They’re also frustrating and necessary.
Brand guidelines are the blueprint for corporate art. They provide the do’s and don’ts, and the desired application. Shared across company communications, the intention is to provide a united front on how the company brand goes to market. A graphic designer or team has developed an image to embody the values and identity of the company or organization. Guidelines typically include direction on typeface, size, colour, backgrounds and whitespace (the minimum space that surrounds the artwork). The rules of engagement typically read, if it doesn’t say you can, you can’t.
Art director and vice-president of operations, Julia Gagnon of Attraction Inc. knows all too well the balance of creative interpretation and corporate guidelines. A second-generation leader in the family owned company based in Lac-Drolet, Que., her team of fashion
designers regularly works to inspire new looks for corporate branding.
Examples of inspired branding by Fersten Worldwide, and how different looks across different products can still have brand coordination.
Despite the added value of professional design consultation, many corporate buyers shy away from the creative interpretations in favour
of the traditional, safe, left-chest logo location.
Asked if the decision making process was frustrating, Leung shared, “We aimed to disrupt branded corporate apparel with large impact locations, creative locations and multimedia. Sometimes it can be frustrating, because you feel that you have presented very viable ideas that look great, and you want to push the client to try something new! It’s much easier to guess how adventurous a client can be based on their industry and demographic.
Fun seems to be the operative word and the pivot point of consideration. Is the application meant to be fun? Or when this garment or product goes to market do we need to be communicating a more reserved message and let the brand stand alone, stark against a plain backdrop?
My challenge is that the traditional uniform look has little appeal outside of the workplace, and so the brand building opportunity is limited to an audience already familiar with the company culture. In order to expand the audience reach corporate teamwear must consider practical applications outside the workplace. This includes comfort, quality and branding.
Leung echoes my thoughts and offers an example from her own experience.
Branded clothing is an investment, and to get the best return you need to consider the audience and the outcome. There will always be budget restraint but like other opportunities you can maximize your results by spending smarter, not less. Gagnon recommends that an open conversation takes place before product selection to better achieve the desired result.
“Creating artwork for apparel is very different than any other type of goods. There are many different aspects to consider. For example, if your range of sizes starts at ladies’ extra small and goes up through men’s 4X-large, you may have to consider multiple design sizes, because the maximum screen print on the smaller sizes will look tiny and out of place on the larger garments. Costing is based on quantity and impacted by setup fees. To maximize a budget you need a design specialist to guide your decision-making.”
With guidance from my professional consultants, my conclusion then is that brand guidelines do choke creative interpretation and prevent more fashionable brand presentations, but the impact of a decorative finish on engaging an audience runs third place to the impact of a favorable fabric and fit.
Attraction Inc. employs designers with fashion and retail background experience to better deliver corporate branded merchandise with a first-class, retail ready quality and presentation.
Trimark imagineers like Jessica have a growing reputation for using mixed media - a combination of different decoration techniques - to achieve inspiring fashion designs that communicate branding messages.
When asked about the challenge of convincing brand keepers of stepping outside the brand guidelines, getting away from uniform presentation in favour of retail-inspired fashion, Gagnon answers with a smile and a laugh of experience.
In Richmond Hill, Ont., graphic designer and imagineer Jessica Leung shares a similar story. For the betterpart of the past decade PCNA-Trimark Sportswear has provided clients with illustrative storyboards to inspire the imagination of purchasing teams seeking new-look corporate wear.
This creative insight and expertise is a great tool for those less-creative when it comes to design, and less familiar with the many options of multi-media branding. The storyboard presentations often include unique logo layouts and feature mixed-media designs where different techniques are layered to form a brilliant result.