If you’ve taken our advice on getting started with your annual report (even though you just finished), great job, you’ve given yourself some time to think strategically and thus be more active about your report for next year.
This week we’re helping you get into the strategic mindset by sharing some posts about our method and how it guides people through their project with ease and purpose.
Intention and intuition are vital values here at Union Design, so it should be no surprise that this is where our process is rooted. Design, like a business, is art and science. The highest goal is finding the intersection between form and function, continually assessing our efforts against our goals.
Becuase we want to see our efforts pay off, we have to get to the core of the problem we’re trying to solve. The dialogue starts there, what’s the specific problem? What are the tangible solutions that we can move forward right now?
Rooting our progress in our values is where the strategic magic happens. Next, we explore the depth and breadth of the project, taking what we understand about the specific problem we’re solving, and then aiming to understand the people we’re trying to help.
After digging deep to get a fresh perspective, we take a look at what already exists and evaluate it in an audit. Once an audit is complete, we move forward with the current project with our strategy, goals, and audience all in mind.
We’re always happy to talk with people during their planning process, the sooner a designer can get involved in the process, the more thorough their understanding of the project is, and the better the final product will be.
The purpose of SMS Conferences is to “convene and conduct meetings and conferences for the professionals in the field of strategic management”, to do this they host yearly conferences in a multitude of locations.
Each conference is unique and because of that, each must stand on their own as a recognizable experience. But, they also need to fit into the context of the larger organization. Over the years we’ve collaborated to create logos that are unique to each conference but still communicate the larger brand.
Many large organizations deal with this tension of needing their programs to be recognizable but also reflect the larger organization.
Other situations where this might be necessary are a university setting where individual departments have missions and goals to express but need to be consistent with the larger university branding.
You can also think of this like that family photo your grandma made you take where she demands you wear white shirts and khakis so that you all, “look nice.”
In the case of SMS, the conference logos maintain consistency with a few key elements and then vary in fonts, color schemes. The standards we’ve created that every logo conforms to are using the same shape, a recognizable architectural element from the place the conference will be held, and a consistent illustration style. Each conference also gets a style guide with the colors, font and when to avoid using the logo to keep the branding consistent with all other materials. The conference materials also have the same format year to year, but get updated with the new colors and illustration.
Below are some favorite logos!
No, we’re not talking about a police state or identity theft.
An Identity Czar, also known as the Identity Police or the Branding Guru is the go-to person in your organization who can assess whether any communications material conforms to the brand standards. The Identity Czar is, essentially, the keeper of the brand.
Brands can deteriorate over time if they are not maintained. Just like a mission can drift, so can a brand. It may seem refreshing to send out a fundraising appeal that departs from the brand standards. But too many variations add up to a fractured identity, and a confusing client or donor experience. If nobody is keeping an eye on the message and tone of the materials you send out, it becomes difficult to be unified.
The role of the Identity Czar is to ensure that the brand is accurately represented across mediums. This is especially critical in situations where an outside design firm develops the brand and the organization employs freelancers for ongoing work. An Identity Guide is an excellent reference, but it can’t cover every possible branding circumstance. This is why it is so helpful to have a single person in charge of interpreting the Guide.
This person doesn’t have to be a designer. She also doesn’t need to be called the Identity Czar. (Branding Ninja, anyone?) Often, the Director of Marketing, Communications or Development takes this role. Sometimes it is the Executive Director. Anyone who participated in the branding process and is familiar with the intimate details such as tone, message and persona can do this job. If you’re working with an outside design firm, they can teach you to learn what to look for.
Giving one person this responsibility makes it easier to keep an eye on the variety of materials being produced. It is important that the person is officially appointed so that their role is not questioned. The Czar is not creating the brand. The Czar’s role is simply to enforce what the entire communications team has already agreed upon.
After investing time and money into developing your organization’s brand, appointing a brand czar will help maintain the consistency (and therefore trust) that you’ve put so much work into developing.
*The Union Method*
Uniting strategy and visuals to create the impact you need.
What happens in the mind of a “creative” person is always mysterious to a “non-creative” person. It’s true that intuition is a powerful tool for creativity, but it’s also true that intuition is born from experience. Creative work is work — it takes practice, discipline, thoughtfulness, and skill.
While creating something that is visually pleasing is always an important part of what I do, something that is only visually pleasing, that doesn’t rely on any strategic intentions, is worthless. Getting to the goals, intentions, and strategy is the foundation of the Union Method — the process every client and every project go through to make the most effective design possible.
What’s valuable about having a repeatable method is that it’s strategic in and of itself. The Union Method is designed to be flexible enough to work on different types of projects, but concrete enough to get the results needed in different situations. It’s both intuitive and intentional, so clients can trust that the work we’re doing is effective, without needing to micromanage every aspect of the creative process.