THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A BRAND IDENTITY

As a graphic designer I have created quite a number of logos. I have found that when I am commissioned by a client to design a logo only and then a while later they ask me to design a business card or poster; in my earlier days, I would just design something that looks nice and the client will like without considering how my finished design will impact on the overall image of my client’s company.

But nowadays I first engage with my client on what image they want for their business by asking crucial questions that will help me once I begin to design, in the case where the business has been around for a while and they already have previous design works done by other designers, the process with the client won’t be as vigorous because I will have previous work to guide me on how to handle their company’s brand identity.

What I have found though is that both of these processes have a lot of frustrations, because there is a lot of unnecessary and repetitive dialogue when trying to understand the basics about the company’s image and brand identity.

The best solution is for a company to have personalized brand guidelines drafted out first. Stating rules and guides on how to handle typography, colors, etc.

Brand identities (also known as style guides or brand guidelines) can and most often should include assets like shapes, patterns, different versions of the logo (monochrome versions for example), icons, symbols and other interesting and important things that are unique to the brand and can be adapted in different methods for whatever needs a design may require.

Having this information on hand from the beginning makes any design process much smoother, because immediately the designer knows what direction to take and if the approach calls for “breaking the rules” the rules that are to be broken are known.

It is important to understand that any company or business is a brand, regardless of what field it is serving, so it needs to be treated as such. That is why it would really be good if both clients and designers understood the importance of why companies – even if they are still starting out- need to have a brand identity.

Starting with a brand identity in the early stages of your business is best practice, because if you are to do it later on when the business is grown it will entail a lot more work and the costs will be massive.

Brand identities help in giving a company a coherent image throughout all mediums that it appears in, be it print, web, broadcast or any other medium.

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South African supermarket chain store Pick n’ Pay’s consistency in their brand is evident throughout all mediums. These examples are from their #CyscleSafely campaign, website and PDF and print catalogues.

Having a brand identity also helps in the event when a company uses different designers for their design needs, there is no hustle of explaining the basics about the company’s image over and over.

If you would like to see a practical way that a brand identity helped me out, check out this project on Behance that I completed recently.

I believe as designers we should take it upon ourselves to advise and educate clients on why having a proper guideline on how their brand should be handled is essential and beneficial. Not only for the present but their future design needs. Companies with brand identities look more established and their target audience can easily understand and locate them.

One last note: I would like to differentiate a brand identity (also known as a style guide or brand guideline) from a corporate identity, the latter refers to a collection of multiple designs like logo, business card, letterheads and stationery, but the former refers to a document that has information guiding the image of the brand and how it is to be handled when designing. Just because a designer created for you a corporate identity that doesn’t mean that you are covered, because a brand’s design needs don’t end in stationery alone, a brand identity ensures coherency throughout multiple mediums.

Article by: George ( TheGiwi ) Mutambuka – Multi-disciplinary freelance designer and creative based on the African continent.

HIGHTAIL – The Creative Collaboration Platform

I first encountered Hightail late last year, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I decided to test out the creative collaboration online platform.

So I headed to their website to check out what’s on offer. They have three services that they offer Business (contact them for custom price) Pro at $12 per month and Lite which is free and the one I decided to go with for the Zephaniah Branding Consultants brand identity project I recently completed, you can find it on Behance here.

I have to say this indeed is the future of how creatives should be communicating and deploying their projects, whether they are in the same studio or distributed remotely, because you could be in the same office but you certainly won’t be passing flash drives around for design reviews and keeping track of e-mail threads is a nightmare and has no easy workaround.

Greatly helpful features I used that are in the free version are; commenting, annotations, the ability to ask approval from any given member which sends them an e-mail notification instantly and also the ability to download an asset from hightail.com or the e-mail notification. The fact that you receive e-mail notifications and don’t have to be logged into the site all the time to know what is going on is a benefit. There is also a mobile app which would have even made things way easier and remove the need for e-mail, but I didn’t need it for this project.

Screenshot (UNO)

MY PROJECT SCREENSHOT : This is the first time I have used such a platform for my design work, and it’s definitely better than using e-mails and instant messaging apps. In my opinion I even find it better than Skype!

I believe that platforms like Hightail (including Trello, Slack and others) are the future and we as creatives should be moving to them. Let’s keep e-mails for the usual boring formal stuff, (what it was designed for).

To find out more you can head to the Hightail homepage and see other cool stuff like the ability of annotating video according to the timecode (very cool and handy for video editors by the way) their beautiful dark themed interface and other features.

Article by: George ( TheGiwi ) Mutambuka – Multi-disciplinary freelance designer and creative based on the African continent.

How Inkscape can be an essential tool in your arsenal

Inkscape is a professional vector graphics editor for Windows, Mac and Linux. It is open source software so that means that it is free, the only thing it will cost you is around 40MB of data which will be used to download the application here and beginner’s manual here..

I have found that when using software as a tool for productivity you can’t rely on only one tool for the job, there are times when your most trusted software tool just disappoints you, so it is important to have a backup plan.

And that is how Inkscape saved my bacon. There have been a number of times when I have been required to import an SVG element into my  Adobe Illustrator project and it imports distorted or just fails to import at all, (I have personally found Illustrator to not be so good at handling SVGs whether importing or exporting them) so what I do when that happens; I just import the problem file into Inkscape and “save as” an SVG again, with no editing to fix it in most cases, and voila, Illustrator excepts it.

Another thing I find Inkscape fast at is tracing images to vector. The tracing is done faster than when I use Illustrator and the settings aren’t as complicated, also it traces a new vector image above the original raster image which is a good and non-destructive way of editing in the case I want to keep both images on the project, or if I want to make multiple versions of the same raster without importing again.

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By Tim Jones (Creative Commons attribution share-alike)

By Rizky Djati Munggaran (Creative Commons attribution share-alike)

Check out the  Inkscape gallery for  lots more stunning artwork.

Inkscape does not only work onSVG only, but it can import PDF vectors and .ai files too.  There have been projects that I have begun on Illustrator and finished off on Inkscape and vice versa.

It is important worth noting that Inkscape exports SVG and PNG only, but the good thing is most vector editors out there open SVG.

So this is a vector software worth picking up, whether as your main tool or as a secondary tool, the learning curve is easy, because I learnt that once you understand how vector graphics are handled, the software you use is not an issue.

This article isn’t a review or comparison of Inkscape but just my personal experiences with the software. For more information about this great open source software you can check out the Inkscape homepage.