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Quick Tip: Brand Guidelines Begin with Internal Rollout

brand style guide_featured

by Michael Premo, Content Strategist

Graphic designers and the marketing department aren’t the only ones that need to know how to steer your brand in the right direction. If you want to maintain your brand’s integrity, you need to start from within.

 

Maintaining Brand Identity

You already know that your brand is more than just your logo and tagline. It represents your entire organization, which is why we develop guidelines to keep it coherent. Any email, billboard or radio spot that steps outside your guidelines can have a negative effect on your brand identity.

  • Consistency – Because each impression counts, your brand needs to be memorable and easy to recall. Even minor changes to your brand can mislead your audience.
  • Authenticity – Any change to your brand may alter its meaning. When this happens, even as a joke or for a funny meme, it may get you into legal trouble.
  • Professionalism –When you don’t follow the guidelines, your presentations look like student projects. We call this the “Microsoft Paint Effect” because very few good things come from MS Paint.

 

The Problem Is Internal

Employees in search of creativity should leave your brand alone. To exercise their creative muscles, they should be encouraged to join an art class or build their own brand to be showcased on their personal Wix site.

Perhaps they don’t understand why the colors and typography of your communications need to always be the same—always. It’s time you educate them, and here are some quick tips on how.

Brand Awareness Survey

This will bring your fellow employees into the process of maintaining your brand guidelines. Your survey should ask several things:

  • Brand awareness – You need to gauge what they know and don’t know.
  • Current Messaging – Are they aware of what the current messaging is?
  • Satisfaction – Does the brand work for their role in the company?
  • Workarounds – Do they ever create brand workarounds? Why?
  • Suggestions – How can our brand identity be improved?

Make It an Event

An event will get more people engaged, especially if it’s fun. You can discuss the results of your survey and have a Q & A session. Yes, this requires an investment, but think of it as an ounce of prevention. Fewer mistakes mean fewer problems and lost opportunities with clients.

Distribute the Guidelines

You can send frequent internal emails that focus on the most common mistakes people make regarding your brand. Each email should direct everyone to have a copy of the guidelines or a link with quick access to them. Brand-specific templates should also be available for anything from email signatures to PowerPoint presentations. For your initiative to be effective, it has to extend beyond the guidelines.

Departmental Brand Playbook

Because your guidelines can be a hundred pages or more, you can work with each department to have specific playbooks that are relevant to their workflow, but not specific to any individual position in the company. Only the designers need to use the technical specifications for your logo. Besides, quick reference guides take less time and energy to use, so in theory, more people will use them.

Be Available to Help

If it’s outside their playbook, you need to be available to help them. Create an FAQ section in your guidelines for quick references and have an open door policy. This will keep them from feeling like the guidelines are too strict and not allowing them to do their job.

 

Brand Integrity Can Be Fragile

Anyone that touches your brand, internally or externally, has the potential to misuse it. If you really think about it, this makes your brand fragile. So, if you want to protect it and your company’s brand identity, you need to start where it has the most touch.

“Consider the brand’s custodians by establishing the full picture for the brand in a detailed style guide that clearly states every type of media it will go on. Creating guidelines for the brand in case it gets passed on, will help protect the it from misuse by other designers and non-designers who get to work with it, keeping the brand consistent,” says Evie Larson, Pinstripe Marketing Creative Director.

Larson developed the following gorgeous visual brand style guide for MFM Legal that contains design guidance covering many elements such as logo, color, composition, photography and typography. This guide follows our recommendations for style guides.

 

Pinstripe understands how businesses manage their brand guidelines. We recently helped a multinational, multi-billion dollar business refresh their brand identity, as well as maintain their brand integrity. Contact us to learn how we can develop your brand guidelines to be more consistent—to look more professional.

Rebranding? Let’s Talk About Your Logo

by Michael Premo, Content Strategist

Every company, from Fortune 500 to a small family-owned business, goes through a period when their brand needs a new look—a brand refresh. It’s such a major undertaking that often gets delayed until it starts hurting the bottom line. That’s how powerful your logo is. People associate your products and services with it on both conscious and subconscious levels.

