Will visual networking mean a return to strong visual branding?

All the hype at the moment seems to be about visual networking. Pinterest, Tumblr and others seem to be the current hot properties. The attraction is clear: brand owners can quickly throw images of their brand assets and products onto the web and in front of their communities and networks. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words may be open to discussion, but from a content producer’s viewpoint, it is certainly faster and less resource consuming.

This new emphasis on the visual may have some important implications for brands. Brand communication may turn back to considering the visual assets. Brand identities, logos, colour schemes and corporate signatures may become important once again.

I was fortunate to cut my branding teeth in the heady days of corporate and brand identity design. Consultancies such as Wolff Olins and Landor were the idols we held in high esteem. Graphic designers who could make powerful and unequivocal visual statements were the gurus of the time. We may well be looking towards a renaissance.

Pinterest for example, is addictive. For anyone who is visually inclined (I plead guilty) it is a fascinating medium. But it does not take long to appreciate the critical importance of being visually distinctive. It is great for brand owners to ‘Pin’ images of their products and other collateral, but without clear visual differentiation they are pulling some critical punches.

In the semiotics of branding I have long argued for the importance of ensuring that the signified delivers, but that does not mean ignoring the signifier.

If w. look back to the earliest history of brands, they pre-date the universality of written language. The first brand differentiators were visual marks made by craftsmen and artisans, most of whom had no writing skills. It seems paradoxical that as we move into increasingly sophisticated technological times, we may have to revisit the days of powerful, simple marks and devices.



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