And here is how you would show these usages (and explain them) in a branding manual:


Typography: When you put together a visual identity you also have to decide on which fonts (and their weights) will be used. There can be one or two fonts (a primary and secondary, as they are called) that are used in combinations, but it is not good practice to have more than two since that will create visual confusion. When two fonts are used in combo then the choice should made based upon contrasts – such as serif and sans serif.

Serif fonts are good for body texts in print, so it may be a good idea to have one of the fonts be a serif. (Note: If you decide on this bear in mind that there are nowadays excellent serif fonts with wider families that also include light weights on google fonts. You should go for one of those.) However, you do not need to have a serif font for body text legibility. Condensed and semi-condensed sans serif fonts are also very legible as paragraph texts. So, you could choose a sans serif family that has a semi-condensed / condensed version (such as Encode which is the one I used in my demonstration) and go just with that. But, the general observation is that regular width sans serif and grotesque fonts do not provide good legibility for body text since not enough of their flesh touches the baseline of the font. So, it is a good strategy to have either a serif font or a condensed / semi condensed sans serif for body texts.

Another consideration when you decide upon your font scheme are screen usages: Until a few years ago we were very restricted in these but now you can in fact decide upon which font will be displayed on the viewer’s screen. So, you can take this in two directions: The first (and this is the one that makes more sense, of course) is to decide on a font that will also work on the screen. This will probably be a sans serif font, unless you choose something like Georgia that has been specifically designed for the screen. The font I chose for this demo, Encode, also works as a screen font. The second choice would be to have a separate screen font which you would specify in your branding manual. But, again, having one font that works for both print and screen, has a wide enough family that includes condensed versions so that it can be used both for headlines and body text is the smart way to go. And here is how you would show these choices (and explain them) in your branding manual:


Colors: A very crucial part of any visual identity, these are not chosen randomly. Colors and their combinations obey the laws of physics and when we select them we use a color wheel, such as the one provided by Paletton, an online color scheme creator application.

Essentially there are two approaches when using color – we can either go with a harmony, which means picking colors from the same side of the wheel (also called analogous or adjacent color scheme), as shown in the gallery above. Or we can go with a contrast (also called a complimentary scheme), as shown in the gallery below, which means that we pick colors from the opposite side of the wheel.

The important thing to be aware of is that the nodes on the wheel do not move in freestyle (although there is a free style option on paletton, but that really is for folks who have a huge amount experience working with color, so please stay away from that). The nodes adhere to an equal distance from the central one, and when it comes to the one on the opposite side they stay at 180 degrees to one another.

And here below is how you would show your color scheme (and explain it) in a branding manual:


Now, what you see above is that I have separated the color scheme into two parts and called these parts “primary” and “accent” colors. Normally, you would not designate grays as a primary color since they are already a given in any color scheme. However in my demo I intend to use grays in a specially emphasized way, which is why I have done it in this way.

And this brings me to a color usage rule that has been formulated by interior designers but that finds its application in all visual fields: The 60 + 30 + 10 rule.


This rule says that if you keep 60% of your color scheme in the neutrals (greys, or highly desaturated tones), 30% in medium saturated tones, and only 10% in highly saturated tones you will get a very good combination. I would take this even further – 70 / 25 / 5 may work even better…

However, this is not to say that this is the only way that color combinations would work. You will see plenty of gorgeous design examples that are built on highly saturated color schemes.

And one more thing – regardless of whether you obey the 60 / 30 / 10 rule or not, always bear in mind that black, white and gray are your best friends. A design that does not have at least small elements of a black or a very very dark gray will often look un-accented. Conversely, a design that does not have at least some of the brilliance of white or a very very light gray will often lack sparkle. So, be sure to integrate these into your color schemes and design strategies.

Shapes, vectors, icons: Your visual identity will not consist solely of logo usage, fonts and colors. There will be many other elements and some of these may also need usage definitions:


In the two images above I am showing the manual pages in which I show and explain how a series of icons (top) should placed, and how background shapes can be used as typographic containers (bottom).

Your visual identity could (and should) also have elements, outside the basic ones relating to logo, fonts and colors) that would need to be defined. Not just icons and things like that but also things like boxes, strokes, and other shapes. You should think about these and about how you would specify their usage if you want to go beyond the basic branding manual that is your class homework.


You could also specify how individual pieces of your design system should be worked out. Above I am showing you the demo pages in which I specify the design of the stationery.

Putting together the Branding manual: Since you do not yet have editorial design know-how and experience (that will happen in the 2nd semester) we will work with templates which I will give to you in class. Another using templates for this part of the project is expediency: We do not want to spend time on layout design at this point but rather aggregate the branding material quickly and efficiently so that we can see it all in one place.

So, it will be a matter of replacing what is in the template with your own material. But using a template does not mean that what you make should look identical to the template – there is a huge amount you can do to transform an existent template by adding your imagery, your own design elements, your own colors. In the gallery below I am showing you how I changed the template that I worked with:

(Note: You can view the full demo manual that I did here on issuu.)

Although the templates that I will be giving you are quite decent, they are not perfect. So, you will probably need to configure the columns spacings and so on by following the guidelines that I am showing you below and that I will distribute in full size in class:


Writing! Putting together this manual will be as much about writing as it will be about putting together visual material. If anything it will be more about writing than it will be about other things. And this is extremely important: As designers you are expected to be able to explain your design decisions! This is a part of your job description!

So, here are the must do pages of the manual:

  1. Cover (right hand single page)
  2. Contents page (double spread)
  3. Logo page intro (double spread)
  4. Logo specifics page (double spread)
  5. Typography page 1 (double spread)
  6. Typography page 2 (double spread)
  7. Color page 1 (double spread)
  8. Color page 2 (double spread)
  9. Back cover (left hand single page)

And here are the optional ones: Pages for shapes, icons, printed material, photography usage guidelines, etc etc…

Preparing the manual and uploading it into issuu to become a flipbook: When you design these pages you will design them as double spreads, meaning that you will design the left and right pages together. However, once the pages have been completed they will be cropped into single pages (in other words, you will crop each full page that you made into half, except for the two cover pages that are singles to begin with). These single pages will be saved numerically (00 for cover, 01 for contents left hand page, 02 for contents right hand page, etc etc) and then converted into a pdf. If you have an app that does this on your computer use that of course. However, if not, then there are plenty here. Just make sure that you do not leave any margins (some converters will ask you, others will not – be careful. The image has to be exactly as big as the page). And make sure that the pages are in numerical order. (Note: Always use 01, 02, 03, … when you save files, never 1, 2, 3, … since once you reach the number 10 everything will go haywire.)

What I advise you to do is to use photoshop for this job, however you can also do it in illustrator by placing the JPEG of the template page you are working from on a layer and working on top of that. For those who want to do this in photoshop I have prepared a pdf to show you how to work with some sort of order while you are doing it. Read it here.

Once you have the complete pdf file, in working order – remember single pages in numerical order – go to issuu, create an account and upload your pdf. This flipbook will get embedded into your behance pages, but we will talk more about that here when the time comes.