“As much as I love things in flux, I love them within a frame of reference—a consistent reassurance that at least and at last I am the one responsible for every detail. And that is why I love Design.” – Massimo Vignelli
In the last lines of his Canon, the late Massimo Vignelli throws the weight of Design onto the shoulders of all practicing designers. It’s not a profession to be taken lightly, and it bares a great responsibility that ultimately guides a company’s brand, public perception and design as a whole.
Updating styles and “looks” of companies isn’t a bad thing at all—it shows progress, innovation and forward momentum. But moving ahead too quickly—progress for the sake of progress—can have a negative long-term effect for your brand. Most of the time when companies move too quickly, it’s because they think in terms of “just design,” when really there is so much more to consider, and so much more depth to good design than this mentality indicates.
So where do you begin?
Messaging first. Like Vignelli, I too like things within a frame of reference. Always starting with messaging and then working out from there, the design of your brand should support your core brand message. Successful design is purposeful and has meaning behind it. It should capture the essence of your brand, including a sense of your unique value proposition and company values. Anyone with a computer can come up with something that on the surface looks “good enough” these days, but a thoughtful and planned approach will be the foundation of a successful brand.
Then focus on your “look.” One of the beautiful things about being a designer is understanding what makes a piece “work.” Most people can recognize good design from bad design, but very few can put their finger on exactly why a design is good or bad. This is where a trained designer has a unique perspective, and they will see adherence to the fundamental principles of design: Unity/Harmony, Balance, Hierarchy, Scale/Proportion, Dominance and Similarity. When these basic guidelines aren’t thoughtfully considered, the piece appears weak, unfinished and un-orderly.
Why does all of this matter for your brand?
You want to create and convey a message that who you are is greater than any individual element you create. This is the principle of gestalt: an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts. Your company identity, philosophy and passions (the organized whole) should be immediately perceived through every aspect of your brand (i.e. logo, color, fonts, campaigns—the parts).
A solid message illustrated through a focused and well-designed brand will last and stand out among the competition. Just remember that this is about defining a brand—it’s so much more than “just design.”