The look and feel of your logo and website can put lots of money in your pocket, but the way the dots connect may surprise you.

Start with the idea that your potential customers don’t really know you. They don’t know if you’re well-established or fly-by-night. They don’t know if you’re honest or if you treat your customers well. They don’t know if you’re a solid professional.

People pick up clues from the way your logo, brochure and website look. It’s human nature. Think about going to the office or to a party: You can tell at a glance if a new arrival is someone you’ll want to get to know by his or her dress and body language. In an instant, you’ve formed your first impression.

This human habit evolved to let your human ancestors stay alive long enough to bear children. If you could tell predator from prey at a glance, you were more likely to eat and not be eaten. Today, this well-honed at-a-glance sense is used less for physical survival than for making purchase decisions.

Visual branding is about harnessing this at-a-glance sense to boost your business success. It’s about using your business’s “dress and body language” to attract more customers. Think of an amateurish, overly complicated website for a used car lot as opposed to a clean-looking one that still gets the message across. What does each website tell you about the business? At a glance, you know where would you rather shop and which business you’re more likely to trust.

Trust means your future customers believe you’re likely to be honest and competent, and will deliver a good experience. Sometimes trust comes from friends telling friends they had a great experience. But most of your future customers won’t have word-of-mouth to rely on. They have to decide on their own whom to trust. That’s the mission of your logo, website or brochure, to create your business dress and body language–your visual branding.

Now take it a step further. Gaining your potential customers’ trust and belief can also be called credibility. The more credibility you build, the more likely they will buy from you. The word “credibility” comes from credo, Latin for “I believe.” Not coincidentally, the word “credit” also comes from credo. You can obtain lots of credit when lenders believe in you and your ability to repay. That’s not all. The money in your wallet is backed by “the full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. If it wasn’t for this belief, greenbacks wouldn’t be worth the high-tech paper they’re printed on. So our entire economy–and your business in particular–are built on a foundation of credibility. That’s how important visual branding is, and your expression of it in your logo, website and brochures.

Here are a few basics to help your business look credible:

Go for simplicity and lack of clutter. (Think Apple, the master of simplicity in branding.)

Create or demand a clean, well-balanced graphic design.

Use one or two basic colors that go well together, not a hodgepodge.

Choose one font and stick with it. You can express almost anything by using variations within a single font family: size, weight (boldness), italics, etc. If you really must, choose a second font for major headlines. But first try it with one font.

Coordinate a single look–design, colors, etc.–across everything you do, including your logo, website, brochures, ads and signage.
Give your business the dress and body language that will tip off your future customers so they can believe in you. Harness their highly evolved, at-a-glance sense to build instant credibility. Credibility equals credit, and that can put lots of money in your wallet.

John Williams is founder of, the world’s first and largest DIY logo website. In his 25 years in advertising, he has created brand standards for Fortune 100 companies like Mitsubishi and won numerous international awards for his design work.

Publisher John Williams