David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Qualities to achieve in identity standards

Christopher Doyle styleguide colour variations

Some worthwhile qualities designer Jerry Kuyper tries to achieve when creating identity standards.

Strategic
Focus on why it is important and what the company is trying to achieve, not just how to do it.

Visual
Demonstrations are often more effective than lengthy text.

Easy-to-understand
Develop content that is engaging and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Short
20 pages of useful information may be more effective than 50 pages. Don’t include filler, such as unnecessary information on how to create a business card, when templates are more effective.

Respectful
Understand who will be using the standards and don’t insult their intelligence.

Balanced
Identify the appropriate balance between structure and flexibility. Too much flexibility results in complete chaos, too much structure results in lifeless communications.

Digital
For interim standards, create pdf files that can viewed online, emailed or downloaded and printed the standards can eventually be established as an online identity resource. Most printed sets of guidelines are expensive, become outdated and out of print. (GE printed up 2,000 copies of their 400 page standards in 1987, none were available after the first year)

Scalable
Digital files that can be expanded or revised help to establish that identity management isn’t a static or one time event.

Good advice.

The qualities were originally published on Tony Spaeth’s excellent Identityworks. I recommend a visit for numerous examples of guidelines and standards manuals. A few more links here.

I lifted the colour variations image at the top from one of my favourite guideline manuals — Christopher Doyle Identity Guidelines 2008 (the link downloads a PDF file approximately 1MB in size). Doyle was worthy winner of a yellow pencil at the 2009 D&AD Awards for his efforts.

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3 comments about “Qualities to achieve in identity standards”

  1. I have never had to do a really complex, long guideline before except for when at University. I have only really needed to do simple, 1 or 2 page guidelines to give a general overview on how to use a logo.

    But I’m working on Identity stuff today, so this is quite interesting!

  2. Having read a few identity guidelines (public sector are the worst), I have to say, I’d certainly appreciate less words and more visuals to get the point across as QUICKLY as possible.

    Nothing makes me more depressed than starting a project reading a 20 page document about something so simple to express such as: Use these font and these colours please. 20 pages?! Good Lord.

    Having read said 20 pages or worse … I end up thinking… errm so 20 pages to just tell me use that font and those colours and make sure it’s never any smaller than xx size.

    A bit of balance and flexibility is always appreciated yes from the designers standpoint of course :)

  3. Hi David,
    I have been reading some guidelines for creating indentity. All the guidelines are very helpful, professional and dynamic. But to me honestly, it is still something that I cannot get right away. It is like when teacher tell me something and even I understand it but I cannot do the same as she said…..or may be I do not understand…..or may be I need to practice more everyday to understand deeply all what she said.

    As I have seen many times at your works, anything can be well done it is because of hard working (writing down the ideas, sketching..) . Understanding what client wants (not myself)-this is the hardest part I think. Making communication always be very helpful to get the common between desinger and clients. And of course, that makes your own identity.

    I love my job-a graphic design. I have worked with passion but I think it may be not enough to satisfy all my clients….I am feeling stuck and being confused now. What do I miss in my working’s process? May be I still do not understand what I have been doing as much as I suppose to do. Do you think so, David? Would you please give me any advice?

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.