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Heading, explanatory copy and visual, in that order, is a good approach to explaining graphic standards.
Since the complicated exhibits require explanation, it made sense to place headings and text first. With very succinct and understandable copy from the client read beforehand, these illustrations are far easier to absorb. This 24 page manual is the redesigned version of an effort that was used for many years. It must be able to stand on its own because the asociation for which it was done is quite large. Therefore, many who use it won't have easy access to its creators.
Early in its growth, when such an organization has just begun, such a manual might be far more modest. So long as its design principles are sound, however, just three or four well-conceived pages are sufficient to get the brand's identity off to a good start.
As necessary, graphic standard guidelines should be adjusted by those in a position to see the big picture.
Despite all the good sense and practices that a graphic standards manual furthers, sometimes there are rare exceptions to the rules that just happen. They seem to emerge out of the most innocent and well intended endeavors. In this case, Amtrak developed a newsletter for its employees called AmtrakInk. According to the original graphic standards, the masthead design was quite right in not using Amtrak's logo because of the intruding "Ink" element. The manual forbade it to be in close proximity to the Amtrak logo. So, the masthead design avoided the Amtrak look altogether, only using the corporate logo as a small subsidiary identifier.
The problem came from seeing the name "Amtrak" spelled out in another typeface. It looked wrong. The Amtrak logo is simply too strong and identifiable to be palatable in a different style.
Nevertheless, the AmtrakInk design endured for long enough to brand itself into the audience's mind. So when viewers accustomed to both looks thought "Amtrak", what they remembered was a confused double image of both designs rather than two distinctively different entities.
Before making a final recommendation, I too got caught up in designing mastheads that conformed perfectly to the written graphic standards. Hopfully, I thought, something unexpected would happen during the exercise that would solve the problem. While they were clean and fresh, as the first design had been, and fulfilled that fleeting desire we all have to see our logo designed differently, they just did not look right. Finally, it had become clear that any design which didn't use the original Amtrak logo would dilute recognition. If both the newsletter's name and the Amtrak brand were to prevail, they had to do it in the same masthead, thus becoming a necessary exception to the corporate identification guidelines. Something had to be sacrificed. Should it be AmtrakInk's name recognition built to date? One opinion was to cut losses and change the newsletter's name. Because the publication is for Amtrak's employees, it follows that such a captive audience would grasp the adjustment fairly quickly. Another still advocated that both the standards and the name should be preserved by keeping the original masthead design in tact.Then there was the feeling that strict adherence to graphic standard guidelines needed to be relaxed in this instance. In such a situation, only top management could make the final call.
Memorability, once built, is very difficult to chuck out the window. Especially for responsible senior marketing executives who know how very time consuming and costly it is to build. My last design which infused the Amtrak logo into the Amtrak Ink masthead while depicting a writing pen made from the familiar stripes was finally chosen to be used. Not only did this decision allow Amtrak Ink to retain its name value, it also served to further Amtrak's brand on another publication. A defensible rationale that will stand the test of time, we all concurred, for the infraction of adding a little "Ink" to the Amtrak name.
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