With increasing connectivity and constant access to social platforms, the world acts and interacts in a handful of similar spaces. We learn to see, feel, say and do the same things. Brands are no different.
As consumers, we become accustomed to visual cues that reinforce meaning and tell us we’re making the right decision. These identifiers form recognisable looks and styles that are immediately understood. They’re a visual shorthand that allows a brand to be quickly associated with the right feeling – whether that’s instant trust or instant cool – and to fit in amongst their peers.
Think about the minimal aesthetic adopted by ethical direct-to-consumer clothing brands. They overwhelmingly choose simple, pared-back, muted colours and sans-serif typography as a marker of their authenticity and belief in conscious consumerism. With no intermediary to establish trust, such signifiers help to place them in a specific position within our minds.
We shouldn’t underestimate the value that fitting in provides. Sticking to conventions and globally understood visual cues can cut budget, time and risk. And it can achieve results, with permanence building credibility.
But with this comes a loss of visual variability. Brands feel placeless and interchangeable, and there’s an unnerving sense that everything is beginning to look much the same. Standing out has become a lost art.
So, how can brands retain the benefits of familiarity without always conforming to established looks? And where can they find meaningful distinction to stand apart when the time’s right?