Your logo does a lot of heavy lifting. It appears on everything, from letterhead to sales decks to trade show booths. Think of it as the cornerstone of your brand. So, it should be eye-catching, memorable, and work well for large formats or small print.

 

Three Major Aspects of a Logo

To bring your logo to the next level, it needs to answer the following questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • How?
  • Why?

It should also reflect your company’s mission and vision for the future. This takes time and energy. It’s not something that can be done overnight, plus it will take several rounds of revisions to get it right.

 

To get you started with your brand refresh, start thinking about these three major qualities of your logo:

Color Does Matter

Researchers have spent a lot of time on how people are affected by color and color theory. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on this, just know that it exists and it matters (the Pinstripe creative team knows this stuff inside and out).

Colors that are analogous or complementary will create the most impact. How they do this is through the power of communication. The right colors provide contrasts to make an object stand out, which immediately grabs our attention. A great example of this is the FedEx logo: purple and orange on a white background (Did you know that between the “Ex” is an arrow?).

There’s also the psychology of color and its significance in our everyday lives. Let’s take purple as an example. Purple is a symbol of nobility and luxury. It signifies power and ambition. The “Fed” in FedEx is purple, showing the power of the federal government.

Another color, green, is about health, wealth, growth and safety. We are seeing greens being utilized in more banking and investment firms than ever.

As you can see, color goes beyond what you like or the latest trends. To make your logo timeless, brainstorm with your creative team to come up with color combinations that speak to your mission and vision.

The Font

To be unique and clever, you’ll need to distinguish your brand from your competitors. Using a simple yet eye-catching font can achieve this. Some brands have custom made fonts, such as Coca-Cola, whereas Target uses Helvetica (a very common font). It’s all in the presentation of the name, so you’ll need to be flexible.

Like Coca-Cola, your logo can be the name of your business, also called logotype. There are strong fonts available that represent your brand personality and send the right signals to potential clients. You also want to find something that will last, while remaining open to simple changes to fit the times. Just remember that keeping it simple is the best option. Again, the creative team that works on your rebranding campaign will guide you in font selection.

Symbols, Meaning and Motion

A symbol or picture can be a representation of your brand—the who, what, how and why. This is where negative space is a big help. Negative or blank space keeps the logo clean and makes it clever. You can introduce shapes as another way to help your logo maintain a professional look. Two of the most common are squares and circles. Many law and accounting firms place their names within a rectangle to show honesty and stability.

A symbol can also provide motion, such as the Nike swoosh or the Amazon arrow that looks like a smile, too. These act as metaphors for what the brands do. Turning a circle into a sphere will give it motion. The teardrop in Cott Corporations’ logo also shows movement. All of these are important if you want to show your audience the meaning of your company.

 

A Logo That Establishes Relationships

As you can see, bringing all of these elements together into one logo is very important. And, it’s important to remember that it needs to be balanced and flexible enough to scale without any issues. The logo should have positive symmetry and appear balanced in any configuration. It should also be visible and readily identifiable in black and white.

“We can explain the “how” all day; how color, font, and form come together to create a powerful logo, but ultimately you need to leave it up to your creative professionals like Pinstripe Marketing to design and color your mark. You do not want to DIY something like this, it’s just too important and the design process is too specialized to have your niece do it for free or even have your in-house designer whip something up. Logo development is a very strategic process,” says Nikki Devereux, Director of Account Management at Pinstripe Marketing.

Pinstripe has helped local and nationally-based businesses with their logo. We specialize in discovering their traits—their corporate character—and putting them on display. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the logo you envision.

Our Thoughts on Creative Design for Corporate Identity

The history of design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on the elements of creative design, because businesses need to understand the process and how it affects their corporate identity.

