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Identity Standards

I was going throuh Identity Works’ web site and I noticed they had a section full of links to Identity Standards Manuals. Mainly from big companies. Spent more time going through them than I should have. It’s interesting to see how the standards for BP or Siemens really translate into the real world and that it’s not an effort that goes overlooked.

I have always had a love/hate approach to standards manuals. Whether it be for a logo, a full identity system or a web site. It just takes so much time to create them, but in the end you can get a beautiful document that really encompasses what the identity (or web site) is and what it stands for. But what a pain.!

There is a lot of information design invloved in these standards, and in my opinion not all designers embrace the importance of good information design and few are able to implement it well. I embrace it, but I have a hard time applying it. I think it requires a different set of mind to tackle these documents. Some of the best manuals I’ve seen are from European companies, I’m not sure what that means, I just thought I would throw it out there.

Any interesting standards manuals stories.?

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ARCHIVE ID 1371 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Feb.18.2003 BY Armin
Darrel’s comment is:

A standards manual is important to just justify the decisions the graphic designers made. Creating the standards manual should coincide with the creation of the identity itself, going back and forth between the two.

My favorite story was when I was working for a firm that had designed a very comprehensive style guide for a hospital. They then immediately came back to us to do their web site and started pointing out that we were breaking all of their style rules while developing the web site (the identity team had failed to consider how the system would appear on screen).


On Feb.18.2003 at 10:29 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I did one recently for a university logo. We didn't do the logo, but we've done various work for them. As I was doing the standards for the logo use I realized how many times we've broken the rules ourselves in the past couple of years. So, from now on I'll abide by my rules.

On Feb.18.2003 at 01:16 PM
ben’s comment is:

My favorite example of logo standards and their consideration (or not) is the university where I graduated from. The designers who came up with the logo (and possibly the standards) didn't account for campus signage, so everything reads (from large stone signs on the corners of the campus, to street signs) Washington University in Saint Louis. Just in case you thought you were somewhere else.

On Feb.18.2003 at 01:45 PM
Corey’s comment is:

That is an invaluable resource - thank you so much for posting it. I have done several identity mannuals in my short career, and find them to be one of, if not THE hardest part of any identity job. I always like to refer to other manuals to see how designers confronted with similiar problems have solved them.

In continuing with the identity manual walk of horrors - I did one where every single example of what not to do with the identity was pulled from printed material the company has sent out to investors.

On Feb.18.2003 at 02:06 PM
graham’s comment is:

if you can, or ever somehow come across it, try and check out the manual for the RAC done by north. amazing.

On Feb.18.2003 at 03:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>check out the manual for the RAC

I'm not down with the RAC, what's the RAC? Google has many.

On Feb.18.2003 at 03:32 PM
Michael S’s comment is:


Here's my guess


On Feb.18.2003 at 09:56 PM
feluxe’s comment is:

i cant believe armin posted

identity standards manual news.

man thats hurtin for certain...

personally, i'd rather set coupon

type than design am identity standards.

but thats just me- in my eye its

more or less subjective and

handcuffs you later on...

On Feb.18.2003 at 11:59 PM
graham’s comment is:

sorry-RAC, royal automobile club in the u.k. (they come out anytime of the day to sort your car out if you've broken down-mechanically, not emotionally).

On Feb.19.2003 at 01:22 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>i cant believe armin posted identity standards manual news.

I posted about babes and coffins, I see nothing in wrong in posting about identity standards. It's a big part of what we do.

>i'd rather set coupon type than design am identity standards.

I've set coupon type and there are very few things more degrading than that.

On Feb.19.2003 at 08:31 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

why is setting type degrading?

On Feb.19.2003 at 12:07 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>why is setting type degrading?

There is nothing degrading about setting type. Setting type on a dinky coupon for those grocery store promotions is.

Ok. So "degrading" may be a bit too much. Let's say "not flattering."

On Feb.19.2003 at 12:15 PM
felix’s comment is:

not many corporations acknowledge

their own ID standards.

case in point: verizon, AOL, etc .

Landor designed the verizon logo

and disowned quickly thereafter (but thats a larger debocle)

my point is at least no one will

challenge your silly coupon type.

with a big standards manual, youre in

for full on humiliation.

On Feb.19.2003 at 04:55 PM
Corey’s comment is:

"my point is at least no one will challenge your silly coupon type."

And why would you challenge coupon typography, there's no point to it beyond being large enough to read unaided.

I do think it's a shame that corporations will pay for the lip service of having an identity, but will immediately dilute by disregarding everything they've just paid for.

It reminds me of the huge disconnect between the print/television ads for Target, and the experience of going there. They have set up an expectation based on their advertisements, but when you go in, it's an orgy of dodgy type and garish clashing colors. And I've been to the 5 different Targets in my immediate driving area, and EVERY SINGLE ONE is radically different from the last. One store has aisle markers, none of the others do, 2 of the stores at least consistently use red. And speaking of red - what's with the employee's being allowed to wear whatever shirt they want - as long as it's red. I went to look for help finding an item and passed an employee three times - he was wearing a Detroit RedWings jersey. I thought he was a customer, I thought it strange that a customer would be marking items with price tags, but you never know.

