Corporate visual identity is the combination of graphics, type, color and slogan that forms the public face of a corporation and makes it uniquely recognizable in the marketplace. It drives the company's marketing and advertising and is the visual thread that ties the company's products together. Visual identity is very much the branding of the corporation as a whole.
As an independent legal entity, a corporation has the same standing as a person under the law with rights and obligations that it holds in its own name. Ideally, a corporation wants others to be able to identify it and distinguish it from its competitors. Business analysts speak in terms of a corporation establishing an “identity” across various operational facets that includes the way it looks, how it acts, how it treats its employees and the way it chooses to do business. These facets are commonly referred to as the corporation's visual identity, culture, personality and philosophy.
Before a corporation can brand its products, it must establish an overall corporate brand that defines the company and establishes consumer expectations. In other words, a corporation wants the public to hear its name and have an immediate representation come to the mind's eye, or see its logo and know the associated company without having to be told. Recognition paired with expectation drives corporate value and is part of the corporation's most value intangible assets. Establishing a corporate visual identity is the corporation's way of controlling this important part of its relationship with the public.
There are five aspects of corporate visual identity. The most basic aspect is color. A corporation establishes an official color scheme just like a sports team or a school does to indicate cohesiveness. It also adopts a particular typeface that is often customized, so when the corporation puts advertising in print the style of the lettering is uniquely its own.
The corporation also develops a logo that is the core of its brand. Logos are often the most unique and recognizable aspect of the corporate visual identity and the first thing the public gravitates toward as the official representation of the company. Most corporations also develop a slogan, or short catch-phase, that the public can tie to a key corporate value or market advantage. The last aspect of visual identity is the background graphic, or “supergraphic,” that will often tie all the pieces together in a visual representation.
Usually, corporations are extremely protective of their established visual identities. Employees are not allowed to substitute colors or typeface when using it to represent the company. Vendors are not allowed to display official pieces of the identity without explicit permission. Likely, the identity is trademarked and must also be protected from misuse from a legal standpoint as invaluable intellectual property. Anything that dilutes corporate brand recognition by corrupting the company's visual identity ultimately endangers the bottom line.