Posts Tagged "IQ"

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6 Ways Financial Institutions Can Simplify Copy

Simplify Financial Copy

Finance isn’t simple. Unless you’re armed with a handy jargon cheat sheet, ‘Compound Interest’ and ‘The Rule of 72’ just sound like bad action movies. So for those of us who can’t leave a tip without a calculator, pinpointing something like the appropriate amount for a home equity line of credit can be overwhelming. What does this mean for financial institutions in our digital world? Consumers are searching for straightforward content, and whoever has easy-to-understand copy wins.

How can financial institutions simplify their copy? 

1.  Jargon-proof your copy.

Nothing scares a consumer more than confusion. Believe it or not, not everyone knows the difference between APY and APR, especially millennials as they age into the market for mortgages, car loans and other financial products. Spelling out acronyms and offering short definitions can be the difference between closing the tab and clicking “open account.” Vanguard spells out exchange-traded funds on first mention, rather than simply saying ETFs. Then, they give an overview of what this means as well as how to choose which is right for you. By skipping the technical language, brands can build trust.

2. Show real-life examples.

Consumers want to know, “What exactly is in this for me?” Often, financial services can seem abstract or uniform compared to services offered by other institutions. By helping the consumer see real-life use, it’s easier to establish need. For example, Simple doesn’t say, “We track spending in your checking account.” They say, “Goals and Safe-to-Spend go hand in hand to help you control and understand spending while making sure you have enough to pay the bills-and maybe even save up for something special.” That way, the reader doesn’t just see a digital service — they see secure rent and a fridge full of groceries.

3. Keep it short and sweet.

Big chunks of text can make simple copy seem complex. Be sure to cut empty copy and see what can be said in fewer words. Break up copy with more paragraphs and punctuation. Splitting sentences doesn’t always save space, but it does improve readability. That’s why Mint’s website reads, “Bills? Paid. Don’t miss a bill again. See and pay your bills on one place.” That’s much better than “With the ability to view bills and make payments on the same website, you’ll be less likely to incur late payment fees,” right?

4. Just come out and say it.

Honesty is the fastest route to credibility. If consumers feel like they need a microscope to spot the difference between services, the choice won’t be made with confidence. After all, value can’t be built if consumers aren’t sure what a service is. While Gateway Bank offers multiple checking accounts, each is identifiable through simple headlines and copy that explains which account best suits different life stages and needs. Because “people who just want the basics” have different needs than teachers or retirees.

5. Get personal.

In 2013, Pew Research Center reported that 51 percent of Americans chose online banking over in-store. This means less representatives sharing brand values and walking customers through financial processes. And you know what? A human touch brings simplicity to difficult or new processes. Incorporate personality reflective of a brand’s voice and tone, and offer additional help through straightforward calls to action. GoBank adds personality to copy with short lines like “Psst… you can also find free nearby ATMs with our mobile app.” Personality can lighten financial copy, as well as encourage consumers to follow along to the next step.

6. Speak the customers’ language.

Not only does speaking the customers’ language help readers understand copy, it boosts search optimization. By using phrases customers are already searching for, you can better drive traffic to your online content. Google Hummingbird picks up on conversational queries, like “How do I open a bank account?” So think about how customers speak and ask questions, then provide copy to match. To give users the most accurate search results, pinpoint which pages should use which keywords and phrases. Don’t overuse them — over-optimizing your content does more damage than it does good.

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Every Brand Needs a Playbook

Creating a brand's playbook

An Evidence Based Approach

Marketing has become a very complicated game. On every play there are thousands of possible permutations and like chess you have to not only win the moment, but also make it part of the bigger strategy. It’s not easy because there are so many things to consider, from the sheer number of channels and influences, to the behavior of the independent minded, digitally savvy consumer. Trying to do it by gut, or even experience, alone is just not possible anymore. That’s why brands need an evidence-based approach to marketing planning.

