The word ‘Guidelines’ is in fashion, but implies flexibility. I prefer ‘Standards.’ The appearance and exposure of the corporate brand must be constant. In even the most entrepreneurial corporate culture where “all permissions are granted unless expressly denied,” identity must be the great exception, in which all permissions are denied unless expressly granted. Otherwise, chaos will rule.
Edward Tufte says this well: “If there is a well thought-out design standard, it should be followed. In practice, great design comes from great designers. That is empirically the case. If a great designer did a first-rate standard, that model should be followed. Great design is not democratic; it comes from great designers. If the standard is lousy, then develop another standard.” http://www.edwardtufte.com
Until 2000 or so, the best manuals were beautifully designed books, expensively produced to support their quality message and policy importance. Today, print is more often used for a beautiful “voice” brochure that promotes the corporate brand’s visual impact to its employees while the heavy lifting, the nitty-gritty details and application templates, are on a web site. This solves the problems of aging manuals, their high cost and their rapidly declining respect and observance.
The experienced designer Jerry Kuyper adds these thoughts on “a few qualities I try to achieve in identity standards:”
Focus on why it is important and what the company is trying to achieve, not just how to do it.
Demonstrations are often more effective than lengthy text.
Develop content that is engaging and avoid unnecessary jargon.
20 pages of useful information may be more effective than 50 pages.
Don’t include filler, such as unnecessary information on how to create a business card, when templates are more effective.
Understand who will be using the standards and don’t insult their intelligence.
Identify the appropriate balance between structure and flexibility. Too much flexibility results in complete chaos, too much structure results in lifeless communications.
For interim standards, create pdf files that can viewed online, emailed or downloaded and printed
the standards can eventually be established as an online identity resource.
Most printed sets of guidelines are expensive, become outdated and out of print. (GE printed up 2,000 copies of their 400 page standards in 1987, none were available after the first year)
Digital files that can be expanded or revised help to establish that identity management isn’t a static or one time event.