Consistent design is key for an effective corporate identity. But if your print and digital graphic designers are playing tug-of-war with the brand standards, it can be challenging to achieve success. Follow these steps for maintaining unity of look and feel – and sanity among the team.
In spring 2011, I served on the digital communications staff for a regional healthcare system. At the top of my to-do list was creating a new suite of brand identity images for Facebook’s then forthcoming Timeline look for Pages. This meant I had to scramble quickly to create effective cover images and update our custom tabs to reflect a recently launched advertising campaign. But what kept me up at night wasn’t the quick turnaround of this project, but rather what the print design team would say about it.
Now – let it be said that I have the deepest respect for my former colleagues (I miss you guys!), but my position was new for the organization – and so was the concept of extending its brand into digital properties such as social media, smartphone apps and tele-health kiosks.
Even more challenging, the brand standards were focused only on print, and most creative decisions were made without input from us digital folks.
Fortunately, the print and web designers not only learned to work together effectively, but we also became a cohesive team. Here’s how we did it:
Involve the print and web design teams from the start.
Print and digital have different needs; representatives from both design groups need a place at the planning table to roll out something new. More creative types in the room generally means that more creative ideas can be explored. The outcome of the meeting, whether it’s the launch of a new print piece with an online counterpart or the development of identity pieces for a brand extension, will be stronger.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Don’t demand a need you may have – explain it. Here’s an example:
As hip as social media is, most channels call for designs that work well in little square boxes. But my former organization didn’t have an updated stacked version of its rather long horizontal logo. It was time to update the brand standards, something that should only be done when a very real need calls for it. I came into the meeting with templates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the rest, and detailed the mechanics of the situation. I presented the case in terms the print designers would appreciate. After all, great designers create great art for the weirdest of places – from bus stop benches to coffee cup sleeves. I made it clear that I wasn’t trying to violate brand guidelines, but rather improve them. My request was a no-brainer, and ultimately it served the print team as well with a more versatile lineup of approved logo images. Which brings us to our next point.
Review brand standards regularly.
Schedule a quarterly or annual review of the brand standards to ensure they are current and meet the needs of all parties and tactics. Follow your organization’s existing process for changing these standards, or arrange for face time with the appropriate level of management to present proposed updates (be able to make a clear and solid case for each of your ideas).
Compromise accordingly when there’s conflict.
Neither the print team nor the digital team rules the world; both are charged with bringing an organization’s strategy to a rich and vibrant life. In other words, not everyone gets their way all the time. It’s not about picking and choosing battles, but rather deciding the course of action that makes the most sense for the overall brand.
Align for support.
This is important in any workplace, especially given the trend of merging print and web teams as part of an integrated marketing communications approach.
Designers “get” each other – print and web pros have more in common than they might realize. At our core, we’re artists, and we’re often misunderstood by our colleagues (“No, [insert random marketing person’s name], we cannot make that headline bright red and in a 46 pt font.”). More importantly, both groups must stay on top of trends and equipped with the latest technology. There’s strength in numbers; collaborate and approach management in tandem to request resources, amplify any concerns or propose new ideas.
We’ll Get Along Great
Whether you need counsel on your brand identity, implementation support to design a new piece, or professional development to strengthen your creative services team, contact The Fairmount Group today.