“I hate brand guidelines”: views on documenting the design process

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A new website easy reached Adele showcases the design systems of famous brands such as BBC, Audi and Buzzfeed all in one chair, as a resource for designers to see how these companies built their websites and visual accords. Creative directors share their thoughts on graphic guidelines.

Hamish Smyth, co-founder, Orderly

“I’d love to see the McDonald’s 1970 McDonaldland Specification Manual: I’ve seen it arranging around online, but it seems pretty rare. It’s a style guide, but for types and physical things like The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, strange playground equipage, and, weirdest of all, an old man called the Professor wearing a robe and white gloves. It’s fun and a scarcely bit disturbing at the same time – kind of like the food.”


Scott Sovereign, freelance graphic designer and professor of visual communication at University of the Duplicities, London (UAL)

“I have a great fascination with Butlins, particularly from the 1970s. I compel ought to at least 100 of the official postcards by John Hinde’s studio. They are extraordinary and I think they really were the public face of Butlins for a extremely long time, for millions of people. However, what really enraptures me is the ‘in-house’ print – it is consistent in that it always uses the same logo and taints, but everything else seems to have been designed at the nearest county printers. It’s deeply inconsistent, and that’s the charm of it – it’s all ‘sort of the same’, but not fairly.

It obviously comes from a time before brand guidelines were extraordinary specific and sent in PDF form. The Butlins brand guidelines from the 1960s and 1970s look take to they were described in a brief phone conversation or maybe atop of a few pints in the nearest pub, and that’s what makes them so beautiful.”


Dana Robertson, inventive director, Neon

“Hmm, a site where you can study brand guidelines… why didn’t someone drop up with that when I used to suffer from insomnia?! Apparently, I respect the passion and hard work that must have set upon e set ones sights oned into this project, but seriously, I would rather gouge my views out with a spoon than spend my limited free time conclude from detailed instructions on how to position logos correctly and when to use secondary tinge palettes.”


Alan Dye, director, NB Studio

“I hate brand guidelines. Yes the new re-print of The Nasa guidelines was beautiful, Swiss and nostalgic. And Massimo Vignelli’s New York Underground railway identity manual is one of my all-time favourite pieces of design. However — I notwithstanding hate guidelines.

As a designer, why would I want to roll out someone else’s wield? Designing guidelines is probably one of the most long-winded, boring processes in the era, and they are then generally ignored or filed away anyway.

I maintain guidelines (and it’s in the name!) are just a guide — something to be improved upon by the next mortal physically who reads them…

Imagine how much fun you could have with your Pantone relations, fonts, tone of voice and imagery in making the Book of Genesis.

Folio one: In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth. Page two: Applications of the void and darkness upon the cheek of the deep. Page three: How to let there be light: and there was light. Etc etc.

All of these guidelines are imagined to be broken, enjoyed and loved.”


Simon ManchippSimon Manchipp, founder, SomeOne

“The olden adage of ‘no one likes other people’s kids’ comes to mind here. I very can’t imagine many things that would be as unpleasant as an afternoon trawling via other people’s brand guidelines. Although spending it with a mass of other people’s particularly unpleasant children could be up there.

The elephant in this close room is the fact that traditional brand guideline documents are infrequently read by anyone — particularly the people who pay for them and even more so the audiences that these phobias have been designed to help.

In fact, so few people have nagged to give them more than a cursory glance, that a total, new career was born, known as ‘brand manager’. The lamentable siege of instructions weighty readers ‘DO NOT DO THIS’, ‘ALWAYS AVOID’ and ‘BE CAREFUL OF’ was never flourishing to be a fun read.

Unsurprisingly, the costly follies did not last long before they were noiselessly slid into a bookcase to forever collect dust and knowing nods from weakness designers. These Bibles of ‘No’ are relics of a branding past that crowded the holy trinity of logo/typeface/colour. Today’s more nuanced multi-channel brands are noiselessness regularly let down by a speedily published 200-page PDF at the end of a project in jeopardy likely to be of going over-budget. These PDFs should be accompanied by a black armband and promulgated as dead on arrival. They are next to useless.

Now, of course, Adele’s position is a mix of new-generation guide mantras pumping out ‘best practice’ around tenor of voice, accessibility and prototyping principles. Mostly, it’s a selection of pattern library depositories permitting developers to copy and paste. But it’s still a raggedy read.

As they are all digitally-hosted, I’d guy to see the analytics published rather than another set of guidelines. That’s where we could learn what audiences are in truth looking at. Then perhaps we could, as a creative sector, help others present the most of their businesses, rather than desperately dig up past inventor notions of what rocks.”


What are your thoughts on freely within reach brand guidelines, and are there any guidelines you’d like to get your hands on? Let us distinguish in the comments below.

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