Get the feeling right and you can bet your bottom dollar you will succeed where others fail.
If brand design is about one thing it is about feeling. When you are critiquing your brand you need to get ‘touchy-feeling’. What is the right feeling you are aiming for when you develop the brand’s design, behavior, environment or communication?
Brand designers who get the feeling right are few and far between. So many designers seem to be designing for personal ambition or a desire to join in with the prevailing trends in design (triangles anyone?) without any consideration of how this design will affect the feeling people have for the brand.
So why is the feeling of a brand so important? Feelings are what drive human decision making. Most people think that decisions are based on logical deduction and reason but science concludes that this is not true. Modern scientific theory has proven that the Amygdala is the root of all decision making, that we think our emotional choices through in our neo cortex but the ultimate ‘yes or no’ comes from how we feel about things, our emotional brain is in charge. The Amygdala is at the core of our brain. It is believed to be one of the most primordial areas of the brain and developed very early on in our species, unlike the neocortex which developed later – when life became more complex.
If people are processing their understanding of your brand directly in their brain’s emotional centre it makes sense for us to critique our brand design process from this perspective and build your brand based on feelings first and logic second.
When it just feels wrong.
To give an example, we have been designing a new icon set for a brand recently and the feeling was all wrong. It looked fine as an icon set – but for another brand. How did we know this? Well it just didn’t feel right. The brand was geometric with round soft edges whereas the icon set was cartoonish. Both were playful but one was distinctly more tech feeling (like the brand) while one was more charming and quirky. Fine for another brand but not for our clients.
Take the recent work for Etihad for example. The new font, colours and triangles appear to be at odds with its aim to be Arabia’s favorite five star airliner. The brand used to be a distinctly five star brand with lush Arabesque gold and black colour scheme and ocean sans font. The feeling was distinctly premium and the personality very much prestige. Now with the recent colour change to mustard yellow and burgundy (watch out Qatar!) and the introduction of the new curvy, friendly font we have a quirky misdirection and no longer know how we ought to feel about the brand.
Does it resonate?
When we are designing brands for clients the over riding concern is the feeling. How do all the key brand communication tools combine to create the right resonant feeling about the brand. Does the font eschew the right feeling, do the colours support this and do the additional graphics, typography and photography fit into the same textural effect? If any single element fails to provide support to the feeling we are aiming to create in the mind of our consumer we adjust, tweet and reset until we are happy. Only when all are in concert can we begin to build the brand with confidence.
So if you are setting out to critique the brand design start first by understanding the feelings people need to have about the brand. Sometimes the adjustment will be small to align the feeling of the identity tools to the brand but it is just these small and simple adjusters which can make the difference to the brand feeling whole and complete and one that has an inner tension that needs working out.
If your brand designer is just working on an internal itch to join the triangular zeitgeist, get them to work it out in their own time!