Tip: Consistency

Consistency: conformity with other or earlier attitudes, practices, etc.

Being consistent in whatever face you’re putting out to the world doesn’t mean you’ll be boring… unless that’s the face you’re aiming to put out there.

What it does mean is that all your materials will feel the same. This includes the look of your logo, the colours on your sign out front, the paper you print your business card on, your ads in the local newspaper, your customer service, down to the way you shake hands.

If you’re inconsistent, your customer never knows what they’ll get.

Consistency is more than just using the same colours and fonts in your design. It needs to reverberate throughout the company. (However, we’ll start with the design, seeing as that’s my area of expertise!)

If you’re going for a casual, funky feeling, then lots of different colours or variations otherwise are fine. If you’re going for a dependable, there-when-you’re-needed feel, then too many colours or styles is confusing and counter to your purpose!

The industry term for the feel of your company is “brand”. And the most important thing in branding is to be consistent in your use of colours, fonts, layouts, style, and voice.

Once you’re consistent, then you can worry about appropriateness of your colours, fonts, layouts, style, and voice. If you have a nice logo, clean layouts, nice fonts, and good meaningful colours, but you don’t use the same ones on your letterhead, website, business card, user guides, posters, etc., then it will still look bad (especially if you don’t use the same ones within a piece!). But it is possible to NOT have a logo, while keeping nice fonts, colours, and a similar layout throughout all your pieces, and the lack of logo doesn’t matter so much.

Here are a few steps to start you on a brand assessment:

  1. Take stock of the brand pieces you’re releasing. Start with the physical design pieces like business cards, packaging, signage, posters, brochures, ads, etc.
  2. Make a list of the fonts, colours, and logo placement on each piece.
  3. Consider: Are they similar for all the pieces?

    If the answer is no, then it might be time to reign in your brand! Reduce the colours and fonts, start to develop guidelines for where to put your logo and what type of lines to use.

  4. Look at each piece as if you were a customer: what feeling do you get from it? (Sometimes it helps to ask actual customers!)
  5. Consider: Do they feel like your company?

Remember: consistency is more important than attractiveness (unless it’s consistently hideous).

Even if your design is less than perfect, “brand unity” (tying in elements from all your media (website, logo, business cards, brochures, etc.), using the same fonts and colours, and embracing repetition) is a great place to start. Have you seen any inconsistent branding lately? Share it with me!

Tip: Function over Form

One of the most difficult parts of my job as a designer is balancing my tendency to make pretty, useless things with the need to actually communicate my client’s message.

I love decorating my spaces with attractive things. My electronics all have beautiful skins or cases (most from nuvango.com), my walls are covered with art (any more and it would become unattractively cluttered!), my ears and hands and neck often display lovely jewellery (usually unmatched pairs, because life is short!)… that’s right: my ears, hands, and neck are “spaces”. And when I make a design, sometimes I have to pull back on the pretty, so that the message comes out clear.

So if you spend money on a designer, try to find one who will make their functional pieces attractive, but if you have to choose one over the other, function is more important.

Choose function over beauty, folks. This applies to all kinds of things! Life partners, books, houses, kitchens, cars… I mean, if your car runs smoothly, but looks like a piece of junk, you’re better off than all those people out there whose cars look fine, but are actual pieces of junk inside!

Have you run into any design piece that didn’t get its message across because it was too busy being pretty? Have you had the misfortune of beautiful design that hasn’t got any results? Give me a call!