Designers, tell us: did you have many opportunities within your industrial design programs to exercise your ability to design under different visual brand language restraints? Thanks to our discussion boards, we came across an interesting academic project created by JNiklasson and some of his fellow industrial design engineering students at Luleå University of Technology.
In this exercise, students were asked to design a model robot vacuum cleaner under different brand names—in this example, the chosen brand was Milwaukee:
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JNiklasson adds, "Today's [robotic vacuums] looks very plastic, boring and breakable. So we tried to go in the opposite direction with Milwaukee's language, to express a more powerful look and 'cool'. We were given different companies, and the lesson were mainly to learn how to study companies language and express it in a robot vacuum cleaner."
Interesting commentary and critiques from fellow designers ensued—cwatkinson notes the utility of an exercise like this, stating "I have seen many designer who ignore [visual brand language rules] and spend days generating "styled concepts" that are never even looked at because they do not fit within the VBL."
This discussion got us wondering, what kinds of advice do our readers have for solidifying a consistent brand voice? From some of our own research here are a few rules of thumb we find important to keep in mind:
1. Write down your mission statement/company guidelines.
Most likely, if you write down something akin to your mission statement, a number of defining adjectives and phrases will pop up. This type of documentation is important as you move forward and will help translate philosophy to a consistent visual language.
2. Pay attention to the little things
You know what they say: the devil's in the details. Taking the above exercise as an example, it's important to pay attention first and foremost how a brand identifies itself while also making sure the product accurately conveys its function. When explaining their visual decisions for the vacuum JNiklasson said this:
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"We did our first sketches similiar [with a rugged visual language], but got feedback from mentors that our vacuum cleaner looked like it didn't want to move. Therefore, we changed our style to go for their Tools that had movement. They have edges, similiar to a thunder as their logo, not so much chamfers as their other products. The black colors almost captures the Tools from behind, and the red goes from the front and towards the back in a edgy style (like a thunder). If you look at our sketch (the only one we showed) you can see chamfers, more details and so on. We tone [visual heaviness] down because the vacuum cleaner should not express that it is going to break anything in your home."
3. Channel in to your own style
While it's important to pay attention to successful examples of visual brand language, it's also pertinent to understand ripping off another brand will get you nowhere. Take inspiration from the general practices and values of other brands, not their style and particular niche!
Do you have any other pieces of advices or helpful exercises to share with your fellow designers relating to visual brand language? Share your thoughts in the comment feed below or on the original discussion board!