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Top Tips for Corporate Identity Guidelines

CI Guidelines header

Working with global corporates means we’re often supplied with their Corporate Identity (CI) guidelines to use to create new assets. Having been around the block with various CI’s for over a decade, the importance of the detail in a CI cannot be under-stated.  And we’re not just talking about how to use or, more importantly, not use the logo.  The devil is in the detail.  Having recently been appointed to take over custodianship of the Vector Logistics CI, we’re putting our lessons learnt into practice and thought we’d share them with you too.

Vector is the logistics arm of RCL FOODS.  The new CI was created to show the connection between the holding company, RCL FOODS, and Vector Logistics, requiring integration of the new RCL FOODS colour palette and adjustments to the Vector logo.

Through inheriting and applying updates to the CI we’ve noted how important it is to have comprehensive guidelines in place for any brand, big or small, to ensure consistency in application especially where multiple agencies such as interior decorators, printers, promotional clothing or agencies are in the mix.

Here’s our top tips for creating a bullet proof CI:

  • First, a caveat: A CI can only be as good as the design elements it’s referencing, to be fair.  So, if you’re creating the identity from scratch with an agency, keep the logo simple and don’t over complicate the identity with too many design elements.
  • Establishing correct logo use is paramount for consistency of your brand rollout and representation. Our tip:  use units of measurement taken from elements within the logo to show the correct usage.  Below is an example:  the ‘A’ from ‘ACCOUNTANTS’ is used as a unit of measurement to show the correct spacing between the letter mark and text. The same unit is used to show the white space that needs to surround the logo when applied.

Logo use 1

The more complicated your logo the more guidelines you’re going to have to include
around it’s correct application.  If your logo is flexible, for example it can be in landscape or portrait orientation, you’re going to have to show, with examples, how and when to apply each.  Static logos are therefore far better for consistency.

  • Fonts: remember to include your specified font and pair it with a web safe font as well.  Web safe fonts are fonts that all PC users will have installed such as Arial, Verdana or Century Gothic.  This means when templates are created the web safe font should be used to ensure consistency by all recipients of your communication.  If you use a purchased font in an editable format that your audience doesn’t have installed, their PC will automatically substitute it for one similar and the result will mean your identity is inconsistent.

If your agency purchases a font and specifies that this be used for the identity, they need to provide a link for other agencies to purchase the same font from. Proper licensing is important as well as consistency of the font.  If a purchase link to an official site isn’t provided, your third parties using the elements will scratch around the web trying to find the font, usually for free, or a similar substitute.

 

  • Photography – we recommend sticking with full colour or black and white but not mixing the two.

 

  • If you’re applying a gradient over a photograph or as a design element, you need to show agencies exactly how it should be applied for example:

Gradient

 

  • Limit design elements. In our UniVoice identity we used:
    • One colour palette
    • One font for titles and the company’s default fonts with it
    • Circles
    • Colour photographs
    • A defined set of iconsCI

If we had included various other design elements such as patterns it would have made the identity far more complex to both explain and for users to roll out.  Our other top tip is to have templates created for any identity created to make it as easy as possible for non-designers to apply.

  • Stationery tip: CI documents always include the application for stationery.  A particular element we’re often asked to fix is email signatures.  Again, keep it simple applies.  Email signatures need to have the logo as an image and all other text should be plain text i.e.  not an image.  The images need to be in the correct format for email too and high resolution enough that they retain their clarity when viewed on laptops that often automatically are set to 125 or 150% zoom.
  • While we don’t want everyone to be overwhelmed by the length of a CI, don’t be scared to create one that is a bit lengthy – 20 to 30 pages is not uncommon. Remember that your CI Guidelines document is what we call your Brand Bible.  It should be the single source of truth for your Corporate Identity providing enough detail and examples of usage/application to enable all parties involved with the marketing and delivery of your brand to get it right first time.

Ultimately there is a heavy price to pay later on when branding is applied incorrectly and needs to be redone or your brand is misrepresented if you don’t invest in robust CI Guidelines at the start.

Last, but not least, please create your CI Guidelines first BEFORE the brand is rolled out.  Work with your agency to develop the right logo and elements, give them the time to create a CI Guidelines document that tries to cover most examples of it’s application, and then go forth and brand!