First Things First

There a number of steps to developing a plan, each building on the other, but to begin you need to gather all the intelligence you can find. This includes data and insights on barriers and opportunities inside your company, the category, the competition and the target consumer. It also includes doing a health check on the brand position, reviewing the lead process, if any, the conversion process and the role of technology; internal and external. Then with, hopefully, target audience segmentation and personas in hand, you should conduct a competitive analysis, use social listening to see what your targets are talking about, and analyze search patterns to glimpse what they are actually doing.

Mind the Gaps

Normally companies already have lots of this information, as well as Attitude & Usage research, sales and geographical data and so on. The idea is to synthesize all this data into insights and direction. But first you should determine the gaps in your knowledge, where you need additional understanding, and decide how critical it is to fill those gaps. Often stakeholder interviews, across the organization, from sales to the executive suite, are a fast way to fill in knowledge gaps, identify what is important internally and as an important bonus, get buy-in for the planning process.

Journey Mapping

All this data and knowledge becomes inputs for the next phase; Journey Mapping. This critically important step is based on the Mckinsey Consumer Decision Journey model introduced in 2009. Its job is to map consumer behavior at the key steps of awareness, evaluation, conversion, post purchase and loyalty. It tells us what each segment of consumers is thinking, doing and feeling at each juncture; it also identifies barriers, distribution requirements, brand role and more. Usually conducted as a collaborative workshop, Journey Mapping brings marketers together with key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to answer the key questions of “When” and “Where” to connect with consumers, and the role and purpose of channels at the different stages of the journey. Of course it is invaluable to talk to consumers too if time and budget allow.

Mighty Messaging

Building on Journey Mapping is Content Strategy, which is focused on answering the other two key questions “What to say” and “How to say it” at each touch point. The objective is to determine the most relevant and impactful messaging that can be presented to each consumer at each interaction.  That messaging needs to be relevant to the persona and their stage of the journey, while also being designed to contribute to a cumulative brand impression. At the same time messaging must be delivered in a way that is right for the context of the interaction; a video on a phone, for example, might be perfect or completely wrong depending on where someone is likely to view it and what he or she might be doing at the time.

Making the Cut

By this stage of the process you will have identified many potential tactics that address “where, when, what and how”.  But since budgets and time are always limited, you need to make choices based on each tactic’s ability to achieve business goals. Tactics are therefore reviewed for how they are projected to deliver on business objectives within time, resource, difficulty and ROI requirements and those that make the cut go into The Playbook. This is a prioritized action plan, typically covering 12-18 months, made up of the most effective and efficient tactics that you have determined will together achieve your business goals for the period. With it you know what marketing tactics need to be executed when, what performance they are projected to deliver, over what period of time, at what cost and at what difficulty level.

Less Guesswork

The Playbook is the culmination of a comprehensive evidence-based strategic process that takes the guesswork out of this complex process and gives senior management and the marketing team the confidence they need that their marketing plans will accomplish their business goals. While experience alone might have worked in simpler times, it’s just too risky today, which is why the Playbook will give a brand a much higher chance of success vs. reacting, improvising or just going on gut.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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IQ Spotlight: Sarah Giarratana, Copywriter

IQ Spotlight Sarah G

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?

My name is Sarah Giarratana and I’m a Copywriter.

What’s your superpower?

Probably being empathetic? I try to be really in tune with how other people feel, and I try to live my life empathy first.

What have you learned from the people you’ve worked with at IQ?

I think learning to stop overwriting. I know that sounds so simple, but learning how to work with designers and UX-ers to optimize text has helped. When the design and the copy are balanced it makes the experience of whatever we’re creating so much better.

Tell me about the moment you knew this was the direction you wanted to pursue professionally.

I actually started out interning in project management. But I found out that I was really a terrible PM. But I found some great mentors who shared their secrets of copywriting with me. And I just kept learning and writing copy and getting better, and now I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I like the advertising industry, and I love watching how communication has changed and the role of a copywriter is becoming more of a content creation role, and that keeps me challenged and motivated.

What does “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

The “Intelligence” is the cake itself, and “Creative” is the icing. They can exist separately, but when they come together they make a beautiful cake. And let’s face it, cake is delicious. That being said sometimes you just need a spoon and a tub full of icing. Right, my creative peeps?

Do you have a personal motto?

