Launching a new or updated identity is exciting for any company. It can also be complex, especially for large companies with many communications tactics.
Guidelines are an integral part of launching an identity because they help to ensure that key players, both internal and external, are implementing the identity correctly and consistently. But when exactly is the best time to create guidelines? The answer is two-fold: not too soon, and definitely not too late.
It is nearly impossible to create effective guidelines before substantial thought has been given to how the identity will be treated over multiple communications tactics. The best thing to do is to plan early for guidelines to be a part of your identity project. Then work with your design studio to identify key elements of the identity system to be included in the concept phase of the project. These elements often include a logo, stationery, literature, advertising, signage and the look and feel of your website. The elements will vary depending on what is most relevant to your type of business.
It is often thought that once a concept is chosen, the identity is ready to roll and guidelines can be created. On the contrary, it is at this time that at least some of the communication tactics should be refined and developed to the point of completion. This will enable the design studio to properly work through the design strategy over a variety of communications vehicles, ensuring cohesion amongst them. Once the pieces have been refined and developed, guidelines can be created to ensure consistent implementation of the identity over additional communication tactics.
Attempting to develop guidelines too soon in the process may result in the need to revise the guidelines after they have been distributed to key players. Redistributing guidelines can be very difficult and often results in confusion and incorrect implementation of the identity.
In this day and age, the reality is that businesses usually have to move at the speed of light to react to changes within the company or within the market. It can be tempting to start launching a new identity before guidelines have been created. Perhaps there is an immediate need for stationery because the supplies are low. Or perhaps an upcoming trade show would be a perfect opportunity to distribute a new informational brochure. Maybe there is an ad deadline approaching and it would be great to run an ad with the new “look.” There are probably a million reasons why it would be tempting or seemingly necessary to involve multiple players in the implementation of a new identity before guidelines have been created, but there is only one reason why you shouldn’t — failure.
If projects are handed over to key players before a comprehensive, well-conceived set of guidelines has been developed, too much will be left open to personal interpretation, and the result inconsistencies may lead to a weakened brand presence. After investing time and money in a new or updated identity, the last thing you want to do is hinder its impact right out of the gate.
If you’re considering a new identity, plan to include guidelines from the very beginning. The best time to create guidelines will differ a little bit for every company depending on specific needs and time constraints. The best thing to do is to work with your design studio to determine an appropriate launch plan for your identity and the guidelines which will most definitely help ensure a successful implementation.
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