Brand collateral needs to do much more than just be pretty or just communicate your services or products. This is an art, folks. So here we paint you a picture of 6 vital tips every piece of identity collateral should follow.
According to Seth Godin, one of the most relentlessly innovative experts on branding, the modern definition of a brand is “a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” How do you visually represent such non-tangible ideals? Through visual identity design.
In other words: All of the nitty-gritty elements our designers consider and use every day. Patterns, shapes, typefaces, fonts, layout, color – they all play a part. And more importantly, they all need to be moving your brand in the same direction…or they’re moving you in the wrong direction. Here are our six design tips to ensure you’re on the superhighway to visual brand dominance.
Brand Voice First, then Graphic Design
Have you seen the Hipster Business Name Generator? In essence, although it’s a lighthearted poke at hipster trendiness, in a way, it’s everything gone wrong with branding and design these days. The correct time line is to develop brand strategy, positioning, and voice, then develop a name and visual design. Too often, startups assume that it’s as simple as coming up with a cool name and a pretty logo, but that’s a far cry from smart branding. Establish brand voice, then move on to design. It’s a process that needs to happen in that order exactly, not the other way around.
Equal Parts Form and Function
Design needs to be pretty and get your point across. Form is color, pattern, font, typeface, etcetera. Function is making sure the design follows the rules of hierarchy so that it makes sense to someone at a glance. When function is done well, it’s brilliantly effective. Some of the most beloved brand logos have hidden meanings that make their design all the more genius, but no more complicated.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
We know – graphic design is like an ice cream sundae buffet with no adult in sight. It all looks good, you think you can sprinkle a little of this, a little of that, and end up with a taste of everything. But resist; you will end up with the brand equivalent of a sugar high and then a bellyache. The worst part is that it’s your customers who will feel that bellyache – far from the path to conversion you had in mind. Instead of amplifying the message, design that’s overcomplicated dilutes it or renders it total ineffective.
Pro tip: If you’re launching a re-brand, get your stakeholders involved on the front end if necessary but do your damnedest to limit the cooks in the kitchen once design work begins to avoid a slow project death by committee.
Keep Usage in Mind
A brand’s visual identity needs to be flexible enough to work in both print and digital, in different sizes, and in relation to different hotel marketing elements. It has to work on everything from your “Do Not Disturb” signs to your website and email campaigns. This is something easy to lose sight of in the middle of an identity design project, so we suggest you repeatedly ask yourself a simple (or similar) question: Would your graphic design work just as well on a billboard as it does on your business card? If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
Don’t Forget about Durability
Guess what? Trends come and go! You knew that, but it’s easy to get excited about a trend and want to incorporate it into your design when it’s hot, not thinking about the not-too-distant future, when that trend will only scream “I’m five years old!” One we’d like to hold up as a great example that many are still clinging to: ornate chalkboard typefaces. Nothing says 2012 like a chalkboard typeface.
Brand Identity Is Not Limited to Graphic Design
A brand’s visual identity now encompasses a whole host of additional elements. Think: video marketing, photo selection, how you name items on your hotel’s restaurant menu, even the music played while guests are on hold with your reservationists. A great recent example: When Marriott rebranded in 2015, in addition to introducing a new logo that was more streamlined and flattened, it also updated its brand standards for photography. Gone were the glossy photos, full of perfectly coiffed models and soft lighting. In their place, a new era of images that were messier and more imperfect.
If this all sounds way too overwhelming, well, you know where to turn. But in the meantime, enjoy the road to identity design righteousness. Your customers will thank you!