Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a designer about the brand guidelines for a project we were working on. The design she shared with me followed none of the standards in the brand guidelines book, other than incorporating the logo colors. She hadn’t used a single font from the brand standards, style was completely new, she even used a new color palette in addition to the logo colors (an approved color palette had already been established in the guidelines). When I asked her why she chose to go this direction rather than adhere to the brand guidelines her reply was, “Those are only guidelines, you don’t have to follow them”.
Cue dramatic music.
Now, I know that as a designer it’s fun to stretch yourself creatively. We have a natural desire to express creativity. We, after all, artists at through the core.
But my training in branding left me reeling inside. Consistency is the lifeblood of building and maintaining your brand, the brand guidelines help you to do that. Not following the guidelines. . . .is insanity.
Everything and anything your company puts before the public (and even within the company) is an opportunity to promote your brand. You can’t afford to waste any of those moments. It may be the first time someone is encountering the brand, it may be the thousandth time, but all those times are important. Why?
You are establishing your identity.
Being consistent helps you establish a clear identity and build your reputation as a brand. You are creating a story about who your brand is, what they do, how they do it, and why. This story helps to draw clients who will be loyal to your brand.
A brand’s guidelines outline how the brand should be presented to it’s audience.
When the design aesthetics of a brand change, or deviate from what consumers are used to, it creates confusion. If a brand is never consistent with their design from the beginning – then they fail to establish an identity in the first place. Again, creating confusion. This confusion in turns leads to distrust in the brand. Distrust means the brand will never gain a foothold in the market and will struggle to procure customers.
Brand guidelines are your friend.
No, seriously; brand guidelines really are your best friend. They aren’t there to hinder a designer’s creativity, but rather to help establish a maintain a brand’s identity in the marketplace.