Sometimes I think that corporate marketing takes itself too seriously.
For those not in the know, brand guidelines are 10-30 page documents that attempt to highlight the importance of a brand’s visual identity and how it reflects its’ ethos/outlook as a company. It also serves as a set of rules that is used both internally and externally to outline, for example, how much white space is permitted around a logo and what colour palettes may be used in each medium. Unfortunately, for all of these good intentions, the majority of brand guidelines are melodramatic, pretentious bullshit.
Take a look at these eloquently worded little excerpts:
Brand X’s tone of voice combines friendly familiarity with respect, much as you would speak with a friend or colleague. It is warm and accessible without being in any way patronising. It invites the consumer to engage in a dialogue of partners with the promise of reward.
Brand X is more than just a badge or a logo. It stands for who we are. It is a visual representation of our brand, our values and our commitment to be the best of the X and X worlds.
X Sans is not just our corporate typeface. It is highly legible and modern reflection of our transparent and customer driven focus. The sans serif font highlights our no-frills and purposeful drive for efficiency, ensuring our brand ethos permeates through all manner of graphical communication.
These may be extreme examples (and I may have made the last one up), but the purpose they originally served has been lost in a cloud of meaningless corporate buzz-speak that has become something of an inside joke in certain circles. Take the creative writing and brand agency Quietroom, for example, who produced the mock brand guidebook, Santa Claus.
Santa Claus: a masterful exercise in parody and subtle British humour.
So, where am I going with this. Well, after a recent conversation I had with a friend regarding the world’s worst fonts, I believe that maybe, just maybe, these brand guidelines have a point.
We both agreed that Comic Sans, a font unanimously deplored in graphic design circles, was both childish and unprofessional; but I argued that Papyrus was most definitely worse. To my surprise, it turns out that a lot of other people agree. To further prove my point, someone has already gone ahead an some of the world’s most famous brands in Papyrus. See below:
Credit: Steve Lovelace
This just shows that the simple act of replacing the font can completely alter the way you perceive a brand. The eBay and Ford logos are particularly good examples of how the altered font completely ruins my impression of them as a reputable brand. On further digging, I was even surprised to learn that James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster Avatar used Papyrus as well.
So, there you have it. Perhaps brand guidelines are necessary after all.
And I’m never watching Avatar again.