Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
Where Do Standards Manuals Go When They Die?
Standards manuals for corporate collateral fit someplace between utopia and purgatory. Designers spend a great deal of time crafting the look and feel for a company, and even stratagize how a transition could take place after the release of a new logo (take UPS for example). Once a priceless image is created, it can be applied to a wide range of communication media. In the end, designers release everything for implementation and hand a book to the client for them to carry on the work. I just don’t buy it.

Standards manuals demonstrate how a company’s visual elements are applied to advertisements, websites, printed stationery, posters, presentations, coffee cups, signage, and more. They’re intended to be easy to follow recipes for those working on the communications after the design agency completes their work. The idea being that the designers did all of the leg work—all the grunt work—now it’s up to the institution to move forward. Leaving them a style guide gives them a blueprint of sorts. When I’ve been involved in a branding, rebranding, or retooling of an institutional image, they take the style guide, flip through the book, and say Thanks. Well, nothing’s going to guarantee that they’ll follow the directions, just like nothing guarantees you won’t substitute margarine for butter when baking a cake. The three to five pages of logo don’ts will eventually be done by an entry level designer or administrative assistant, who wants to do something creative.

Following up with the client will happen over the course of a year. Oftentimes, they’re handling things very well on their own with the help of the standards manual. I won’t see the logo placed in an ellipse or rhombus. But eventually, they get sloppy. Usually, this happens with the very best of intentions with time, money, or staffing as excuses. “We left you the style guide for help,” I tell them. “Oh. That’s right, sorry,” they reply.

Unless the institution places value on your work and their own image, a standards manual is nothing more than a book waiting to be shelved and collect dust. Institutions that have deep pockets, and utilize an agency of record (or their own in-house studio) will perpetuate a unified and holistic image using the standards manual. Sometimes, they make great advances.

It’s rare that you see Kellogg’s, Coke, FedEx, or Nike veer from their standards. But when they do, you’ll notice it—and notice it big—because it’s not a mistake. They aren’t cutting costs. They veer from standards and style guides to reinvent themselves. To other institutions who wander outside of the type specs, color standards, and application procedures, shame on you for sending that useful standards manual we worked so hard on into limbo.
Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1936 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON May.06.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

As the pseudo-head of a much downsized head of a corporate deisgn department, I can say for three-years we worked with and grew the standards. I look at these manuals as living documents that give a firm a roadmap to follow but as all living things are too change with the times. That being said, I find the design firm that created a 11x17" spiral bound manual a little overzealous in creating a 20lb. monstrosity that was not only a pain to work with, but heavy as hell and didn't fit neatly onto anyone's bookshelf.

Our second series of 'design' standards were so inept, and the Global Head of Branding resigned right after they were released, that we worked internally on creating new standards that worked better for our audience and the regional differences are different entitites faced. How those standards have fared globally is another story but in at least in the US we have stuck to them and allowed them to grow and strengthen as well.

So, I guess it all depends on how your present the information to your client. And you are right, it's up to them to either work with it or ignore it.

On May.07.2004 at 09:39 AM
Rebecca C.’s comment is:

Great timing! I just completed a guide of sorts for my company's in-house rebranding innitiative. It's short; almost two pages. We are a small marketing company with fewer than 25 employees, most of whom will be using our new, lovingly-crafted logo in their communications.

Currently, there is NO consistency in logo use, color, treatment nor placement anywhere in the building. The Design and Marketing team is using the opportunity of a new logo to reign in the rest of the company. I'm not holding my breath.

Oddly enough, I think the most difficult part of aligning our out-going communications with the new corporate "look" will be convincing everyone to change their e-mail signatures. There will be cries from the cubicles about removing smileys, background graphics and multiple fonts and colors in favor of a clean and professional template.

So, do you think standards should be created and applied to more than the logo? If so, how far do you go in creating those standards? For our team, this will mean setting up Word templates for letters, press releases, fax cover sheets, etc. to be placed on a public server as well as the Standards Manual. How do you keep from talking down to the worker bees without compromising all your hard work?

On May.07.2004 at 09:48 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Everyone always complains about standards. "Oh, our employees will not want to give up their creativity." The real value in standards and guidelines is that they should make people's jobs easier. Why spend 2 hours trying to create a custom word template when it can be downloaded off the company's intranet in 10 seconds? Run out of business cards? Have 10 new people joining your department? Don't spend a day figuring out where the new titles and cell phone numbers go. Use the approved template and on-line ordering system and have the cards back in 5 days. Need 5 new brochures for next month's trade show? Don't contract a designer to come up with 5 new concepts. Use the style guide, color palette and approved cover templates and focus instead on the actual content.

Introducing a new identity or look and feel to an organization is an admittedly difficult task. But it should not be a democratic one. Strong support from top leadership is essential. Making clear the linkage of design to the corporation will give less leeway for creative employees to add their own visual twist.