I think it’s tied between what I said earlier about living “Empathy first” and also “positivity is self-fulfilling.” Even when life gets hard, I find that when I choose positivity, it chooses me back.

Quickfire:

Spring or Fall?

Fall.

Comedy or Mystery?

Drama.

Freckles or Dimples?

Both.

Questions: Asking or Answering?

Asking. Definitely asking.

Picnic or Restaurant?

Restaurant.

Now you know a little more about Sarah Giarratana!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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The Time is Now: Google’s Mobile Deadline

Google's Mobile Deadline

It’s here — Google has pulled out the guillotine for mobile organic search. This time, they’re not messing around.

For many years, marketers have pondered the implication of mobile site access and mobile search ranking results. Google is generally quick to respond to advancements in mobile technology that enhance the consumer’s online experience, and this is a clear-cut example of just that.

Content, content, content.

Google has always harped on the need for quality content versus quantities of “optimized” content. Whether its the Hummingbird update, Panda, Penguin, or whatever the next animal-named-algorithm they choose is, the goal is to identify higher quality content and eliminate what they deem low quality.

The delivery of quality content through search is not defined solely by Google itself, but through over a decade of research and consumer usage data to define what happens next. This time, what happens next is critical for all marketers.

According to ComScore’s January 2015 report, we’re far past the mobile versus desktop tipping point. This should be a wake up call for all brands and marketers.

ComScore January 2015 data

SEO is fun. It’s an always evolving, never stagnant, almost “game”-like adventure for copywriters, analytics professionals, digital marketers, and data geeks in general (like me).

But for too long, marketers have been focused on keywords with little attention paid to User Experience’s impact on SEO. Google doesn’t view them as totally exclusive — in fact in most cases, SEO and UX are complementary.

The magic is where UX and SEO meet in the middle.

Yes, you want to get users to the right web page or landing page through search, but if the page is not mobile-friendly or doesn’t meet the expectation of the user, then what’s point of optimizing for search?

At IQ, we utilize the “hub and spoke” marketing model. The brand website acts as the “hub” while the “spokes” are the content and channels driving to the website. If the hub is insufficient, the spoke suffers as well. If you throw in the rise of mobile use by consumers, you’ve got another wrench in the equation.

What if your customers can’t find what they need to because you’re not there in mobile search?

In the case of Google’s update on April 21st, many brand websites will suffer greatly in mobile organic search. And we can’t blame Google.

As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations for mobile web experiences. With that advancement in consumer expectation, marketers are expected to meet them. Designing a responsive website can solve for that need easily.

Google’s made their decision on behalf of consumers — will your website live up to expectation or will it fall off the map on mobile?

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Simplify your life with #IQtoolbox web tools

Kicking off #IQtoolbox

This month at IQ we’re thinking about some of our favorite ways to use the internet to make our lives simpler, in and out of the office. Whether it’s a tool that gives you cool ambient sound to keep you focused on the task at hand or a better way to organize your office or home to-do lists, online tools can do so much for you. So this month we’re sharing tools IQ-ers use everyday, tools that make up the #IQtoolbox.

We will be sharing original articles here and in our other social media channels (TwitterFacebookTumblr, and LinkedIn). We’ll also be sharing other articles and links that inspire us and engage our minds in a playful way.

So keep an eye out for the #IQtoolbox hashtag as we share our favorite tools. And maybe you can share your favorites with us, too!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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IQ Spotlight: Courtney Kelly, Project Manager

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IQ Spotlight: Courtney Kelly, Project Manager

IQ Spotlight Courtney

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?

My name is Courtney Kelly and I’m a Project Manager.

What is your favorite thing about working with a new client?

I really like the initial “getting to know you” phase. Everyone is so enthusiastic about what you’re going to be doing, and both sides are really open to all the possibilities, and it’s just an exciting time.

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on or managed?

I would say the Hot Spring Spas site redesign. It was my first time working on a full website redesign and the team was really excited to be working on it. It was just a fun experience that ended with some amazing work.

What does “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

The result of bringing research and collaboration together to deliver an end product that’s impactful and easy for people to take in–something that has a nice, friendly, unassuming exterior, but also has depth and purpose behind every single element.

