Inside Sweet 301: A Look at Graphic Standards

December 8, 2015 | by Melissa Muñoz

If you’ve worked with BatesMeron to create, reimagine or tweak a brand, you understand how much work goes into our process. After interviews, brainstorms, research, collaboration and lots of creative juice, you receive a shiny new brand—congratulations!

A new or revitalized brand is certainly something to get excited about. It’s the fully realized identity that represents the services, values and skills that a company has to offer. Through deep-dive discovery exercises and rounds of logo designs, positioning statements, typography pairings, color arrangements and tagline options you’ve helped to transform your idea into something tangible.

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Keeping your brand… on-brand

Now that you have the brand you’ve been dreaming of, the next step is getting it out into your market. Go ahead, show that brand off! But before you do, it is imperative that you take the time to assemble your roadmap… your key… your Ikea instruction booklet—or as well like to call it—a set of graphic standards.

What are graphic standards, you say? Glad you asked! Also known as identity standards or brand guidelines, graphic standards are a thorough and thoughtful examination of a brand in all of its forms, set up to ensure consistency and proper recognition.

 

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Adherence to graphic standards helps to communicate and authenticate your brand clearly to your audience.

You want your customers and clients to recognize your brand regardless of where they are encountering it. Brand recognition creates a sense of trust, comfort and value. If you’ve been fortunate enough to travel abroad, think about being in a foreign place and seeing a can of Coke or a McDonald’s restaurant. Maybe the latter gives you indigestion, but you cannot deny that the look, tone and feel of that brand is consistent whether you’re in Chicago or Chile, online or commuting—the digital, print and packaging are uniform.

 

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Suggestions, not handcuffs

Graphic standards let your audience know who you are. They ensure that, when adhered to, your brand is represented unchanging across all media. These standards will outline official fonts, brand colors, basic do’s and don’ts. Depending on the comprehensiveness (as the length of graphic standards can range from 1-100 pages and beyond depending on the specific needs, complexity and reach of the brand), these guidelines can touch on subjects as expansive as key messaging and tone, or as meticulous as the smallest size your logo should ever be shown.

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But while graphic standards are an important part of a brand’s creative process, they should not be adhered to so rigidly that they squash out new creative possibilities. There are aspects of guidelines that should be observed always—typically things like, don’t make the logo a different color, don’t tilt the logo on an angle if it’s not made to do so, be mindful of approved fonts. That being said, there are always opportunities to branch out to create exciting new brand campaigns or special promotional pieces.

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In 2011, Coca-Cola got everyone talking when it swapped their iconic logo with personalized names and titles. The result of this strategic break from graphic standards—a major success.

Brands are constantly challenged to grow, (usually by the creative agencies like BatesMeron who create them) to boost awareness and attract new attention. Creating a solid set of graphic standards won’t solve everything in one fell swoop, but it is an excellent place to start creating the solid foundation that your brand will build on for years to come.

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