The tools of the graphic design trade have never been less expensive or more readily available than they are now. This proliferation of design tools has certainly led to an increase in low-cost options, but failure to recognize the shortcomings of these shortcuts has a cost in the long run.
Shortcuts in Branding
Do the Right Thing
Logos are among the most tangible artifacts graphic designers produce. Today, anyone with a computer and Internet access can create a kind of graphic identity—and many try. Thanks to clip art, online logo generators, and business models based on crowdsourcing, logos are abundant and, well, cheap.
On the surface, cheaply produced logos appeal to some organizations. A brand manager may feel great about getting away with a $99 (£64) logo, but would she feel just as good after applying that $99 (£64) logo to tens of thousands of dollars worth of magazine ads, delivery trucks, business cards, lobby signs, etc.? Is it something the organization wants to live with for the next decade? Moreover, does the logo accurately represent what the organization stands for?
Economics drives every decision to adopt a cheaply produced logo. The good news for identity program designers is that they also can benefit from new money-saving techniques.
Cost efficiency in program design results from proactively investigating program patterns and elements, and understanding how graphic identities should manifest themselves in application. Create artifacts worth having, but look for ways to reduce cost by planning ahead to avoid having to reinvent the wheel.
Based on volume alone, it would be easy to shortchange the budget of a graphic identity and spend more on various program elements. While it’s true that over time, organizations typically spend much more money on identity programs, the most cost-efficient programs are built from solid graphic identities. In fact, the motive for reinvention late in the production cycle is often due to a lack of depth in the initial graphic identity. Designers can help their clients save money over the long run by investing a little more up front.
Walk the Talk
Whether an organization invests up front in its graphic identity, or gets away with a cheap logo and carelessly slaps it on everything possible, a strong brand identity is hard to fake.
Brand identity taps into what an organization does, how it behaves, or who it is—or is trying to become. The graphic identity and identity program exist to enhance or describe the brand identity. They should all add up to a coherent whole. This takes work, practice, expertise, trial and error, and perseverance.
Everyone understands the importance of being frugal. Whether an investment is advisable or wasteful changes by audience or market. What remains constant is the need for organizations to have a sense of self as they make financial and operational decisions about their identity.
A company’s actions must match its words. If they don’t, every dollar spent to communicate its brand promise has been wasted.