Brand Identity is All About Consistency in Design

August 12, 2018
By John Hawley
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Consistency is Key

No successful brand thrives without the use of consistency in design. Design consistency is one of the main pillars of recognition for brand identity. From visual design to user experience, consistency as a best practice is no big secret. However, it often gets overlooked. Every element of your brand’s design aesthetic should look like it belongs together. Each piece compliments the other, so that information is balanced and easily consumed.

Consistency builds trust

When you’re getting to know someone, you start to form opinions based on your interactions. If they dressed in a three-piece suit one day, a punk rocker the next, and finally a race car driver… You might have a hard time figuring out who that person is, or what they represent. Sure, this person might pique your curiosity. But would you be comfortable doing business with them, or having them be the face of your business?

People are creatures of habit. We find comfort in things we find familiar. When we’re familiar with something, we innately trust it more.

Naturally, this concept applies to design as well.

Established brand identities know the magic of consistency and are diligent when enforcing the rules. Anyone who’s ever worked in a creative position has received branding guidelines from their clients. This document is a brand’s style guide. It outlines what you can and can’t do with any of their brand elements such as, logo, color palette, font, etc. The goal is to keep everyone in lock-step to maintain a consistent identity throughout their online and offline identity.

Consistency doesn’t keep you guessing

You’ll know a Coca-Cola product or company asset the instant you see it, even if it’s not spelled out. All you need to see is the iconic red color and the outline of a bottle and you make the connection with Coke. It may even evoke some memory you’ve had with the product, mixing Coke’s brand story with your history.

That’s powerful!

You know it’s fall when the pumpkin lattes are flowing and when Coke starts rolling out the cans with the Polar Bears. That’s the power of consistency for a brand identity!

They’ve made a consistent impression on you so many times that you know everything about their products without the need to see them. You recognize the “building blocks”. The core foundation of their brand and design. So when they release something new, you already understand who it’s coming from.

It’s dependable, trustworthy and comfortable.

Brand identity is one of our specialties at Mighty Fine Design Co.

Consistency builds recognition

Brand recognition is a powerful asset, as you can see from Coca-Cola’s example. However, what happens when you change the design of your product incorrectly?

Look no further than one of the most important lessons in the entire history of graphic design. In 2009, juice-selling giant Tropicana went through a significant brand redesign.

This mistake cost the company over $137,000,000 on an estimate and a staggering 20% decrease in sales for their product Tropicana Pure Premium.

A mistake worth millions…

It was the result of breaking with consistency. With Tropicana’s botched redesign, the company lost the recognition it had built. All by cutting what was iconic to their product and their brand.

Tropicana’s signature visual element on its packaging is a fresh orange with a straw poked into it. This design was how people knew Tropicana for decades. It’s no exaggeration to say that replacing that orange quite literally cost Tropicana millions of dollars in losses.

Tropicana's brand, before and after. This shows the change of the iconic orange to a new brand which ended up costing them millions.
You can see the difference between the original box and the redesign. The reasoning behind the redesign came from good intentions. However, they faced an immediate backlash from customers.

To make matters worse, they made a big mistake in their redesign. As you can see above, they completely redesigned every aspect of their brand identity at once. You can see why this might be harmful to an established Fortune 500 company. All of the brand equity they had built up over the years was overlooked. Within a few months, Tropicana had reverted to its original design.

A business makeover can be a good thing

As with most things, there are exceptions to the rule.

You can absolutely improve and add value when a complete redesign takes place. However, it should usually be as a refresh of existing brand material, without throwing away any existing brand equity.

Sometimes, a total re-imagining for brands not doing well can be used strategically to bring you back into the game. As seen in the case of Herbal Essences in 2013, they adopted aspects of their older design in the ’90s to appeal to a newer demographic.

Lastly, when a company hasn’t had the chance to develop a strong, established brand, a total redesign is a blessing to help them get on track to represent their values accurately.

A rule of thumb is if there are no brand guidelines, then there probably hasn’t been an opportunity to realize one’s brand or identity fully. Our team has successfully assisted organizations by creating new identities and helping some with a brand refresh.

