Because of the explosion of the digital world in recent years, it is necessary for modern brands to become more responsive, more interactive and more social. Today the consumer has the power, as never before, to shape public brands through the multitude of media and interfaces available. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram are just a few ways the public has direct access to communicate with a brand and shape the public’s perception of that brand. The consumer expects the brand to be as responsive as any medium through which it is accessed, while maintaining consistency in how it appears.
Traditionally, there were fewer channels to convey a brand’s identity and therefore fewer opportunities for the public to experience your brand. Consistency was achieved through repetition of the same elements – organized in the same way – over and over and over again. Today, a consumer is likely to encounter your brand several times a day and too much repetition tends to make brands become stale and ineffective.
With a modern brand identity system, consistency should not only created through repetition, but also through recognition of pattern. Creating a cohesive and flexible brand identity requires the creation of a logical pattern. Instead of having a brand identity focused around one big central idea, have multiple smaller ideas. This aids in brand recognition and keeps the brand nimble enough to evolve rapidly and organically in a fast-paced, digital world. Repetition aids recognition, but variation in patterns creates relevance that sustains long-term interest.
The City of Melbourne logo is a great example of a flexible brand identity system. The repetition is created through the shape of the “M” and the use of geometric shapes. The flexibility is provided by the variation of shapes and colours used to create the “M” shape.
Patterns, by definition, are a configuration of smaller elements. These smaller elements are recognizable but can still be rearranged to form new meaning: a collective pattern of personal expression. In this way brands can build local expressions separate from their global ideas.
The Whitney Museum’s new identity was the result of a nearly two-year collaboration between the Whitney and Amsterdam-based design team Experimental Jetset. The “W” shape is responsive, meaning the Whitney design department (who handles the creation of all museum materials) can bend, stretch and flip it to fit whatever canvas it’s on. Brand recognition comes from the consistency of the wordmark and the repetition of the zigzag pattern, though the shape of that zigzag can vary.
Brand guidelines or graphic standards manuals are still very important, but these documents should be brief and inspirational. They should provide the parameters to ensure an appropriate level of consistency while also allowing the brand to continue to grow in richness and depth with each experience. This way a brand never gets old; it always stays relevant and fresh.