Opinionover 2 years ago

People don’t read traditional Brand Guidelines. So let’s stop being traditional…

Traditional guidelines are a miserable exercise in negativity, restrictions and pedantic horrors, argues SomeOne co-founder, Simon Manchipp… but, something needs to help steer the course for new brand work… so what to do about it?

I wrote this on LinkedIn last week…

‘Brand Guidelines’ of old were a 100 page pdf that cost a fortune, and no one read.

They are not fit for purpose any more.

Business moves too fast and involves too many channels to be effectively managed by a document better at justifying fees than helping make change pay…

Over 7,500 views later, it seems to have really struck a nerve in the industry.

Half of the designers I’ve spoken to appear to be clinging onto accepted comfy practices of the past… (designers love an excuse to design something ‘permanent’). The other half applaud a move to a more dynamic, fine-grained and data-sensitive approach to help steer new brand thinking.

Why would anyone — outside of those paid to create them — actually WANT to read a 200 page set of rules?

The ancient adage of ‘no one likes other peoples kids’ comes to mind here. I really can’t imagine many things that would be as unpleasant than an afternoon trawling through other peoples brand guidelines. Although spending it with a cluster of other people’s particularly unpleasant children could be up there.

The elephant in this particular room is the fact that traditional brand guideline documents are rarely read by the anyone. Particularly the people that pay for them and even more so the audiences that these things have been designed to help.

These ‘Bibles of ‘No’’ are relics of a branding past that circled the holy trinity of logo/typeface/colour.

In fact, so few people bother to commit more than a cursory glance at them a new career was born known as ‘Brand Manager’. The lamentable siege of instructions telling readers DO NOT DO THIS — and ALWAY AVOID — not forgetting BE CAREFUL OF — was never going to be a fun read.

Unsurprisingly the costly follies did not last long before they were silently slid into a bookcase to forever collect dust and knowing nods from passing designers. These ‘Bibles of ‘No’’ are relics of a branding past that circled the holy trinity of logo/typeface/colour.

Today’s more nuanced multi-channel brands are still regularly let down by a speedily published 200 page PDF at the end of a project in danger of going over budget. These PDFs should be accompanied by a black armband and announced as dead on arrival. They are next to useless.


‘Not even Brand Geeks like me want to read volumes of War and Peace. Give me a brand world, operating system, brand framework or whatever we want to call it that enables creativity rather than just compliance.’
Dan Dufour, Brand Strategy Director
Design Week — February 12, 2018

‘Version control’ is the new digital phrase for ‘trying to keep track of all the bits’ involved in a contemporary commercial branding scheme. Separate PDFs carrying a collection of parts, quickly become unmanageable within a couple of updates. Things need to be easier and more harmonious.

[Traditional Brand Guidelines]…are bloody expensive, and after they have been thumbed through… will be tucked away on the Vitsoe 606 Universal Shelving System to gather dust.

The idea of a bunker proof identity is long gone. No designer worth his or her salt would want to be handcuffed to someone else’s creation. Fine if they are for use by an in-house company studio, but the replication of the same old, same old becomes depressingly dull.

Corporate identities (or brand manuals if you must) always need to have elbow room built into the mix to keep creative innovation alive.

Mike DempseyDesign Week — February 6, 2018

At SomeOne we use cloud hosted guidelines called Cloudlines for brands big and small.

Being digital, there’s data-a-plenty to help brand managers see what’s being done where and by whom. That’s where we learn what the audiences are actually looking at, live-as-it-happen, and what they’d rather rapidly relegate.

This should be the norm, not a welcome difference.
Then as a creative sector, we’ll help others make the most of the business of contemporary change.