But then again, it has been said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a small mind.

On Feb.19.2003 at 06:07 PM
Armin’s comment is:

So are identity standards a big waste of money? And of everybody's time?

I think without that effort bigger corporations would screw their identity more than they do with standards. At least with a standards manual some high-hoped newbie executive can show some display of power and command that the standards be followed.

I think there is a necessity for standards. Even if they are followed only 50%-75% of the time, it's better than none at all. At marchFIRST they did a pretty good job of enforcing the standards on us. Even when the logo was a piece of crap [(no offense to VSA) wait, yes VSA did a shitty job on that logo] I respected the standards.

On Feb.19.2003 at 06:42 PM
Corey’s comment is:

Oh no, quite the contrary in fact!

I think that identity manuals are crucial tools for companies to present themselves to the public, as well as helping with internal structure and organization. I think that when a company is inconsistent in representing themselves to the public, it is an indicator of how things are being run within that copmany.

Sorry I was unclear, I strongly espouse the idea of manuals, my lord, have you seen what people do without them?

On Feb.19.2003 at 07:08 PM
Corey’s comment is:

Completely off topic - Armin, I worked for a brief time for one of your competitors, Sapient.

On Feb.19.2003 at 07:10 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>I worked for a brief time for one of your competitors, Sapient.

We were only competing against ourselves and the money spent on superbowl ads. At least in Atlanta nobody saw as competition. Sad.

On Feb.20.2003 at 08:53 AM
feluxe’s comment is:

ok. ok.

we do need standards, but most of em that i've seen are too restrictive and hinder

creative expression for the next person.

corey, strange that you should mention the in store work in target - a lot of its mine! and yes some it is fucked up (not my bad).

armin, i think the m1st logo is pretty damn

godd as far as logos go. its simple and memorable, even tho it could be for a bank!

On Feb.21.2003 at 09:44 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>armin, i think the m1st logo is pretty damn

good as far as logos go

I had previuosly ranted on this logo:

The name is marchFIRST but the logo has the 1 or FIRST on the left side of the m so that would make it read FIRSTmarch instead of marchFIRST.

I like the type treatment of marchFIRST. But when the icon part of a logo contradicts the name it's not a successful logo in my opinion. It's nicely done, but it's not smartly exectued. They chose form over meaning.

>but most of em that i've seen are too restrictive and hinder creative expression for the next person.

I'll have to agree on that. There should be a little room for creative expansion. Once I tried to show a logo reversed on black, and it looked beautiful, but the standards said never to reverse the logo. So, yeah they can be restrictive. And frustrating.

On Feb.21.2003 at 09:56 AM
jason’s comment is:

there's a great article by mark reddy in a recent issue of creative review about the appliance of standards in the design industry. and an even cooler follow-up discussing the new orange identity guidelines, which supposedly break with tradition by providing inspiration rather than hard and fast rules.

(the original article is posted here in a rather tricky-to-read format, in case you're interested)

the big difference being that, when you're spending millions of euros on creative, you can usually trust the agency you appoint to execute in such a way as to strengthen the brand. but when you're dealing with less-experienced design shops or bored 9-5 in-house designers at some ubercorporation, you really need those manuals to be firm. otherwise... well, like corey says, things get very scary, very quickly.

On Feb.21.2003 at 05:17 PM
feluxe’s comment is:

i see your point on the m1st, armin.

even though its wrong, from a distance you see the m before the 1.

its a decent mark, but i guess only time will tell if its really any good. today looks very 1985...

On Feb.26.2003 at 11:14 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

felix’s comment is:

not many corporations acknowledge

their own ID standards.

case in point: verizon, AOL, etc .

Landor designed the verizon logo

and disowned quickly thereafter (but thats a larger debocle)

my point is at least no one will

challenge your silly coupon type.

with a big standards manual, youre in

for full on humiliation.

Corretion for Felix:

I am aware this was posted in February 2003

However, I feel I need to comment.

Three Identity Consultancies worked on the Verizon Corporate Identity.

I provided the Research for Renowned Corporate Identity Evangelist Tony Spaeth at Identity Works.

Lippincott & Margulies created the name Verizon.

Landor created the VERION. Along with the red check mark or "V" symbolizing a red check mark.

DeSola Group created the red "Z" and created the Identity Standards Manuals.

The conflict, if any between Landor and DeSola Group were two different Identity Philosophies.

History lesson. DeSola Group formerly knowned as Sandgren & Murtha a spin off of Lippincott & Margulies. Founded by Russell Sandren and Joseph Murtha.

Later known as Murtha Desola Finsilver Fiore.

Russell Sandgren created the Identity for Weyerhauser 1956 Lippincott & Margulies.

On Oct.19.2003 at 04:56 PM