Tell me about the moment you knew this was the direction you wanted to pursue professionally.

I majored in Mass Communication with a concentration in Advertising, because even then Advertising was where I saw myself going. I had heard really great things about the culture and atmosphere in agencies, so I was set on wanting to work in one. I wanted to be involved in the creative process somehow, but I didn’t really want to go back to school, and the more I learned about Project Management, the more it seemed like a great fit. So I got a PM internship, and then I was a Project Coordinator, and now I’m a PM here at IQ.

Describe your approach or process to a new project.

I like to list out absolutely everything I know about a project. What the client wants, where the files are stored, who’s on the team, just anything and everything. Because as a PM, you’re the only person between the client and the resources, so if the resources don’t know the expectations or where to find something, they won’t do it—they’re not mind readers. So I like to get all of that together first, and then I can move onto next steps.

Quickfire:

Sun or Moon?

Sun.

Wine or Whiskey?

Whiskey.

Ninjas or Pirates?

Pirates.

Waffles or Pancakes?

Pancakes.

Ocean or Pool?

Pool.

Now you know a little more about Courtney Kelly!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Danger: Good Times Ahead

Danger: Good Times Ahead

In case you haven’t noticed there is a sea change happening in business. As companies go into 2015 they are more confident that their marketplace is solid than at any time in the last five plus years. This is very different from every January I can remember since the recession hit. If you recall, as we would roll into each New Year, brands would emerge extremely cautiously, prepared at any moment to run for cover as they watched their consumers crawl back into their shell. Of course they had reason to be gun-shy. Pretty much on schedule every year the promise of the economy turned to ashes usually around the second quarter. Budgets were cut, rosy forecasts trimmed and the rest of the year was usually a matter of subsistence marketing.

This year, however, is different. Confidence is brimming, because the fundamentals are finally, truly strong. More important, consumers feel the wind at the back of the economy for the first time in a long time. As a result brands are bullishly turning their attention to full force competition. That’s a big shift in mind-set. Planning to grow market share in the face of competitive pressure requires a different set of strategies and tactics to those required to just make it through the year.  This is made much more demanding when you consider that consumers have been trained by years of scarcity to be value conscious, sophisticated buyers. The upshot is the most challenging, competitive environment brands have probably ever seen.

The lean years have turned consumers into smart, careful shoppers. Buyers of all stripes have been provided with the tools, education and practice to become adept digital consumers armed with the skills required to make the best possible decisions every time. This has reshaped the buying process and redefined consumer expectations. Now there is really no choice for brands but to deliver enablement, transparency, quality and a superior experience. Anyway you look at it, it’s a tough nut to crack, but the companies that deliver on these expectations will earn a place in the consideration set.

All of this requires not only a different mind-set, but also a different tool kit to what brands used the last time they went out to do battle in a strong economic environment. Some forward thinking companies saw this coming, recognized that buying dynamics would forever be linked to new consumer expectations and put the pieces of a new kind of brand ecosystem in place. This ecosystem intelligently connects all of a brand’s touch-points throughout the consumer decision journey. With technology supplying consumer insights, and content keeping the consumer engaged, the new brand ecosystem has shifted to more science than art, and provides companies with more predictability even in the face of more complexity.

Today as we launch into the best environment in years, those brands that studied the new consumer and invested in the infrastructure and technology, find themselves ready to activate these sophisticated marketing ecosystems. Brands that did not do the work, however, are in a very different position. They will quickly find that they don’t have what they need and will be forced to not just change the tires on the bus at 60 mph, but to try and rebuild the whole bus without stopping.

Within the next few months the gap between the haves and have-nots will play out and for the first time the stark realities of marketing in the digital age will be plain for even the most hitherto blinkered to see.

