It is not until an example of poor design management rears its head that its key role in a successful campaign becomes truly apparent. Many would argue that the 2012 Olympic Games logo is a prime example. This is a key visual manifestation of the most important sporting event ever to hit the UK, yet it was villified for being neither striking nor exciting; neither inspiring nor motivating. So rather than enhancing the marketing of London 2012, it could be a hindrance.
As Pete Camponi, creative director at Leeds-based agency Gratterpalm, points out: “The London 2012 logo appears to be the product of too much input from too many parties, and as such it is weak and has been roundly condemned.”
Lack of cohesion
The telecoms sector throws up another, rather surprising, example of a lack of overall design cohesion. Orange stands out due to its lack of consistency – more so because this was not always the case. Recently, some of its campaigns have even strayed away from the brand colour. “Orange has faltered as it has lunged from one creative campaign and design look to another,” says Kate Waddell, practice director of consumer brands at Dragon Brands.
“In the retail and telecoms sectors, where the approach is multichannel, it is important to have someone in charge of visual identity and brand equity,” says JKR chief executive Andrew Knowles. “Better still if this is someone high up in the company, who can then instruct external agencies. Even if the person taking on the role is not senior, companies that use design well have someone with an appreciation of the importance of visual identity and brand equity. Good design management has become critical today, where competition is fierce, commoditisation is rife and media fragmentation is a fact of life. Differentiation through design is vital to avoid simply becoming another face in the crowd.”
Camponi agrees, adding: “Ultimately, consistency helps build trust in the market, which is what every brand is looking for today.”
Managing the design process is usually the role of the creative director, who is increasingly becoming a brand guardian. This is particularly so from an agency perspective, where changes within the client company can result in a shift in tactics and ideas that must still reflect the core corporate and/or brand values. In many cases, the agency ensures such consistency across different regimes.
The need to have a strong design advocate at the helm can be seen through JKR’s work with cosmetics company Molton Brown.
“We have worked with Molton Brown on its visual identity and brand equity, which has helped create a very successful luxury cosmetics business in a relatively short period of time,” explains Knowles. “A key element in this success is Dale Daxon Bowers, Molton Brown’s creative director. Her huge influence has been critical in building the Molten Brown brand.”
Dragon Brands’ Waddell adds: “When you create a sound base and clear identity you have a firm foundation to branch out into new areas, taking your consumers with you on the journey.
“Many of the travel brands have much to learn, especially in their print and retail operations, but they are fast improving,” she adds. “BA manages to preserve a strong identity, as does Virgin, but this is often let down overseas.”
Virgin’s visions and values have arguably made it one of the world’s strongest brands, and this has been manifest through its striking logo and livery, which has been successfully rolled out across several product markets, most recently the media sector. The fragmentation of media is making it increasingly important to take a cohesive, co-ordinated and consistent approach to visual identities as organisations like the BBC straggle a number of channels of delivery from terrestrial and digital TV to the internet.
A cohesive and consistent approach to design is key to presenting the right face of a company to its audience, and when this is also complemented by the message that’s being put across, the overall impact is stronger. But this has to be achieved without compromising creativity, and therein lies the true dilemma of the creative director.
“My role in design management is to brief the creatives in such a way as to achieve consistency and cohesion without sacrificing creativity,” sums up Gratterpalm’s Camponi. “This combination of consistency of visual identity and brand equity, backed by creativity, is the most crucial yet challenging element of design management. It’s all about distilling the brand essence and working with the brand guidelines and the brief to deliver consistency across media.”