People are attracted to the novel. The new. The now. In a world of 8-second attention spans, a 30-second video clip seems long. And a brand that doesn't change for years may as well be prehistoric.
So the question is: how do you break through the fog when no one can pay attention?
As people steeped in the brand and design world, we’re exposed to a lot of brand redesigns, rethinks, and reinventions (we’re also steeped in jargon). Something we’ve noticed is that often, these new designs (while called “rebrands”) are simply advertising campaigns. They’re bold attempts at capturing our fleeting attention spans.
Take a moment to think about the longest-lasting, most recognizable brands. Nike. Coca Cola. Disney. Target. Apple. They’ve been consistent for years. They do it by having a few core elements that do not change.
That’s the bold move in today’s world. Taking a stand and sticking with it. We believe this is the right way to approach a brand identity. You’ll stand out because each interaction reinforces who you are.
Here’s what that looks like in practice.
As designers, we’re painfully aware of how typography influences our daily lives. If what you say is your message, typography is your dialect. It’s your voice. It can be serious, or it can be playful. Typography, combined with color and logo, makes up a brand’s core of evergreen elements.
Tibor Kalman, an icon of graphic design, was once asked to design a brand identity for an arts organization. He pulled out a font book (yes, they used to come in books), and told the client to pick one. Use it consistently, he said, and it will become your identity.
What color comes to mind when you hear Coca Cola? What about Starbucks? Ferrari? Color is one of the most powerful tools designers and brands have to create recognition.
We saw a study where people were asked to draw famous logos like BMW, Aldi, Lego, and Shell from memory. As you’d expect, there were many comical interpretations of these logos. Shell became a mushroom. The BMW logo became a series of lines or even the Mercedes logo. But the one thing nearly everyone got right was color.
Color is tricky. It’s one of the few things we all have personal preferences about. But don’t let arbitrary tastes drive brand decisions. Over time, your brand color will begin embody who you are. You’ll be more remembered and more recognized, even without your logo.
There’s a reason we left logo for last. When I say “brand” to the average person on the street, often times it’s equated with “logo.” For good reason, too. The original brands were simply marks that distinguished between products. Logos help us identify things and overcome the wealth of choice we have today.
But often, we see people fall into two traps with logos.
The first trap comes they ask logos to work too hard. A good logo is simple enough to recognized and remembered. No more, no less. It cannot carry every visual aspect who we are and what we do.
The second trap happens when their logo and their purpose are disconnected. A good logo clearly expresses (or comes to embody) the idea behind what it represents. This, of course, means that you must be clear on what you represent. When your logo changes every couple of years, what does that say about what you believe?
A good logo is an essential element for your organization. But take the time to get it right. You’ll be more easily remembered and recognized.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about a set-it-and-forget approach to branding. It sounds rigid and inflexible. It sounds boring. Tastes change. Trends come and go. You’re right. If the evergreen brand elements were the ONLY brand identity elements.
Evergreen brand elements should remain largely unchanged. But around those elements, build a set of seasonal assets. These can be secondary typefaces, colors, or graphic styles that evolve and change.
Think about Nike. They have their iconic swoosh and their “Just Do It” tagline. Those are unchanging and permanent. Around that, they’ve created countless campaigns, sub-brands, and product lines with their own unique brand identity elements.
Having the flexibility to shift your visual identity without losing your core elements is critical to staying fresh and vibrant over time.
So, by all means, we should create elements that can shift and change as trends and seasons come and go. But, if you know who you are and what you believe, your core shouldn’t change.