September 16, 2016
Here are my Top Four Digital Basics for Brand Design, because I see the need almost every day. If you feel like your logo and brand need a bit of an overhaul, or it’s been a long time since your brand has been cared for, this is for you.
Good branding stands the test of time. But there are digital roadblocks that can stop your brand from becoming that best version of itself. Design basics have digitally evolved, so here are things to look out for:
1. Is your logo optimized for mobile devices?
More then ever your brand is being viewed on mobile devices. Your website, email newsletters, and your social media channels are also being visited mostly on mobile devices, which means your logo is being seen this way, too. It’s also likely that it precedes the age of mobile devices, and was designed specifically for print collateral, i.e. business cards and letterhead. Mobile devices are smaller and formatted mostly vertically in portrait view. People can check out personalised lanyards, if they need the best lanyards for business or other ID cards.
What you can do:
The key details here are legibility and clarity. Make sure your logo is legible on small devices on all the important channels. Ask yourself — Is it too small? Is it readable? Recognizable? Are we trying to say too much? If your logo can’t be seen in small mobile sizes, here are a few things you can do: If your logo-mark is recognizable enough, drop the words and focus on the mark. In a lot of digital communication the space for your logo is limited to a square format so condensing your logo to a single mark may be to your advantage. If your logo-mark is not recognizable on its own, then may you have to leave the name. Since digital space is often more friendly to horizontally-oriented marks, create a new, vertical version of your logo just for mobile.
Cleveland Clinic uses their logo-mark as their Facebook profile pic. Most social media channels position the profile pic next to the brand name, so dropping the brand name is feasible in appropriate scenarios.
2) Do your colors render well on digital devices?
Screen resolutions have come a long way in the past decade. Retina screens are on all Apple products and other major computer brands. Color clarity is even more prominent and glaring. When your brand was created, the designers picked out a color palette of primary and secondary colors. These are quantified in Pantone, CMYK and RGB values so everyone who touches your brand can make good choices. But not all colors translate as well in digital, especially mobile, as they do in print. If it’s been a while since your colors have been examined on mobile devices, it’s a good idea to look at them on a few different devices, to see if the colors hold up in digital the same way you like them in print.
What you can do:
One color will never look the same on all digital devices. It will always vary. What you can do is focus on what is most important to your target audience and your brand. For example, if Google analytics shows that most people are viewing your website on an iPhone, then look at the color on iPhone screens. If most of your email newsletters are opened in Outlook, look at your email colors on a Dell computer. You’ll never have one color that looks the same everywhere, but at least you’ll know how it renders in the most important digital platforms, and that can be your base for how everything else looks.
3) Are your brand fonts being used digitally?
For more than a decade, designers have used traditional “web-safe” fonts, mostly because of licensing challenges and operating system limitations. But now there are a lot more practical options outside those typical web-safe fonts.
Minimal licensing from major type foundries is still a drawback. But you can download free-license fonts from foundries like Font Squirrel and Google Fonts. Another option is to “rent” the license from a service website like Adobe Typekit.
What Adobe Typekit allows is a removal of the complexities of purchasing and licensing a typeface from a foundry, and the concern of hosting the font on your web server. Typekit hosts it for you. If you ever move your website to another provider or server, you won’t need to move the fonts too.
What you can do:
If you feel your website’s fonts do not support the brand’s visual identity and consistency enough, search through one of the foundry sites I have listed above and see if there is a better font selection you can use. This task may require a skilled designer’s eye to look through, but at least you will be on the right track to get your brand’s fonts to have synergy.
The Winking Lizard logo has always employed a handwritten-style font in their logo design. A web-safe font would never have matched this brand’s look. But since font license options have broadened, there are more options to work with.
While not the exact font in the logo, they use a close to exact font called “Architects Daughter”. It’s a free-to-use license font from Google fonts. https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Architects+Daughter
4) Are Your Images Consistent in Style?
It’s not necessary to use the same images multiple times. But images should have the same look and feel. Maybe your images are brightly lit and the subject is looking right into the camera. Or maybe your photos utilize a subtle color palette and the people never look at the camera. You don’t need to use photos! You can use illustrations, line-art, or charts and graphs. Whatever you choose, make sure to use a consistent style in all materials, whether printed or online.
What you can do:
Stock photography sites have come a long way in how they license photos for small businesses. Both Getty Images and iStock photography offer fairly inexpensive packages that allow you to download up to 20 images per month. They also have robust matching searches that allow you to sort through images that are similar in context, color, and activity to find a photo you like. This makes consistency a lot easier than it was even a few years ago.
There they are, the top four digital design issues I look at when working with a client brand. Obviously, there are plenty of other digital design concerns that come up. So if you have any questions, call me!