Technology has always created game changing effects on infrastructure, processes, culture, and business models. What we are currently witnessing plays an existential role for a brand and compels leaders to start rethinking their strategy. But it seems that design and brand become an afterthought in the future success of a business. Here is what I think about it.
Since speed to market and the complex diversity of brand experience continue to be a growing challenge it is critical for brand teams to provide a common understanding, alignment, and guidance to all who work with the brand. All of us know this and it is by no means a new topic – guidelines are key. But steering a brand in the 21st century is an ongoing process.
The decades of MetaDesign’s experience has given us several insights in how to launch living style guides. So, to help you get your style guide off the ground here are a few insights we have collected for you.
1. IT infrastructure
The understanding of the digital infrastructure is truly a deal breaker. We have been involved in many conversations with brand managers who have a superficial understanding of which digital infrastructure is being used internally and which technology will affect the customers’ experience. It is imperative to understand digital experiences, processes and the complex IT landscape, so they can create clear guidance throughout the organization. If you are looking to enable your teams all over the world rather than policing them, you have to know the implications of what tools or what corporate IT standards are set. And this has to happen upfront.
2. Cultural shift
Often overlooked is the complete organization shift that comes along with this process. Implementing overarching brand steering is a change that needs to happen on all levels. The lack of wide acceptance, the walls between departments won’t come down. Resulting in the hindrance of the possible success of your living style guide. Ultimately, lack of continuity will appear in the experiences your customers will have. Thus, leading them to uncertainty and impatience with your brand. This is no longer a corporate design topic, this is a company-wide involvement that needs to happen early and often.
3. Product ownership
A main requirement for these projects is a true product responsibility. This entails a holistic thinking about this platform and a continued understanding for all your stakeholders and users is needed. Before you decide if you need an off-the-shelf solution and build your platform from scratch you have to know your user. Start by understanding the process landscape, then interview stakeholders to see what they need and wish for. Knowing your core user needs helps to define the relevant tools to empower and improve efficiency. This is a digital service, so build it like one. Pushing particular topics to someone else’s desk will stall the project.
4. Set principles
As with all guidelines, strong principles need to be set before you start designing any artifact. These of course have to be aligned with your brand and design strategy. Your teams need to know and understand the role design plays in your organization. What is the long-term vision and innovations which are needed to be taken into consideration. The definition of your design principles need to be derived from our business, brand, and end-customer’s needs. This foundation will support the building of a sound design system that really adds to your brand’s bottom-line.
5. Unique style
Style over trend … I couldn’t agree more on this point. It is important not to forget digital is always in beta, so continuous designing of your brand’s unique style that springs out of your overall corporate design is needed. Building a special digital style starts small and ends with beautiful and functional digital products and services. If there is a chance to combine the complete branding, I would do so. Nevertheless, to implement a design system and pattern library improves turn-around time and reduces cost.
These points are just a few but the most important of the key factors that need to be taken into consideration when going about creating a living style guide for your brand.
_Steven Cook is Head of User Experience at MetaDesign Berlin.