The term “visual identity” is generally used in the corporate world as a euphemism for branding, and often doesn't amount to much more than the consideration of logo design and a corporate colour scheme. To me, this is a restrictive and unimaginative use of an expression that can be redeployed to suggest something far more creative and complex.
Instead of thinking about visual identity from the top down as part of corporate marketing strategy, I want to think about it from the bottom up, at the level of individual pieces of content, and in the context of the independent Web.
The point of departure for my take on visual identity is the latest portfolio theme by ThemeTrust and it's called the Hardy Theme. The theme allows you to style the visual experience of each individual portfolio entry by adding your own background image and arranging the portfolio content on top.
Granted, this is nothing new in the WordPress domain. It has almost become second nature for premium WordPress themes to offer background image uploads on posts and pages. However, where the Hardy Theme excels is in weaving each individually crafted portfolio entry into a single front page content stream. The result is that content is differentiated at the level of its individual identity instead of the usual divisions achieved through layout and spacing.
One of the benefits of this approach to content presentation and particularly for a portfolio, which is after all a means of promoting your work to potential clients, is that visitors get an immediate sense of the range and scope of your work; and a “dialogue” takes place on an emotional level with the user.
By working in this way, through a series of visual juxtapositions, the overall identity of your site, your brand or your business becomes the sum total of individually crafted pieces of work that speak for themselves, instead of the usual attempt to fit each project into a single corporate identity mold.