This is not to say that guidelines are dictatorial. The best guidelines provide design options. They offer a large color palette. They suggest photographic treatments without offering a limited choice of 10 stock photos. They show several different ways a cover should be built. As Rob mentioned, they should be viewed essentially as living, breathing documents. Update them over time and work with them. When aspects don't work, revise them.

The trend in guidelines is web-based downloadable documents. Years ago, when the tools were not available to all employees, it was easier to dictate the rules for a company's look and feel via a brick-sized three-ring binder. You had logo slicks instead of files that someone could customize. While the big guidelines books are nice to design (sometimes...), in reality, they are not as useful as a series of small PDFs or changeable web pages. When time comes to refresh the color palette, you don't need to run 1000 pages of color chips on press. Just put up a new page or PDF doc on the intranet. It's a much more flexible situation and should encourage companies to keep their look fresh and up-to-date.

On May.07.2004 at 10:12 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


Excellent topic.

When I first joined the Speak up Community. There

was a topic of discussion. Things you collect

I didn't have time to expound.

I collect Identity Manuals with a passion.

Suffice it to say. I have amassed an impressive

number of Identity Manuals. To numerous to mention.

Those that can attest to my friendship. Will inform you I will never ask to borrow money.

I will worry the Hell out of you for an Identity Manual.


Look out Michael Bierut and Tan Le.

My prized possession is the complete set of Identity Manuals for SAUL BASS' Bell Telephone System. Many thanks to my Good Friend and Mentor

Robert W. Taylor and Mr. Thomas Ruzicka. Approved by HERB YAGER. Which comprises approximately

40 booklet style manuals.

I am currently trying to get the complete set of

AT&T Manuals.

Other prized possessions are the Identity Manuals

for the Los Angeles Olympics. Designed by one

of my Design Superheros Robert Miles Runyan.

Eastern Airlines, Designed by Arthur King for

Lippincott & Margulies.

I would be remiss if I did not inform you. I own

serveral of PAUL RAND's Identity Manuals he Designed for Enron. Before he passed into Design

and Identity Heaven.

I have acquired several by Landor.

I am amazed at the magnitude of this project.

The Bell Telephone System is the largest Corporate Identity Program undertaken

in the United States of America. Project consisted of redesign of 135,000 Bell

System fleet vehicles; 22,000 buildings

1, 250,000 phone booths; 170,000,000

telephone directories.

With, 1,060,000 employees; 80,000,000 customers.

It took five years to implement this program.

From 1969-1972 Without the aid of computer.

The only Identity Project in History that comes close to Bell System is Landor's redesign for

General Electric. Which I heard was larger. However, no concrete numbers to support the theory.

Tan maybe you can shed some light on this.

Several different Style Identity Manuals exist.

Basic Guidelines and Application Guidelines.

Incorporated in Ring Bound; (Notebook Style)

Spiral Bound, Booklet Style and Poster.

Ring bound application guidelines are my favorite.

Talking with many of the Old Guard Identity Designers/Consultants/Evangelist.

Like myself they are saddened to see Identity Manuals diappear. In favor of online manuals.

Understanding to cost effectiveness of this transition. You really can't compart online manuals to the Arcane Artifact. Direct light

vs Reflective light.

Printed Identity Manuals were the epitome of

an Identity Project. The fourth phase and most important.

The Design of Identity Manuals truly separated the MEN from the Boys.

Similar to competing in a Decatholon or Triathlon.

Either you have the wherewithal or you don't.

I'm reminded, when I first joined the Speak Up.

Community. Another post on Identity Manuals. Someone commented. I'd rather Design a Coupon Book. Than Design an Identity Manual.

No monetary value in Designing Coupon Books. Design of Identity Manuals was where the Big Money was.

Personally, I never saw the Rigity and Confinement most people expressed in reference

to Identity Manuals.

Laws governing proper usage is highly neccessary.

Without Identity Guidelines. The Designers efforts will be Destroyed.

I've gone to bed with many Identity Manuals.

Occasionally, I still fall to sleep with one.


Corporations are supposed to by some law or proclamation Destroy Identity Manuals after they have been revised.

I can assure you. Most are confiscated and not


They have an enormous value to the private collector in search of them.

To illustrate my point. In 1971 the United States Trademark Office in New York purpordedly had over

100 Identity Manuals in their collection.

They have less than 3/4 of that number now.

I'll guantee, they were not discarded.

Just to show you the values people place on Identity Manuals whom are not neccessarily Designers or Identity Consultants. General Collectors.

Similar items sold. Made me Cry!!!!!!!


Ahhh, I've got something nobody else in World has other than the Bass Family.



