Consumer trust is the linchpin of successful branding. Reach your audience with five shortcuts for building brand trust through good design.
Whether it’s giving logos a sense of establishment, using minimal styles, or designing trustworthy packaging, here you’ll find clever ways to build trust in your brand, even if it’s months or decades old.
A must-read guide for designers and marketers, this article considers how design and consumer psychology interact, helping you to design branding that consumers will be particularly responsive to.
Brand Trust and Building Through Good Design
Brand trust is a measure of the confidence consumers have in a brand to deliver on what it says it will deliver. Sounds simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, marketers often face an uphill battle to build brand trust, as consumer confidence is traditionally created over a period of time. As consumers purchase products and services that meet expected standards of quality, trust builds through repurchasing, reviews, and recommendations. It can take months, years, or even longer to build that valued brand trust.
However, there is a way you can speed up the process significantly by employing design strategies that actively target the need to build brand trust.
Let’s take an example. Say you’re launching an organic beauty brand. To build consumer trust, your audience needs to be reassured that the products you’re selling are indeed organic. For this reason, you might choose to use colors, illustrations, and other design elements that emphasize the organic origin of the products.
Nature-inspired graphics, earthy colors, and purposeful prominence of organic certified icons on designs will help to build trust in your brand before potential customers even purchase your products. In this simple way, you’ve helped to give your brand a leg up by building a foundation of consumer trust right at the outset.
Below, we’ll look at five design strategies for building brand trust through good design, breaking down how designers can help a brand to appear more:
License this image via Studio Cantath.
Brands should aim to hit all five of these areas to build a long-standing and unshakeable level of trust amongst their customer base. To do this, you can make design choices that are considered intelligent, and aim to build reliability into a brand identity.
Read on to discover how you can have a tangible impact on consumer confidence simply through making a considered choice of typeface or opting for a particular style of logo.
1. How to Make Your Brand Look . . . Established
How can you make a brand that’s barely a year old almost instantly trustworthy? That’s the million-dollar question, but building a sense of establishment into your branding will certainly help.
Establishment can be genuine, as you’ll see on some brand’s logos where the establishment date is included. Brands who are older will often use a date on their branding to emphasize how long the company has been trading.
In terms of brand trust, this immediately communicates to the viewer that the brand has been successfully selling to its customer base for some time and is a good, solid consumer choice, as a result.
But, what if your brand doesn’t have decades of heritage under its belt? Carefully chosen design can communicate a sense of establishment without the time span, making the brand appear older and more established than it actually is.
Vintage-style design is a great choice if you want to build a sense of time and depth into your brand identity. While truly retro designs should be avoided unless you have a historic-themed business—such as a vintage clothes retailer—designers can bring in subtle vintage elements to a contemporary brand design to give an impression of age and authority.
Serif typefaces have an air of tradition and wisdom, while stamp-style logos have an authoritative feel. You can also make a brand feel more established by using colors that are culturally associated with authority and “old money,” such as navy blue or bottle green.
Luxury car brand Bugatti is a long-established brand, but they chose to bring more vintage elements into their brand refresh to emphasize their longevity and heritage. Meanwhile, new brand Morrow uses a blend of retro and contemporary design styles across their website, guidelines, and packaging to give the brand a sense of authority and high-end positioning.
Brands that have experimented with establishment branding in an interesting way include luxury car brand Bugatti, who recently opted for a vintage, French-inspired typeface in their brand refresh to give a nod to the company’s French heritage, as well as much newer brand Morrow, an autofocal eyewear brand, who use 1960s-inspired elements such as geometric patterns and monochrome to give their branding a vintage-meets-contemporary look.
The skill of building brand trust through establishment design is in knowing how to strike the balance between vintage and contemporary. Try combining a retro-style typeface with neon color for example, or use black and white photography alongside otherwise on-trend elements.
2. How to Make Your Brand Look . . . Honest
Traditionally, brand design and marketing was all about smoke and mirrors, a way of making something appear better than it actually was.
The internet has changed this drastically because consumers are now much more informed about the sourcing, materials, and ingredients of products, and are able to easily view other customer’s experiences with a brand through social media and review platforms like Trustpilot.
Because it’s difficult for brands to control this review process (and for the sake of fair trading, they certainly shouldn’t), it is now more vital than ever that your brand is as transparent and honest as possible. Design can play an intrinsic role in building a perception of honesty through using honest design styles.
What is an honest design style? Minimalism is a good example of an honest design style because nothing is hidden or exaggerated for the viewer. Clean sans serif typography is clearer to read than fussier serif or novelty typefaces, while use of white space allows the reader to focus on key information, such as ingredients or provenance.
Some of the best examples of minimal, honest design can be found in the beauty, health, and food industries, where clarity surrounding ingredients has become increasingly important as consumers seek out vegan, organic, or ingredient-effective products.
If you want to boost the honesty of your branding, clean and clarifying minimalism is a tried-and-tested design strategy, as used by numerous beauty and lifestyle brands such as Aesop and Beauty Pie.
Aesop was the original beauty brand to launch packaging and marketing designs with an “honest” style that mimicked vintage pharmaceutical packaging. Since then, honest brand design has gathered pace, with a notable recent example being Beauty Pie.
