Everyone knows the expression “rules are made to be broken.” Depending on the circumstances, the phrase can be used in a positive or negative way. But what about when it’s used in marketing and branding?
Setting guidelines is a crucial step when branding a new company and following these rules when a brand is established and trying to become recognizable is important as well. This is where design tools such as brand guides and pre-determined design elements come into play. These tools are designed to take the guesswork out of your visual marketing strategies.
There is nothing wrong with the occasional deviation from the guidelines if it’s a well thought out choice, but if you find yourself breaking the rules often that may be a sign of a larger issue. If you often justify design choices by saying “rules are made to be broken,” it may be time to reevaluate the rules. The stricter they are, the less likely it is they will be followed.
When creating your brand’s style guide it’s important to establish how color should be used. This lessens the chances of your normally blue logo being displayed in orange on a partner site. However, if your logo typically shows up on white backgrounds and you provide no solution for an application that requires a dark background, the results get messy.
Say your company is sponsoring an event and the organizers request your logo for t-shirts. If the shirts are black and all the branding is going to be printed in white, someone at the screen printing company is going to create an all white version whether you like it or not. This problem could have easily been avoided if you cut your brand a bit of slack from the start. Sure, in a perfect world you would have full control, and your logo would be viewed exactly how you envisioned it, but this is real life and unfortunately that’s rarely the case. Talk to your designer about creating a one color version of your logo that can be used in these instances.
With fast changing social media platforms, your brand is going to need to be more flexible than ever. Especially if your company started during the golden age of print, you may not be able to rely on the same layouts and color to stand out on, say, instagram. The rules you’ve set up should be broken in these cases. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope, but remember you should take care that your core messages aren’t lost. If they are, because you’re trying to rebel against your rules, then what’s the point?
Maybe you have your brand guide covered and you’re confident your logo is being used properly. What about pages on your own site? It makes sense to be the most particular about how the homepage looks, but you also have to consider how each interior page functions. Say you’ve created a great, albeit very specific template for the page that displays your work or a product you sell. This sounds nice in theory, but there’s always going to be that one item that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest. If your rules are too specific, you’ll find yourself rushing to come up with a solution for the outlier that doesn’t compromise the rest of the design.
We encountered something similar during the redesign of the Roundpeg website, specifically with the portfolio and meet the team pages. For each portfolio page, we knew we would have drastically different copy and images, depending on the depth of the project. With the meet the team pages, it didn’t make sense to display the same type of information about each team member, because our work samples are as different as our personalities. Creating very loose guidelines for these pages solved any issues we may have otherwise run into. We made sure each page looked like it belonged to the same set, but didn’t try to force any pages to be identical.
There will be times when you should consider shattering the rules and doing something completely different with your marketing. Diverting from the usual path can often get your brand noticed when things have gone stale. But if you find yourself constantly ignoring your own rules, it’s time to consider rewriting the rules so you don’t have to break them. Brands evolve and change frequently, so loosening your grip may allow you to be open to new ideas and opportunities you weren’t able to see before.
Roundpeg is an Indianapolis marketing strategy firm.
This post was edited on December 30, 2019