On May.07.2004 at 10:14 AM
Trent Williams’s comment is:

I wonder if this is a particular problem in the United States where everyone thinks their idea is just as good as anyone else's and no system is sacred. Or the individual is always more important than any group or any system. So even if a system seems to benefit everyone, we like to see it disrupted just to show that the individual has not been wiped out by the system, any system. We are not like the Japanese who always like to go along with the plan, with the group. So even if a plan or system is the best or right way, it makes us nervous if it looks like it is too monolithic and all-absorbing, if it looks like it will rob us of our individuality.

On May.07.2004 at 10:15 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Sorry for second post.

Correction of year of Bell System project.

It took five years to implement this program.

From 1969-1975 Without the aid of computer.

On May.07.2004 at 10:27 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Wow Maven, very impressive collection. Delorean's looks cool.

I haven't seen the GE manual, but I can only imagine how comprehensive it has to be. Keep in mind that there's divisions like GE Financial, GE Medical, GE consumer products, etc. too.

I've seen some very impressive and comprehensive standards manuals since joining Landor. In fact, there's an entire team in Landor SF dedicated to producing/designing corporate brand guidelines full-time. No kidding.

And I agree/concur w/ everything Jonsel said. Brand manuals are guidelines, but they are also living documents. At least here in the US. One thing that I've noticed is that most companies in the US tend to use their corporate guidelines as a point of departure and roadmap. People will try to infuse some personal ownership into the application being created, departing from the manual here and there to make their mark.

But in Europe, it's a different approach. I dunno, maybe Europeans hold brand guidelines in higher esteem or something — but they produce things exactly as they appear in the manuals. No deviations on any details. If you're the designer that created that brand, you've gotta just love that.

On May.07.2004 at 11:06 AM
griff’s comment is:

From my perspective in a company that usually extends an existing brand/identity to the web, there are two angles. The conceptual style guide that expresses the thoughts behind the brand/identity (ex. "the yellow is used to create a feeling of excitement") and then there is the detailed how to style guide that documents online specs (ex. the alternating colors used in a table list are websafe colors CCCCCC and 999999 with a 2 pixel gutter between).

The first (conceptual style guide) is very valuable to me. It helps me understand the big picture and allows me to extrapolate in directions that may be undefined (I am always amazed how shallow these guides are when it comes to online vs print).

The second (detailed documentation) is completely useless and even dangerous in some cases. The technology and tools do a much better job of documentation than a word document. For example, photoshop retains corporate color swatches, CSS contains font sizes and formatting. It is much easier to open the photoshop file or tweak the css code than pull out a 10lb printed document. There in, lies the danger, if one designer changes something in a photoshop file but does not update the detailed style guide (happens all the time), the next designer might consult the guide before the psd resulting in confusion.

In the end, we usually create a high level style guide only about the online design to supplement the greater style guide already in place. And then it gathers dust.

On May.07.2004 at 11:15 AM
monkeyinabox’s comment is:

The worse thing is when the company you at redesigns the standards and they are worse than what you started with. Why does the boss who doesn't understand got use of typography make the rules? What about color changes? How do you know it's getting better or just someones flavor of the hour? Oh man.

On May.07.2004 at 03:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Not a groundbreaking link, as it has been around for some time and has been mentioned here previously, Online Manuals.

(Of note: GE's manual has what may be a promising future Speak Up discussion — GE is migrating to a new Corporate Identity program to be launched in May 2004. Mmmmmmmm… Corporate Identity Migration…).

It is a shame indeed to see manuals shift to online form, there is something very appealing about their rigidity and straighforwardness. What I really dig are those brand books corporations make; the ones that "embody" the new brand message with cool photography, witty copywriting and fancy printing techniques — completely unnecessary and self-indulgent but the ultimate in corporate design candy. Yum.

On May.07.2004 at 03:47 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

The brand books seem completely useless, and perhaps directly they might be, but they're phenomenal rallying points, a priceless point of reference that everyone can return to and remember whenever they get confused about what they're doing or where they're going.

Humans throughout history have always used rhetoric and mantras to build and maintain organizations; while these brand books don't necessarily present distinct guidelines or specific courses to follow when it comes to objects to be designed, they're great at unifying the voice and establishing an identity. Why is this relevant? Because a brand is not a logo and its not just a look--a brand is an idea, and brand books excel at getting the ideas in order.

And, they're great revenue generators for the firms that do them.

On May.07.2004 at 05:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Just to clarify the difference, brand books and brand guidelines are different things. Brand books are for storytelling, mantras, and manifestos. Brand guidelines serve as literal tools for implementation of applications.

I've seen some amazing brand books. MarchFirst's was pretty butt-kicking if I recall — but a lotta good that did for the company.

And yes, they cost a kazillion dollars. Which is why few companies do them any more. Shame.

