Retro Post: Maintain your brand

I just came across an old blog entry I wrote in 2009 and thought how true this is still though I didn’t think about apps back then.

Maintain your brand

February, 11th 2009 posted by ilovedesign

When talking about brands, most people will understand that Nike or Porsche is a brand. Brands influence our buying decisions.

In my opinion “brand” goes further: You, I, we are all brands.

Why do I think that?

Look at how we consume information, being a consumer. You might read the print edition of the Wall Street Journal or Time Magazine or some of these entertaining Yellow Press/Tabloid newspapers. By just hearing the name or by seeing the layout of these publications you immediately have a perception about the article. You assume whether the story will be credible, what perspective they are taking, whether it is a conservative or sensational approach and so on. Furthermore you also associate a certain level of credibility based on the brand, you assume that some sources check the truth of information more than others. Often you do not even need to see the name of the source, like the Nike wave or the NIVEA colours and type face: You immediately know the associated brand. The Porsche logo and shape of their cars is immediately recognised, even if they suddenly offer an SUV.

In the internet brand perception and recognition is also there, but the “everybody’s a publisher” makes it more difficult. The amount of sources suddenly increased dramatically. Though I might read the same news on time.com and www.peternextdoorpublishesnews.com/, the level of trust is different.

In this example it is obvious who to trust, but what about social networks? When the plane watered on the Hudson River, the news coverage was just incredible. Twitter even beat traditional media with being first for news and pictures. And Twitter was closer – somebody on a ferry was writing about it.

Still, how do you know how to trust them? Is it an opinion? Facts? Assumptions? The author might be the most brilliant observer or being careless. He or she might be a lobbyist having vested interest to spread such “information”. Hard to know. Twitter is a nice addition to the traditional source mix, faster, more local, whereas the established media like the New York Times probably has official channels like the spokesperson of the mayor to add to the information mix. Which, again, I am assuming, based on their brand.

So we rely on brands to form our opinions.

Brand is investment, carries emotions; brand gives me more customers, more business, and more credibility on what we do. Whether it is a screen name in forums or a product or service I recognise and learned to trust, we rely on brands.

Beside the name, design and type is a carrier and messenger of brand. In Germany there was a Print Ad campaign about how brand works. By just using colours, typefaces and CI of well-known brands, without any words or pictures revealing it, you immediately knew who this was.

And what does that have to do with you, being a publisher, an advertiser or a graphic designer creating media?

A lot, as you should make your brand (or the brand of your customer) recognisable, unique, noticeable. With Print you know how to do it. And what about electronic media? HTML is the classical way, though it has its limitations. Either you go huge (using pictures instead of type) or you scarify your brand by allowing other fonts. (Unless you are willing to limit your CI to Arial and Times New Roman ;-)

The good news: There are online formats that are vector based and allow laying out pages to keep design. Typically these are vector-based formats like Silverlight, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) or SWF (Flash). They allow you to create rich layouts with all the precision you know from print. And consistent appearance maintains your brand. And Silverlight, SVG and SWF (Flash) allow linear storytelling, but that’s a topic for another time.

Great, so you are done, right?

Unfortunately not, as the issue with these formats is their creation, as most authoring applications fall into one of two categories:

  • Either they are capable of creating rich designs but are hard to use, as they force you to programme or code or think in new metaphors like time lines in order to create rich designs.
  • Or they are easy to use but compromise on layout possibilities or only offer pre-canned designs.

Either way, no matter which one you choose to use, using a different tool means you have to invest time to learn it. And the frustration level is high, as using a different tool than you use for print will let you discover limitations which your print layout app might now have (and vice versa). Plus creation time doubles.

One option would be to leave electronic publishing (web, Interactive, mobile) to the coders.

I hope you don’t. Being able to create good designs is a gift. So please start designing for electronic media, I am looking forward to seeing great designs you hopefully share.

And it is not difficult.

The solution is called Design Across Media or Multi-Channel-Publishing: A tool like QuarkXPress 8 (edit: or QuarkXPress 9 – now allowing you to create eBooks and native apps too) that allows you to not only convert your existing designs to another media but is one authoring application, which allows you to design all media with the same tools, possibilities and precision and even ensures the consistency (design and content) between the output channels. To create, maintain and strengthen our brands.

This way we are ready to move to what appears to be the future of publishing: Information that is local and relevant, is tailored towards the individual and still is recognizable as a brand. I found an interesting and maybe extreme prediction about where in the future brand might be going at http://blog.outer-court.com/videos/epic-2015.html.