“Rules can be broken, but never ignored”.
Yes, we need rules and guidelines to avoid mistakes, but also to move in the right direction.
Having designed several guidelines myself and seen some from leading FMCG companies, I am convinced today that ¾ of them are useful, but not excellent.
Why so? Because they do not leave the door open for constant improvements. In other words, they are too restrictive. They are most often right in general, but wrong in particular and as most situations are ‘particular’, we need guidelines (or rules) that allow us to move in the direction where we find the optimal solution. Furthermore, as many young brand and product managers are risk-averse and interpret the word “guide” as “have to”, we end up with little innovation! This could easily be avoided if we designed guidelines (rules) in a different manner. Instead of producing 30-50 pages, nailing down every corner of the identity or particularity we wish to protect, we should design a manual of 5-6 pages, open-ended, allowing for constant improvements. Why do I say this? Because I profoundly believe that
- • real creativity, the kind that is responsible for break-through changes in our society, always violates rules;
- • most artists break rules as the memorable never emerges from a formula.
We therefore need rules or guidelines that are not too restrictive and leave the door open for the above ‘memorable’ and break-through changes.
Yes, it is possible to design such short manuals if the 2-3 key parts of an identity are clearly fixed such as for instance the colour(s), the logotype or the icon. But do not forget that even these elements can be temporarily tampered with for special editions such as for instance Easter, Halloween or New Year! All other elements of the design (pack, product, communication, etc.) should be based upon words as
- • maximise (e.g. appetite appeal);
- • reduce (e.g. complexity);
- • optimise (e.g. consumer contact);
- • simplify (e.g. the layout);
- • prioritise (e.g. the information which is common sense);
- • emphasise (e.g. the reason-to-believe);
- • amplify (e.g. the taste or the effect);
- • remove (e.g. useless information).
It is important that the basic identity of a brand or a product be intact, be it in a market or over the whole world. A good example is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes that have a slightly different execution, depending upon the local market, but give a uniform identity seen worldwide.