Friday, March 28, 2008

Identity Design Systems And Co-branding

Considered thinking about corporate identity today tends towards systems with some capacity for formal play built into them, rather than merely focusing on maximising uniformity, as tended to be preferred before. This can be delivered on a sliding scale. At its simplest iteration it means building in enough variety to allow for appropriate modulated treatments in different scenarios. All the way up to very sophisticated, free-flowing identity systems.

One sophisticated approach is where I have developed a suite of decision-making trees for my client for various applications. ‘If the advert format is tall and narrow and the constituent branding elements required are X, Y and Z, then the correct approach to using them falls within this class of patterns.’ This is a scenario where I am showing the user conditions and matching those with their desired outcomes and asking them to make some decisions as to how best to achieve those outcomes within the palette of opportunities available to them. I like to think of it as the designer’s role as one of defining the idea-space of the identity system and then letting its users explore the landscape within that topography.

Contrast that concept with what so many organizations still want, which is branding equivalent of lego blocks. All of the visual elements locked together in one immobile set of ratios and relationships that can merely be dropped into place. The design equivalent of ‘place tab A into slot B’. This methodology results in co-branding relationships that are consistent across all applications, but it is a crude sort of consistency. Almost by definition this is going to be inappropriate (or at least sub-optimal) in many many applications.

What this often boils down to operationally is, where do you want the expertise to lie along the chain of responsibility? Or where does the organisation choose to deploy its resources. If an organisation wants its most junior personnel to knock together documents and adverts using modular graphics in MS Word, that is a valid choice for them. But it seems unrealistic, in that scenario, for them to then be concerned about measuring the ‘brand efficiency’ of their outputs. The greater fallacy is then believing that the solution to the problem is to build better templates. Or, as it is often phrased ‘templates that are easier to use’.

I will add more posts about this topic as I build out my thinking...