Logo Design and Corporate Identity

In the past, the designer who created a logo, tagline or slogan for their company knew how the logo would be used on all of the promotional materials. However, it soon became clear that it would be necessary to communicate the proper usage to other people both inside and outside the company. After all, the designer couldn’t work at the company forever, and graphic designers also began to work outside companies as consultants. Thus, the corporate identity manual was born.

The practice of creating the corporate identity manual developed after WWII. The corporate identity manual is often a work of art in and of itself, as the designers showcase the many uses of a company’s logo, its color palette, typography, and proper orientations of the logo and other text. The purpose is to communicate to other designers how to apply the corporate identity, including logo, slogan and tagline, in a variety of formats and also how not to use the pieces in a design. Today, a corporate identity manual will describe both digital and print applications to maintain consistent design across all platforms.

A well-known graphic designer, Lester Beall, can be credited with some of the earliest corporate identity manuals. He designed these manuals with care, and the books themselves are a thing of beauty. A spread from his work for Connecticut General, an insurance company, are seen below. The pieces are so appealing that they could be framed and hung on a wall rather than simply be used for their purpose.

corporate identity manual_article

Corporate identity manuals can be quite fascinating and beautiful, existing in the unique space of being both practical guides for other designs, as well as works of design artistry themselves. Check out this list of 50 stunning corporate identity manuals for ideas.

 

What Makes a Good Logo

When you hear the word ‘brand’ there’s a good chance you may have mentally pictured one or more classic logos from well-known companies. Perhaps the Nike swoosh? Or the cursively written Coca Cola? A logo is nothing more nor less than the graphic embodiment of the whole brand. This is why—when you have a logo created for your company—you will want to put a lot of thought and care into the process.

You see, good logos don’t just happen. Yes, if you managed to create an amazing invention, or come up with a fantastic new taste sensation, one of the doodles you penned along the way might make for a memorable logo. But don’t count on it. Nor is this a job for that nephew in high school who has a ‘knack for art-stuff.’ While it’s true that a young design intern came up with the Nike swoosh (and received a whopping $35 for her effort), the company’s own graphics team still spent a lot of time refining the concept.

So, let’s consider what makes for a good logo. There are basically five criteria to be met: eye-catching, unique, enduring, functional and meaningful.

Eye-catching – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? That’s true to a certain extent, but there are certain principles of design that hold up fairly well across all cultures and demographics. For example, balance is always important. We like things to feel even, symmetrical, and in balance. Color choices are also critical for a whole host of reasons for which entire books have been dedicated. Color is very symbolic and can have a subconscious effect on people. Over all, a good logo will have elements composed with clear, distinct lines that imply complexity, yet are quite simple if considered separately, and color will be chosen carefully.

Unique – Distinctiveness is the key objective of any successful logo design. It will go a long way toward making the image—and by extension, the brand—especially memorable. One good way to achieve this is by incorporating the company’s name (or some element of the name) into the design. On the other hand, a visual representation of the company name might prove to be perfect.

Enduring – Imagine how much trouble people would have recognizing you, if every time you left home you had a different face? That’s the problem companies experience if they frequently change their logos. When you select a logo design, think of it as something that’s going to be around a long, long time (though a “facelift” or two over the years may be okay). Stay away from elements that are likely to become dated or obsolete, choosing instead those that can be modified with ease while remaining thoroughly identifiable. Our campaign for Landis Evans + Partners did just that – the company changed its name, but wanted to maintain some aspects of the original brand that made it identifiable like the color palette and some of the shapes. Below is the before and after.

logo before after designs

 

Functional – Just think of all the places that a logo can appear, from business cards to billboards and websites to weekly flyers. Your logo is going to have to step in and say, “This is who we are!” It will also need to be scalable, ready to be plugged-in anywhere, and flexible enough to easily go from being the dominant image to barely noticeable—depending on the circumstances and the communications in which it appears.

Meaningful  A good logo doesn’t have to spell out what a company does, but it should at least hint in that direction. A great logo not only does that, but it also manages to elicit feelings with members of the target audience. A great logo describes an implied value proposition to set the company apart from their competition.