So, how do we define consistency?

Consistency in design refers to maintaining the alignment of values and visuals developed by your brand identity. It’s about making sure that when the users interact with your brand and its design multiple times, they intuitively and unmistakably understand that it represents you.

In a survey of over 200 organizations ranging from B2B and B2C. Lucidpress, in partnership with Demand Metric, found powerful statistics on the impact of brand consistency. What they found is that delivering a consistent brand presentation increased revenue on average by a whopping 23% across the board.

Let’s touch on a few key factors.

branding identity key pillars: consistency in design is comfortable and credible.
Comfort and credibility play hand-in-hand with consistency. When our expectations are met, we feel comfortable and thus perceive brands as more credible.

Consistency is comfortable

Consistency is about making the end-user comfortable about choosing you. Over and over again. Take your favorite restaurant, for instance. When you go there for a meal, you know what to expect. That’s why you keep coming back. Consistently. The same is true for your brand and your design.

Put simply, your customers and clients want to know what to expect out of you.

Especially when it involves their money changing hands.

They want to feel comfortable knowing that they will be delivered an experience or product that’s worth the investment. And that all starts with perception, as we’ve discussed before. We’re talking about the first impression you make on them. When you’re an unknown, new customers won’t know right off the bat if you’re worth their money.

So, they investigate.

When they do, you want to make sure your brand is presented as clearly and consistently as possible.

branding identity key pillars: consistency in design is invisible and efficient.
Consistency helps keep things invisible and efficient. That is to say, brand consistency keeps things unintrusive for the end-user and promotes a more efficient approach to design.

Consistency Is                 Invisible

Do you see what we mean? When perfection isn’t noticed, that’s how you know all ships are sailing smoothly. It’s not until something is out of place with the design that you take notice. More often than not, this is something dissatisfying. This feeds back into our comfort idea. When the end-user doesn’t understand what to do with the design they’re given, it results in discomfort, confusion, and a reluctance to re-engage with your brand. Naturally, that’s bad news for your brand identity.

This is particularly true in how you present — or misrepresent — your brand. From the same study made by LucidPress, 71% of study participants reported that the greatest negative impact of inconsistent brand usage is the creation of confusion in the market.

Consistency can save time and money

From a workflow perspective, maintaining consistency is highly efficient for your budget and for your time. Consistency in design makes it so that there’s no time wasted in discussing the overall aesthetic values of each design. From posters to websites, there’s no second-guessing on how best to present your brand—the building blocks are already established. Instead, the focus is on the concept and message.

Basic Tips on How to Achieve Consistency

  • Create brand guidelines. This takes the guesswork out of the design process of creating assets for your brand, reducing time spent and saving money.
  • Maintain a clear hierarchy throughout. Align your designs with a grid. You want your end user’s expectations of where content comes from to remain consistent.
  • On the web, use common user experiences practices so people understand how to navigate your site immediately. This reduces frustration and results in fewer bounces on your website.
  • Create a design system for your website.
  • Keep design elements similar.
  • Use common design standards when appropriate. The less mental gymnastics the end-user has to do in order to access your design, the better.
  • Keep your colors consistent with your brand. Staying within the same colors builds better recognition and therefore better consistency.
  • Always stay within your brand’s fonts. Erratic font usage is confusing for end users and distorts your brand’s image.

Final Thoughts

From a functional and emotional standpoint, design consistency is the same as reliability. It stands to reason that reliability is a key factor in what prompts your end-users, clients, and customers to believe in your brand.

However, don’t be mistaken in thinking that consistency is the same as creating stagnancy. Bending your brand and identity is necessary to tread new, exciting ground when you already have a strong foundation in your designs. On the other hand, incorrectly breaking them is an easy way to alienate your customers entirely, as we learned from Tropicana’s example. When moving into new territory, it’s important to have a dedicated creative agency on your side to ensure that your brand remains consistent throughout the process. We have been listed in the Top 30 Florida Branding companies by DesignRush. 

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