Earlier in the week an article by Ben Terrett titled Data, Branding, Web Design, Pouring Acid Into My Eyeballs and What Graphic Design Is For peaked my interest and I wrote something about it. Ben suggested that data is pushing back at design in a way that makes us revisit the real reason for graphic design – to make complicated information easily understandable to others. As opposed to simply creating pretty pictures.
Equally as interesting… An article by Michael Johnson titled All Change, linked to from Ben’s article, puts forward an overview of flexible identity schemes. In other words, for some clued in companies the logo isn’t just a static identity scheme anymore but has become something that can be reshaped and played with while retaining its branding impact. Examples are Target, Google and ABC 2. The Target logo (red and white circles) comes in various states including the red circled eye of a white dog and a man holding a red hose reel. In each case the brand identity is retained without being stuck in the rigidity of a single stoic emblem. This newer paradigm is fun, flexible and, more importantly from the organisational perspective, it offers a great opportunity to make that emotional connection with the customer or client.
I wonder if we need to temporarily put aside our talk of brand, strategy and execution, and consider our power to influence emotion. This is what we’re doing when we get people to stop and admire a wine label, laugh at a magazine ad, slow down to observe a billboard or put a promotional poster up on the office wall.Eric Karjaluoto
This is where, in my view, the flexible identity schemes really come into their own. Target really has more than a logo. At least more than a static organisational icon representative of the essence of their identity. What they’ve achieved, although I’d never put it into linear thought myself until this week, is the conduit for tapping into people’s emotions. It works for a hundred psychological reasons that make us human beings.
Recently I’ve been inspired by several interviews with Chip Kidd that I’ve listened to – one on Design Matters with Debbie Millman from 2006 (yes Voice of America), another from Design Matters from January 2008 (not quite so interesting but still entertaining), and another interview on graphic design from earlier this week on Poppy Talk. If you don’t know what Chip Kidd does then listen to the interviews… he designs book covers.
Book cover design is interesting when you think about it. When you go into a bookstore you don’t know what’s inside a book at all but you constantly make emotional connnections with book covers. At least that’s how I work. The book cover makes me pick it up and find out what’s inside. The cover isn’t just a pretty picture either and in most cases I haven’t heard any marketing hype to lead me into that emotional relationship. This is what Chip Kidd does well.
Which brings me back to the flexible identity schemes discussed by Michael Johnson. That’s where they have the potential power to outstrip the static logo. The flexible identity scheme allows for constantly changing frequencies to be broadcast on that same communication channel. I always loved this strategy but didn’t know how to express it succinctly. And savvy organisations, even smaller ones, should be looking at how to achieve the same effect.