 

Types of Design: Utilizing Nostalgia and Vernacular

Graphic design as a promotional tool dates back to the 19th century, when the earliest form of graphic design relied solely on typography to make a point. During these early days, text, font style, and font size were the main emphasis. In looking back, you can see how designers started playing with different typefaces and boldness to draw attention to certain information. Coca-Cola’s logo is a great example of this.

During this time, the transition from hand-made goods to industrialized society’s machine-made, mass-produced items was alarming for most people. Consumers’ trust had to be won in order for these products to be viable. An interesting method of building trust and imbuing familiarity in a product or advertisement was the use of the vernacular. This was language used in everyday life. Words that everyone in a specific region or part of the country could understand.

Over the years, as graphic design became more prominent, the methods and styles evolved with new technology. People in the advertising industry began to experiment with different techniques to attract attention to products, as well as instill confidence in them and the companies that sold them. By appealing to consumers’ comfort with familiar objects, companies were able to sell more products and build market share. Examples of nostalgia in graphic design still permeate today’s brands. Vintage fonts and sketches are used in logos and slogans on a regular basis to establish an old-world, “good old days” feel for a brands’ fundamental message. A couple good examples of this in our own community are the logo for The Pearl on First Apartments and Green Bench Brewing Co.

The Pearl on First’s logo uses the Broadway font to bring us back to the classy, elaborate Art Deco era that exudes luxury and high style. The apartments themselves are designed with an Art Deco flair – the materials and colors are classic and sophisticated.

 

The Green Bench logo uses fonts in both their logo and their wall mural that are reminiscent of old postcards. This nostalgic reference brings to mind family vacations and good times – perfect for Green Bench’s family atmosphere, games, and outdoor space that encourages family time with dogs and kids.

Even in our own logo—the “circle P”—there is a reference to old typewriters with the circle itself representing the circular keys from early typewriters. Our brand promises intelligent, effective communications for all of our clients. In this era of fun, cool, and edgy marketing, Pinstripe stands out as something a little more polished, yet still highly creative. The typewriter font is austere enough to resound with professionals, but the vintage edge of the font indicates a sophisticated creativity that is still hip and artistic.

 

We see examples of historical reference and vernacular design every day – can you think of any other local businesses that use this technique for their brand? Check out these actual vintage logos for design ideas: http://www.vandelaydesign.com/vintage-logos/

 

Other Examples: Logo Design and Stationary

Kokolakis Contracting is one of those clients whose logo we just couldn’t wait to see in action. We re-envisioned their logo, created new stationery, completed head shots and produced a video for their new website.

First we tackled the logo. They wanted to keep the original idea behind their logo, but give it an update and modernize it. So, the main thing that we really wanted everyone to buy into was a new, more modern color palette. This was a major departure from their old logo and the industry in general, but we thought it looked great. They did, too! They loved the bold color palette over the traditional blues and grays. They are really proud of it because they are putting it on everything they can!

jkokolakis logo redesign rebrand

Once we completed the logo, stationery was next. They chose a fairly classic look, and used Moo.com to print some of their business cards. These cards are super thick and have a beautiful orange-red layer in the center that you can see from the side of the card – the perfect complement to their bold card design. We printed the stationery in spot color with local printer, Lightning, because that orange-red just needed to be “spot” on. It was a tough color to match digitally and we wanted it to really pop and be true to their brand.

kokolakis contracting print materials_featured

This was a really great project to work on and we are proud of the results, plus we added a cool group of people to our list of friends. Many thanks to J. Kokolakis for a great experience.

Heartwood Preserve is a nature preserve and conservation cemetery—only the second in the state to provide ‘green’ burial options. Natural, or ‘green,’ burial is a safe and environmentally friendly practice that allows the body to return to the soil naturally by using biodegradable materials, and avoiding vaults and toxic embalming fluids. Conservation burial takes this practice a step further by burying in a nature preserve rather than a conventional cemetery, and utilizing a portion of the burial fee to help permanently protect the natural environment.

