Designing Value: Creating Consistent and Compelling Brand Experiences

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How do large organizations maintain consistency of brand standards across multiple locations? Often, they don’t. That’s when experiential designers step-in to create design guidelines and graphics toolkits to ensure uniformity across venues, while still allowing flexibility to express the individual identity of each location. Read on to learn how guidelines and toolkits add value by strengthening brand identity for clients.

You’re a global corporation headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Hong Kong, New York, London and Sydney. How do you maintain a brand identity that is both consistent and compelling across each of these different venues? 

In her recent article “Experiential Graphic Design: Guidelines and Value” Jessica Stoffers, Senior Experiential Designer at IA Interior Architects, states that guidelines and toolkits provide the answer. Experiential designers can work with their clients and their clients’ partners (including marketing professionals) to develop a fully detailed kit of parts for the display of logos, signage and other brand elements, along with in-depth strategies for how and where to apply these elements. This process helps ensure strong, consistent workplace identities and compelling brand experiences across diverse locations.

Designers first begin by developing guidelines, which can be as simple as defining the specifications and use of a logo or as detailed as creating a comprehensive document outlining brand messaging, color palette, typography, photographic styles, and marketing dos and don’ts.

And it’s important that these design guidelines are responsive documents that can be updated to reflect change.

“Guidelines can be fairly extensive and done in phases,” says Jessica in a recent interview. “It’s about building a ‘living’ document that is maintained, over time, to incorporate updates and additions as project roll-outs inform design.”

For example, over the past two years IA’s Philadelphia studio has worked with a client to design and implement interior renovations across a corporate campus at the same time as the client is going through a rebranding process. This is not an easy challenge! But the flexibility of the client’s master guidelines allows revisions as IA works with both the client’s internal brand team and external brand agency.

“Along with identifying how their new brand identity can translate into their environment, we also updated the guidelines to reflect this evolution of brand,” says Jessica. “Our next step will be integrating further development of their digital strategy into the guidelines.”

After developing the guidelines, the designers then create a “kit of parts.” This toolkit includes practical elements which are used to implement the guidelines.

“As we deployed environmental branding across the client’s campus, we were able to test different design elements across several buildings which then evolved into a framework or toolkit,” explains Jessica. Some of these design elements include:

  • Glass Film – A system of film patterns provides privacy and can be used across different space types.
  • Share Wall – Staff can express personality and unique interests with these displays celebrating achievements and connections.
  • Neighborhood Branding – Neighborhood branding celebrates ownership through the personalization of collaboration areas or “neighborhoods.”
  • Stairs – Enhancements to vertical circulation in stairs promotes activation and wellness through the use of wayfinding, large scale graphics and finish upgrades.
  • Messaging – Lenticular panels and other feature walls infuse culture and values through messaging and imagery.
  • Artwork – Murals and/or framed art from local art programs support the client’s commitment to community stewardship.

Part of the testing process includes “journey mapping” where designers map-out the travel paths of different users (such as visitors and employees) to better understand how they interact within the space. The designers then identify the key “brand touchpoints” along the users’ travel paths. The touch points then help determine which brand assets should be considered as prerequisites and which as supplements.

“With one particular client, IA was able to identify which brand assets would be used across all projects, for global consistency, and which assets would be customizable,” says Jessica. “The customizable assets allow design flexibility, so each project can be influenced by—and more relatable to—the local culture of the end user.”

This approach encourages a more culture-centric brand within global workplace standards. 

The key to success, in all of this, is planning for guidelines and toolkits early on. Integrating strategy, environmental design, and brand development at the beginning of a design project—as well as engaging end-users early in the process—is critical and leads to support and consensus during implementation. This collaboration, led by experiential designers, not only saves time and money, but results in a truly immersive brand experience.