Why brands need to adopt design with a capital 'D' to build long-term relevance whilst remaining agile for a rapidly changing future.
Things used to advance more slowly in days gone by. I mean we may have invented the wheel in 3500BC but we didn’t put a man on the moon until 1969. What is even crazier is we may have been carrying luggage around since the 1870s, but the ‘Aha!” moment didn’t come until 1987 when we actually combined the two and put wheels on our luggage.
So, 10,000 years ago there was little technological change – sharp things, fire, the wheel. Even 1000 AD paradigm shifts only occurred every 100-200 years. Today though, they shift every few years. And according to futurist Ray Kurzweil in the 21st Century, there will be more than 1000 times more technological change than in the 20th. And the rate of adoption is increasing too. It took 50 years for 50 million people to use the telephone, whereas it took Pokemon Go just 19 days to reach as many users. This simply means we need to learn more quickly to keep up with the pace of change.
Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that brand identities – whether they be FMCG, retailer or corporate – have traditionally been evolutionary and reductive in nature.
So have legacy brands fallen behind?
Indeed, how do all brands keep up with the pace of change today and what does this mean for brand identity? Brands need to respond because people are looking for more! They want continual surprise and delight, without compromising on quality or price. They demand that brands not only elevate the everyday, but that they design experiences worth sharing.
Uniquely J coffee for Jet.com by Elmwood
Whereas in the past it would be ok for a brand to periodically refresh its visual equities and assets. Now the pace of brand assessment and re-assessment is becoming more rapid – resulting in quicker wear out. People are demanding the extraordinary every day. No-one remembers average!
Design for the agile-long-term
Yes, ensure your brand’s visual equities are built to last but also start to re-think how those equities can build in Design that is more agile, Design that is capable of remaining relevant day to day. Design that’s not just iconic but Design that’s iconically always new. In other words, think of brand design as an ‘Unlimited Edition’.
Unlimited Edition means: investing in forever green assets – designing for the long-term AND investing in forever green assets – designing to be agile. Think of your brand’s visual equities as a system that can fix and flex, that is recognisable in a blink of an eye but is also polymorphous. Take inspiration not just from the analogue world but also from the digital one, a world that moves.
Of course more iconic graphics, typography, colour, formats, platforms, interfaces etc. but also invest in more flexible canvasses for more interactivity.
Because the more interactive your visual equities become the more emotive and engaging the interaction will be and therefore more meaningful and memorable. But also the ability to dimensionalise your iconic design equities means they can flex across a multitude of omnichannel touch-points no matter whether they be digital or analogue. The final big plus with unlimited edition is that your brand equities will always be appropriate for that interaction whenever, wherever it may be.