The brand is, of course, inspired by nature. A hand-drawn pine cone referencing the thousands that drop from the long-leaf pines throughout the preserve serves as the iconic mark. The stationery package was printed on natural, FSC Certified, Green Seal certified, 30% recycled paper (minimum). The colors and texture throughout all marketing pieces are earthy and exude the beauty of Heartwood Preserve.

stationery suite design branding

brochure design printing

Pinstripe Marketing’s logo design and corporate identity services are built around helping companies discover their personal traits, their corporate character. We can help you create a logo that fits your corporate identity, then create a manual that will set the tone for your company’s marketing success. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the logo you envision.

Pinstripe Bookshelf: Creative Quest

I have never considered myself a creative person – at least in the traditional sense. I’m not a writer, designer, photographer, painter, songwriter or chef. In my career, I rely on my creative problem-solving abilities, and the “I know it when I see it” side of creativity when directing marketing projects, but I’ve always admired truly creative people. Those who create.

In my efforts to cultivate creativity, I often listen to podcasts and pick up the latest books on the subject like The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Cutmull.

I’ve found my new favorite. Questlove’s Creative Quest.

I have been a fan of Questlove for a long time. Most people know him as the leader and drummer of the hip hop band, The Roots. In addition to their role on The Tonight Show, he has written several books including a memoir, has the most encyclopedic knowledge of music, has designed products, teaches, and is apparently quite the foodie. He’s one of the people I’d invite to my celebrity dinner party.

Creative Quest is an insightful journey through the creative process and the work of being a creator. Through personal stories and those of his famous creative friends, Quest covers finding inspiration, overcoming blocks, and honing the tools to not only be more creative, but to create better work. He thoughtfully explains the value of finding great mentors and building a creative network, and perhaps most importantly for artists, how to deal with criticism which can be “destructive to the creative ego.”

The first step in creating is re-creating – making a version of something that already exists. The first time I saw The Roots play a popular song with classroom instruments on The Tonight Show (I think it was Call Me Maybe back in 2013), I thought “how fun! how creative!” and with the millions of views these videos get on YouTube, I’m sure they’ve introduced new music to a lot of new listeners by making the songs fun and approachable. My favorite is the Sesame Street theme song.

One of the book’s insights that really hit me is the notion that we don’t know how to be bored anymore. We have access to entertainment in the palm of our hands 24/7. We’ve lost the ability to be quiet with ourselves and embrace boredom, which “represents pure, undiluted time in all of its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.” Wow. What a concept.

I was also struck by a study he references that indicated that the more rested and alert a person was, the LESS creative they were at their task. When the mind is sharp, it is less likely to be creative. Huh. And all this time I’ve been defending my eight hours a night!

I am so glad I decided to get the audio version of this book as Questlove provides thoroughly entertaining narration that had me laughing out loud in my car. I can’t remember the last audio book that I ‘highlighted’ the pages of (pausing and making notes on my phone so I could go back to those sections). One of my favorite lines was when he told a story about D’Angleo and his songwriting, saying, “If you x-rayed his creativity you would find those songs in there glowing from his bones.” What a visual!

Everyone who will listen to me has heard my recommendation of this book. If you are traditionally creative or, like me, wish you could sharpen that skill, I encourage you to download the audio and treat yourself to some tools and inspiration. With a few chuckles on the side.

After you’ve listened, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Enjoy!
Ginger

 

More is Not Merrier in the Marketing Creative Process

How many people should have input into the creative aspects of a marketing message? Is that too difficult a question to ask? Let’s see. We’ll start at the point after we’re committed to a project and we have a clear objective in mind. Now let’s invite people until we get everyone we need.