This brand is credited as a disruptor in the beauty industry due to high-quality products retailed at near-wholesale prices, and with ultra-minimal, clean, and clear packaging design to match their brand promise.
In your own brand designs, convince your customers by using honest design elements, such as clean and legible type, neutral colors, and avoid using excessive imagery or busy backgrounds.
3. How to Make Your Brand Look . . . Professional
It may seem obvious, but having a professional brand is a sure-fire way to gain trust from your customer base. Professionalism builds trust because it reassures consumers that they are in competent hands. So when they come to engage with your products, they know they will be receiving expertly-created and efficiently-delivered goods or services.
Building professionalism into your branding is mainly done through action, such as having great customer service or prompt delivery, but you can also ensure your branding appears professional too.
For inspiration, look to the world of excellent corporate branding, which has been trading in the design of professionalism for decades. The hallmarks of professional design traditionally don’t sound particularly exciting, such as wide-reaching brand guidelines that allow a strict brand system to be used consistently across all media or a use of conservative, corporate colors, such as blue and gray.
Today, the best corporate branding has broadened its creative reach, and any brand—whether independent start-up or large corporate—can take note when building its own brand professionalism.
Avoid the homogeneity of Corporate Memphis—the bland, illustrated style that attempts to “humanize” corporates—and, instead, try out the new professional design for size. Combine more conservative elements such as modernist sans serifs and geometric logos with dynamic animated infographics, pastel neon palettes, or 3D illustrations.
To maintain professionalism, simply keep it polished and pulled together at all times.
Brand identity for modular furniture manufacturer Art Modul by Meteora, logo design for investment bank Cirrus by Outcraft, and brand guidelines for blockchain app Archway by Ludlow Kingsley.
4. How to Make Your Brand Look . . . Aspirational
While you might associate the word aspirational with expensive, this isn’t necessarily the case. Aspirational branding seeks to make a brand feel exclusive or unattainable to a large part of its target audience.
This can mean the brand offers products that are slightly more expensive than what the consumer would normally spend on a similar product, or that the product or service is less easy to obtain than other comparables—for example, through limited product runs, ticket numbers, or the need to be within a club to access purchasing rights (see The Nespresso Club as a pioneering example).
Aspiration is a good strategy for building brand trust because it aims to keep an aspirational audience engaged with the brand for the long term.
For example, you might continue to find a brand desirable if you’re placed on an exclusive waiting list for a product or event. In this case, trust builds through marketing communications with aspiring customers, even if the customer hasn’t purchased from the brand.
While you can increase the price or exclusivity of products, consumers will be unlikely to buy into the aspirational element of your brand if it doesn’t look aspirational. Aspirational design strategies are key to making audiences feel the brand is worth both the wait and the investment.
Aspirational brand design is all about playing up the luxurious and expensive, with metallic logos, rich colors, and sophisticated photography. You can also reference other aspirational industries in your brand designs by bringing in high-end fashion imagery, exotic vacation photography, or celebrity endorsements.
While this aspirational branding strategy won’t be the best option for value brands, you can still extend this brand approach when creating identities for member’s clubs or store cards.
A luxurious brand color scheme for The Roosevelt hotel collection designed by Studio 97.
The final brand trust hit point in our list is how to use design to encourage users to talk about your brand. Making a brand shareable is often the primary goal of marketing teams, who are geared towards gaining clicks, likes, and shares on social media channels.
Frequency of engagement, just by ensuring your brand is visible as much as possible, is one way to do it. However, improving the shareability of your content through well-designed creative is also vital.
In fact, the right sort of creative design will encourage share-ability without as much of a need to intervene. Take Pinterest as an example. An eye-catching design or video has the potential to be pinned by millions of users, bypassing the need to pay for on-platform ads (although, you can boost successful pins even further by creating a Pinterest ad).
Share-ability builds brand trust by increasing the likelihood that you’ve been exposed to the brand multiple times before. Or, even better, it shows that someone you know or engage with on social media has used it.
To make brand designs shareable, aim to make your designs as eye-catching and trend-relevant as possible. While this may seem in conflict with the professionalism branding discussed above, it’s possible to work on creating branches of your branding that are more heavily geared towards online share-ability.
Use of trending colors, type styles, and image filters will help your design to resonate with TikTok or Instagram audiences. Meanwhile maximizing the eye-popping quality of your designs with bright colors, animated graphics, or closeup photography will ensure your posts encourage follows and click-throughs.
You can also read up on current design trends and work towards incorporating some of these into your existing branding. Why not set up test designs using different colors or images and analyze engagement to optimize your shareable designs even further?
A brand identity geared towards social media share-ability for Hijinx Makeup by Yungbld creative agency.
Conclusion: 5 Shortcuts for Building Brand Trust Through Design
License this image via Studio Cantath.
Brand trust was traditionally elusive and slow-to-build for growing brands. Today, however, the instantaneous reach brands can achieve with their audiences through online platforms has transformed the potential for new and disruptor brands to gain a loyal following in a much shorter timespan.
Trust can be built through design that aims to promote a sense of establishment, honesty, professionalism, aspiration, and share-ability. Combined, these factors help your target audience feel reassured when engaging with your brand.
By focusing on these areas in your design strategy, you can build brand trust on firm footing—and in double-quick time, too!
License this cover image mockup via Studio Cantath and Cookie Studio.