September 7, 2022

You sure?

Anyone who gets to work with brands, at the execution rather than origination-end of things, will know what a joy it can be to work within the strictures of The Guideline.

They’re fun things, full of blowy intention and contorted neologisms fronting up a series of Rules about what you may and may not do with the logo and a colour palette usually covering hexadecimals but never RAL references. As an aside, creating these use to be the rather exclusive preserve of the Brand Agency, who wrestled ‘brand’ off the the ad-world, but the table’s seem to have turned again. Several of the most recent ones I’ve encountered have been authored by advertising (in that new-fashioned sense of the schema) agencies. But the pattern and pagination of them remains almost identical. Anyway.

The thing with guidelines that always gets me is the sense of Certainty they affect. Everything in a guideline takes on the manners and mannerisms of Rules (with a capital R.) In attempting to regulate – in the biological sense of keeping things (or you) running well – they often end up trading out inspiration for enforcement.

It’s an odd thing, especially when you think about the brand construct around personality.

Personalities are mutable, we behave in contradictory ways. They (we) do things out of character, surprise you – “It’s a psychological truism that personal identity is fluid…”

Perhaps it’s time to rethink what the ‘Brand Guideline’ is for. 

I’d like to offer an alternative framework for the brand team:

Firstly (after Asimov), do no harm.
Second, here’s a bunch of artwork and some palettes.
Third. Surprise us.

Would certainty make for more interesting ideas, which is something I’m certain more brands crave.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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