Start with a project manager. That’s the person who will see that the final product remains true to the original objective. Honestly, she or he will be more of a traffic cop than anything else, but that’s still an important function. You may need someone to say, “It’s okay to think outside the box, but at least be able to see the box.” (1)

Many copywriters and designers (graphic artists, web builders, video- editors … etc.) would subtract the project manager and put the number back at one—meaning themselves with the writer or designer only along to take their direction. They’re all equally vital, though, so we’ll include copy writer, designer and project manager. (3)

The next person we’ll add to the ideal creative group is a “brand champion” for the organization. She or he will make sure concept and execution stay consistent with the company’s identity and that the work delivers a consistent, over-arching value proposition. (4)

Finally, in many cases, we have someone who knows and understands the audience. This key person ensures messaging is on target and that the likeliest reaction will be the one that’s desired. Sometimes the project manager or brand champion serves this role, but we’ll include that person here to complete our team. (5)

That’s five. Were you expecting more? Possibly there could be, if the project has a lot of components and there’s more work to be done than a small team could handle. But, really, five people handling creative development is usually all you need. Now you could have fewer, when there’s a talented, very knowledgeable person fulfilling multiple roles. On the whole, though, five is good … and those few people need to stay in their lanes and communicate well and often!

After the creative team presents its work, an ultimate decision maker ought to grade the work as pass-fail. Maybe, but only maybe, this individual can suggest a tweak here or there, but usually it’s better to trust the judgement of paid professionals. To the extent that others must be involved, let them focus on considerations such as ROI and opportunity costs, or whether statements are factual and should be made public.

But what about the wisdom of crowds? Isn’t it true that the more eyes that are on a project, the more likely something will be discovered that needs changing. Plus, good ideas can come from anywhere, so let’s give lots of people a voice, right? Um, no. Here are excellent reasons why too many cooks make an unpalatable meal:

  • Lack of responsibility – One reason involving many people in any project usually results in declining quality is diffusion of responsibility. When one or two people are going to have to answer for an outcome, they’ll give it their best effort. Conversely, it’s a lot easier for a bunch of people to shrug off failure as not their fault.
  • Subjectivitis – That may not be real word, but marketing professionals certainly know the disease! (An example would be insisting on a model wearing a green cap rather than blue when company colors are green AND blue.) The signature illness of frustrated creatives, subjectivitis can deliver the death of a thousand cuts to any project—especially if the afflicted is too high on the food chain to be rightfully ignored or over-ruled.
  • Worry warts – Expanding the creative input group too much will inevitably bring in the person who wonders—frequently and aloud—what such-and-such higher up will think. Here’s the thing: such-and-such higher up is NOT the target audience! A worry wart’s entire contribution to the creative process is making good people second-guess themselves. This is counter-productive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Mission creep – The more people involved with a marketing project, the more likely someone will want their pet interest addressed in the messaging. Soon, rather than a concise message crafted for a specific audience, you’ll have multiple thoughts competing for attention. And because copy and imagery needs to reinforce a single message to be most effective, the result ends up an ugly Frankenstein’s monster of mixed parts.
  • Proving worth – This happens when people realize they have no business being involved in the creative process, yet feel pressured to contribute. Sadly, they are dragged into a meeting or sent an email in which they’re asked their thoughts. To get back to their real duties, they’re compelled to offer the first thing off the top of their heads, after which some other poor soul is forced to take their half-baked ideas seriously.
  • Off script – This is when we bring someone into the creative process late who has her or his own ideas, quirks and sensibilities and really couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. Such people either need to be involved at the very beginning of the process—before it goes to the creative team—or they should be kept out completely.

This might be the point you thought we’d back off that five number and hedge our bet. But, no, we’ve thought this through and experienced the repercussions of all of these downfalls. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other jobs associated with marketing for all the folks outside the creative process. For instance, someone needs to analyze the results of every campaign. Others can choose where ads will run and how often. There are surveys and focus groups to be conducted … all sorts of things. But you shouldn’t have your CFO doubling as a creative director any more than you would have your graphic artist making decisions about acquisitions and mergers.