Simplifying Complex

Being Genuine With Branding Using Visual Communication

Often, we are exposed to mass communication that is over the top in terms of stimulus. Conversely, there are campaigns that are briefly noticed and quickly forgotten in an era dominated by attention deficit catalysts. But what messages do we, as an audience, gravitate towards? What ideas are associated with longevity? Which ones can convey something powerful when positioned in the proper context?

Complexity as a Form of Confusion

Many of us have often heard the cliche of a picture “being worth more than a thousand words,” but rarely, if ever, is that actually applied in the context of branding such that specific messages are identified as an anchoring set of ideas to be shared with relevant audiences. Perhaps this is the root of the problem when it comes to visual communication for today’s brands. What is lacking is a process for simplifying complexity and thereby reducing confusion. Both complexity and confusion share the common denominator challenge of clear communication and understanding.

The truth is, successful companies that have steady market share and the ingredients for sustainable growth must have a story or set of stories behind who they are, what they do, and the core beliefs they stand for. This can stem from the people they employ, the reasons why the company was started, why a new product or initiative was launched, and the kinds of corporate social responsibility initiatives that they champion.  

The propensity for brand confusion to set in can easily be assessed by auditing the alignment that a message foundation has with the way it is visually communicated. Such an audit can help provide both clarity and direction for the ideas that should be drawn out and translated into dominant messages.

Loud Communication Conundrums

On one side of the spectrum, an “in your face” approach of loud communication is used with the intention of producing impact. The problem with this impact is two-fold. Is it the right kind of impact and what is the message? Consider the motivation of incorporating themes of sex and violence for many brands in order to just grab our attention – even if they are not an honest representation of the originating company. Sure, it may strike some of us as exposure worth associating with, but this will only be temporary until society as a whole becomes even more desensitized to loud communication.

So, if every alcohol commercial or video game advertisement follows suit and it is the same formulaic announcement over and over again, where will it lead audiences then? And this is not to absolve a play on any set of emotions, be it humor or sadness. The true challenge for building brand loyalty and sustainability is to make sure that any loud communication, if necessary, reconcile back to an organization’s definition of who they are, what they do, and what core beliefs they stand for.

Quiet Communication Quandaries

We all have an inner voice inside us that converses with us on a regular basis. At best, quiet communication is the criticism that may come with the changing of a television or radio channel, or the turn of a page. “Wow, what a pointless product…” or “What was that all about?” might be an example of a statement or question that comes from that inside voice. At worst, the target audience just doesn’t care. From a visual communications perspective, this translates into monotone response – like having attendees at a gallery exhibit with no real understanding of or interest in what is being displayed. Art, in its very true form, is meant to invoke a journey, no matter how long, down a path immersed in depth of thought. The depth of thought that messages can provide do have a place and a purpose behind them, as long as they are designed in a way to complement the brand in question.

We often overlook the influence that a lobby, meeting room or even collateral can have on an audience. They can create an atmosphere to set a mood or plant seeds of ideas that we then re-experience after the fact. Branded interiors and branded collateral are great ways to have audiences gravitate towards the meaning behind the messages that are being conveyed. The key question to ask is what will an audience remember from this communication and why. This is where that inside voice responds to an effective brand.

Perceiving Visual Communication as an Engaging Conversation

An alternative to misaligned and monumentally loud communication is something that so many organizations miss out on, and that is looking for ways to incorporate elements of an engaging conversation. The value and time devoted to sharing a meaningful conversation is priceless. What if visual communication could take a direction that brought this gem of interaction to a brand? The results could be immensely influential and yield associations that allow target audiences to better identify with the visual communication. Moreover, the process of crafting messages that replicate the elements of an engaging conversation also provide an opportunity for personal reflection on the part of a brand.


How much potential confusion exists in your message foundation? Assessing and then refining your current and future inventory of visual communication such that it aligns with your message foundation is an effective and important way to simplify the potential complexity of an organization’s brand. For any organization, there are always a number of stories to tell that speak from the heart and to the heart. This can be accomplished by consistently evaluating if any message answers the questions of who you are, what you do, and what your core beliefs are. Consider the importance and true impact visual communication can have if it is truly aligned with your message foundation.

Ramon Nayar is a cause-driven artist specializing in digital photography and creative writing for both commercial and gallery exhibit projects. He partners with The PRactice to bring the  power of visual communication to clients.