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Six Signs of Responsive Brand Design

Bek Agius — 8 December 2021


It’s a challenging time to be in marketing, with teams tasked with delivering on-brand customer experiences across a growing number of channels with more personalisation, empathy, speed and agility than ever before.

More is also being asked of brand design and production teams, which are required to be exponentially more flexible and responsive as a result.

A lot has been said about how the shift to remote work has created new expectations among consumers of being able to connect almost instantly to the information and products they need.

This is driving a new need for agility in marketing, which must be able to assess and respond to changing circumstances quickly, and adapt messaging to meet changing needs and attitudes.

But not all brands are ready for this new era of responsive marketing. Not only does it require some operational agility, it also requires responsive brand design.

What makes a responsive brand?

We’ve written previously about building a responsive brand. Simply put, responsive brands are able to operate in an agile way with the people, processes and tools that support the following characteristics:

  • The ability to respond within hours, rather than days or weeks
  • The ability to be executed compliantly by anyone in the organisation
  • Not being reliant on any one individual to keep things moving
  • The ability to execute at scale
  • The ability to personalise content
  • Minimal dependence on external production workflows.

But if your brand design isn’t flexible and responsive, it will fall at the first hurdle because inefficient production will prevent agile, on-brand execution.

Hurdles to agile, responsive brand design

Ambiguity and manual processes are two of the biggest obstacles to responsive brand design.

If your brand guidelines are poorly defined so that it’s difficult for the organisation to understand what is – and isn’t – acceptable, on-brand execution at speed will always be difficult.

Similarly, if your brand requires bespoke designs for every execution, production will always be a time-consuming process.

Brands with a visual identity that require painstaking processes to achieve the right creative outcome may look distinctive, but the ability to respond to fast-moving situations will remain elusive or require a departure from the brand’s usual style.

Finally, failing to think about automating elements of your brand design will leave your production scrambling to meet increased volume and velocity requirements – or require new team members to be hired to meet rising production demands.

Tailoring your brand design for responsive marketing

Most websites these days are designed to be responsive, or able to be displayed automatically within a number of different formats without compromising brand or functionality.

In much the same way, brands can be designed from the ground up for efficient, automated, responsive production across all channels – without compromising on impact, integrity or consistency.

Here are six foundational design elements to consider to set your brand up to respond consistently, at speed and without friction to the new demands of today’s business landscape.

1. Limit labour-intensive design techniques

Love multi-layered design, detailed deep-etching and other high-impact effects? These may attract attention in big brand campaigns and other high-profile situations, but they will quickly become a drain on your resources if they need to be implemented across all your channels, every time.

Ask yourself if your business cards, sales brochures and digital ads require the same level of sophistication as your new product launches, and whether a similar or alternative design outcome can be achieved using less manual processes.

2. Use custom fonts and bespoke imagery strategically

We all love to use custom fonts and bespoke photography to achieve exactly the right look and feel – but when you need to publish a newsletter or submit an ad quickly, these are the things that can slow you down and create operational friction.

Have fall-back fonts at the ready to replace your favourite custom typeface when required and either commission a range of pre-approved images to meet the bulk of your design needs up-front, or create a distinctive, on-brand look using stock imagery, photographic treatments and other design options.

3. Consider colour blocking

Complicated brand hierarchies don’t always require bespoke visual identities. Consider whether you can use colour strategically to denote different sub-brands or related brands within your portfolio, keeping other design changes to a minimum.

This will enable you to build brand value, recognition and consistency across your brand portfolio without incurring unnecessary expense or slowing down centralised design teams.

4. Define hierarchy, placement and scale

Defining the relationship, size and placement of different design elements to each other is crucial to establishing a responsive, scalable brand system. This means designing to a grid, defining hierarchy as it applies to your brand and establishing a type scale that can be used across executions and channels.

Not only will this simplify your design process and enable your designers and agencies to more easily create on-brand executions, it will also enable the creation of responsive design templates that can automate much of this work.

5. Anticipate your aspect ratios

Constantly switching between formats and aspect ratios can create untold amounts of production re-work. It pays to keep the number of aspect ratios you use in mind when you’re creating new design executions, so they can more easily be adapted for use in other channels.

Using responsive templates, you’ll also be able to automate the editing and re-formatting process — potentially slashing the time it takes to build out a full campaign from days or weeks to minutes.

6. Design once, use many times

Take an evergreen approach to low-impact executions that don’t noticeably contribute to brand awareness so they can be reused across the breadth of your design needs without being redesigned each time.

The conventional wisdom is that everything should be branded – but if you can create a suite of generic assets that can be used across your brand portfolio without creating re-work, you’ll save time, increase your speed to market, reduce cost and eliminate friction without impacting brand awareness.

Once you have adjusted your brand design to meet the new flexibility and agility demands of marketing today, consider automating the process with brand management and responsive templating technology, such as Outfit.

This will enable you to scale your output exponentially, because your brand is built on responsive foundations.

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