On May.07.2004 at 05:51 PM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

This is one of those moments when I wish someone's client and/or someone who actually had to "get a job done" but had no design experience would pipe in and give us their thoughts on identity manuals/guidelines/stylebooks etc.

We all know what they _do_ with such artifacts.


On May.07.2004 at 07:36 PM
felipe gil’s comment is:

Don’t know if THIS has been mentioned here before ( may be I even got it here, I dunno) but it looks helpful and promising at this time.

On May.07.2004 at 09:06 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Happy Mothers Day to All Mothers in the Speak Up Community.


Unfortunately, I did not win the bid for the Delorean Identity Manuals. I thought they would sell between $80.00 - $ 100.00 dollars.

Planned on owning both of them.

Little did I know Collectors of Car Memorabilia are not to be taken lightly. They're serious!!!!!

Many thanks for sharing. I certainly, did not know Landor possessed a separate entity for

Identity Standards and Guidelines creation.

Landor's Identity Manuals are exceptional. I cherish the guidelines I own which Landor produced.

I agree, European Identity Manuals are exceptional.

Referencing, FHK Henrion, Identity Manual for KLM Airlines. Henion Ludlow & Schmidt. Mitsubishi Identity Manual is exceptional.

As well, Milner Gray for the transportation system.

BOB NOORDA's work is exemplary.(others)

Same with the Japanese like Europe. Identity Manuals are HIGH ART MILIEU.

Certainly, Treated as such.

Referencing, Japanese Identity Consultancy PAOS.

PAOS, Identity Design for Bridgestone. The tire manufacturer.

Perhaps, the most comprehensive Identity Manual I have seen (other than Bass') is Citibanks Identity Manual Designed by Anspach Grossman Portugal. The Manual is a Ring Bound Manual and

weighs over seven (7lbs) pounds.


Thanks for lending your usual aire of TRUTHFULNESS

SUCCINT and Insightful Commentary.


The practicality of Online Identity Manuals

make GOOD SENSE. For Client and Designer.

The Identity System is easier to manage.

Thus, accessible to all that need a template,

swatch, or reminder of font style.

However, the arcane artifact (Identity Manuals)

are simply MAGNIFICENT in all its GLORY.


GE is migrating to a new Corporate Identity program to be launched in May 2004.

Of note: GE's manual has what may be a promising future Speak Up discussion.

You know we've got to do it.

It is what SPEAK UP does BEST.

Candid and Succint Critique.

Felix didn't work on this redesign too did he!!!!

C'mon, Felix just Breaking Balls !!!!!!

On May.09.2004 at 03:00 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Like most of my grand predictions about the immediate future, my seventeen year old rambling about automated identity manuals hasn’t come true but it’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it:

One day design firms will employ programmers to subtract from software—the opposite of extensions and plug ins. The result will be Word, InDesign, and the like that will only use the company’s official fonts, only allow certain things to be in the actual company colors, only load certain templates, etc. The manual will be embedded in the software that will be sold to the company in lieu of a manual.

BTW, Mr. Maven—While I share your admiration of Bob Runyam (and also prize one of the ’84 Olympics manuals as part of my [much smaller than yours] collection), I’d have to say that Deborah Sussman’s poster about banners and color usage (which, unfortunately, I don’t have) had more of an effect on the look of the L.A. games than that manual did.

On May.09.2004 at 03:04 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

However, the arcane artifact (Identity Manuals)

are simply MAGNIFICENT in all its GLORY.

Maven, I share your love for a beautiful, printed identity manual. However, they often date too quickly. Here's an example: several years back, I worked on the ITT Industries identity program at Landor. The manual consisted of a series of embossed, debossed, french folded, uncoated, 6- and 8-color books, contained in a debossed leather case. Weighs a ton. Beautiful stuff, though. Won AIGA awards and a few others, I believe. Wish I'd done it myself. One of the books was on advertising guidelines. Within 2 years, this book was useless. I would also say the Print Guidelines book was not nearly as detailed as it should have been.

My point is that instead of lush printing, the Print Guidelines could have been more fully fleshed out when not limited by a printing budget. The ad book's lifecycle was too short-term to spend huge amounts of money.

In defense of printed material, though, I will say this: there is a wow factor to be considered, especially when launching a new identity. You've got one shot to capture your employees' hearts and minds and you'd better do it right. To this effect, I think the brand book is the best use of this. Sell the new entity. Get them to buy into it and see how they play a role in the growing enterprise. Every employee needs the brand book. Only the communications group needs the down and dirty logo specs. Leave the hardcore info — the background control, misuse, cover designs, file downloads — where it is easily viewed and updated: the web.

(Tan, get your hands on the Pathé books if you can. Stunners.)

On May.10.2004 at 12:53 AM
DavidVan’s comment is:

I happen to have a copy of the SL 2002 Olympics ID Manual for purchase if one would be interested...

On Mar.30.2005 at 03:50 PM