The Non-Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Patterns & Textures in Branding

The visual identity of a business is made up of multiple pieces. Every interaction a customer has with your business is an opportunity to communicate your business personality. All of my branding clients complete a thorough questionnaire that is filled with terms and questions one might expect to find on a personality test, this is because I believe a strategic brand (or rebrand) needs to be built on the foundation of a company’s values, traits, and personality. As a consumer interacts with the various touchpoints of a company, they are forming thoughts about that brand.

What are Brand Patterns & Textures?

What is the difference? A pattern is a repeated design element. A texture, although it can be digitized, comes from a surface that can be experienced through the sense of touch. Both can be used to complement a brand without taking away from the logo.

Pro Tip: Patterns are repeatable elements. Before you start incorporating a pattern into your branding, make sure you have access to a tiling pattern in a vector format. This means that the pattern can be repeated because it won’t have a defined edge to it –  similar to perfectly matching seams of wallpaper. A vector file (a file name that ends in .ai or .eps) is helpful so that you can scale it without being pixelated. More often than not, textures are raster images, which means they could get pixelated if increase them significantly in size. Be sure to have access to a high-resolution image of a texture if you decide to incorporate it in your branding.

Why Patterns & Textures?

Although sometimes overlooked, they are powerful visual indicators of brand identity. The brain recalls repetition so a pattern/texture that is incorporated into your brand will help it to be remembered and identifiable. For example, you don’t have to add your logo to every single social media graphic in order to brand it. By adding your brand texture or pattern to it, you can have more flexibility with the design while retaining your brand’s consistency. Additionally, patterns and textures can quickly communicate your brand’s reputation and voice. 

Marty Neumeirer, a famous author in the design industry has coined the phrase, “Brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

Every brand should have a list of adjectives or personality traits assigned to it. When choosing patterns and textures for your brand, be sure that match these design styles to your brand words. Do you need a rugged and bold texture? An airy and modern pattern? By having brand patterns and/or textures available, you can save time by not needing to search for the perfect background photo, the perfect words, or the perfect clip art (yes, that’s right… you’re guilty of using clipart in your branding). Things like branded social media graphics could be a breeze!

Where to Use Them

  • Social Media Graphics: This is a great example of a place where including your logo every single time may seem cluttered and or overly salesy. By incorporating your brand pattern/texture as a background, you are helping your audience to think of your brand when they see the graphic.
  • Printed or Digital Ads: Whether you are turning over your brand assets to a magazine’s design department for your complimentary ad creation or you are creating a digital ad for the web, consider incorporating your brand pattern/texture.

Pattern in Branding

  • Website: Use patterns/textures behind sections of your website that you want to draw attention to. This recent website we designed for a salon in Southern Pines is a great example!
  • Business Card: You can easily add your pattern/texture to the backside of a business card. You even have the option of adding a small amount of text; such as a tagline or url.
  • Email Marketing: Similar to websites, you can use patterns or textures to incorporate visual interest into your marketing emails. They are great for drawing attention to buttons/links.
  • Blog Post Graphics: Adding textures or patterns can help create blog post graphics that are easily recognized when shared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
  • Presentation Slides: You can subtly incorporate your branding into a Powerpoint presentation. This is especially great for teaching seminars when you can’t (and shouldn’t) promote your own brand too obviously.
  • Printed Materials: Patterns and textures are great to incorporate into collateral items such as brochures, flyers, stationery, etc.
  • Signage: Brick-and-mortar stores may be able to incorporate their brand textures on product signs/tags, sale signs, and in-store directional signage. Don’t have a storefront? Signage can also be helpful for tradeshows and events.
  • Product Packaging: Do you have packaging for your products? Patterned or textured gift bags, tissue paper, boxes, etc can help people experience the personality of your brand.
  • Photo Background: Do you need a photo backdrop for your staff headshots? Do you photograph your products? Custom photo backdrops are now affordable brand elements that can be used a variety of ways.

Tips for Using Patterns & Textures

  • Readability: Perhaps the most challenging part of using patterns and textures is successfully pairing it with text. If your pattern/texture is too busy or too large, it can make the other important elements very difficult to see. Take a step or two back from the design to make sure the most important element (text/button/logo/etc) is still readable.
  • Scale: By changing the size of the pattern/texture, you can communicate various personality traits. For example, a small floral pattern could be viewed as feminine, dainty, or elegant. The same floral pattern scaled extremely large could be viewed as bold, energetic, powerful, or glamorous. Be purposeful and consistent with the scale of your patterns and textures.
  • Contrast: Patterns and textures that have high contrast, meaning those that have a big variation between the light and dark tones, may be challenging to use with other design elements. If the pattern or texture you want to use for your brand has high contrast, be sure to have a plan for how you will use the pattern with text.
  • Multiple Color Options: Just like I encourage most brands to have more than one color in their palette, it can be helpful to have the flexibility of more than one colored pattern/texture. For example, if your brand used a polka-dotted background, you may want to have that pattern in every color from your brand palette.
  • Load Times: So far I have explained the importance of having large resolution (or scaleable) files of your patterns and textures, however, if you plan on using these elements on your website, it will crucial that you use files sized appropriately for web use. Large files will significantly slow down your website and lead to a poor user experience.

Pro Tip: Do you have multiple events, products or services? Sometimes brands assign a pattern in separate brand colors to each of these elements. Alternatively, the same color could be used for each element but the pattern could vary slightly.

Does Every Brand NEED a Pattern or Texture?

No. Patterns and textures are not required in your branding. The strategy of a brand takes many things into consideration – target audience, location, competition and your interaction with customers. When these factors are taken into consideration, a brand’s visual strategy might need a pattern or texture… or it might not. Every business is different and their strategy (and therefore their visuals) will be different.

Have you had any challenges incorporating patterns or textures into your brand? Comment below, I would love to help out where I can!

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