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Pushing Boundaries in a New Year

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Pushing Boundaries in a New Year

Social kickoff January 2015

It’s the first Monday at work in 2015, and at IQ we’re thinking about growth, refining skills, and transformation. This month we’re focusing on pushing boundaries in creative intelligence. We will be sharing original articles here on the blog and in our other social media channels (TwitterFacebookTumblr, and LinkedIn). We’ll also be sharing other articles and links that inspire us and push our perceived limits. So keep an eye on our channels as we share things that push, grow, and expand our creative intelligence.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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IQ Spotlight: Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director

Head to Head: IQ Designers Duke it Out Over Brand Style Guides

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IQ Spotlight: Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director

Carol Montoto, ACD

Carol in her Ugly Christmas Sweater for the contest at the IQ Holiday Party.

IQ is made up of a bunch of rockstars that make incredible work for our clients everyday. We want to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in IQ, so every other Friday we’re going to interview an IQ-er and let you get to know them better.

For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?

My name is Carol Montoto and I’m an Associate Creative Director at IQ.

Tell me about your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame microsite I worked on when I was at Sapient-Nitro. It was a massive project that we had to get finished in a month. We were working nights and weekends and it wasn’t just the creative team, we worked closely with our developers, our motion graphic guys, everyone was just so passionate about the project and the end result was amazing and totally reflected that passion.

What’s your superpower?

I would say my energy. I’m sure you’ve seen me running around the office like a crazy person getting all the things done. Maybe the coffee helps.

Outside of IQ’s clients, what brand is doing really well in advertising lately?

For me, they have to suck me in and make me think it’s not an ad until they show the brand and I’m like “oh, they got me!” I really liked when Skeletor took over Honda’s twitter a couple weeks ago.

What is “Creative Intelligence” mean to you?

I think it’s more the collective of brains in a room coming together. Not just people in any one department, but the cohesive vision of the agency.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Anything snow related, even if it’s fake snow. I try to go skiing and snowboarding at least once during this time of year. I love snow?

Quickfire:

Hat or scarf?

Scarf.

Sun or moon?

Sun.

Strawberry of blueberry?

Strawberry.

West coast or East coast?

West coast.

Handwritten or typed?

Handwritten.

Now you know a little more about Carol Montoto!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Head to Head: IQ Designers Duke it Out over Style Guides

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  • 12.17.14

Head to Head:

IQ designers duke it out over “how to” or “how to not” follow a brand’s style guide.

Head to Head Style Guide Design

Point: The Type-A Guide to Following Design Rules

By: Lauren Weir, Sr. Designer

Our creative team nominated me to write the point of the article — establishing why you should stick to brand guidelines and how to work creatively within them. And while I’ll give you that I’m the type of person who neatly orders my pens, keeps a daily game plan on my signature yellow notepads and may or may not be easily compared with Monica from FRIENDS, I still have fun and sometimes I show up to work in a banana suit. I just think of brand guidelines like a pair of moon shoes — sometimes kind of clunky, but they help you jump to new heights. They’re also infinitely cool.

Brand guidelines are so important to designing for a brand because they explain and uphold the values and importance of the brand for which you are designing. A strong brand will help increase recognition and brand loyalty, which is directly related to a company’s success and profitability. As Smashing Magazine points out, brands have to reach people through so many different platforms that recognition is critical. As designers, if we do not help a company clearly communicate their messages and uphold the definition of their brand then the brand will start to develop on its own through customer opinions in spaces like social — and we all know how that can go south pretty quickly.

How to stick it to the Book:

  1. Make sure you and your client have a complete understanding of the brand guidelines. Take time to go through the guidelines with your client and ask questions. By sitting down for a conversation first, you’re avoiding the future problems that could arise if the brand guide has any holes. Figure out how strict the guidelines are and what will still be considered within the guidelines if it is not explicitly stated. This will give you a clear understanding where the designs can start to move forward. You can also for a clear idea of what to measure your design successes on and give you, as a designer ground to justify the designs you have produced. You can become a design partner for your client, making recommendations for their design in the future, rather than just a production artist for what they envision for their brand.
  2. Experiment within your limits. Think mixing different martinis, rather than making a mix drink with gin, Bailey’s and Chardonnay. Creating and following parameters set by guidelines can give you the chance to try a ton of experiments on different pieces to create interesting designs that relate back to the brand. For example, within a color scheme, try combining the colors in a different way or in different proportions to create something that is different than what is expected. Sometimes the most successful designs come from a new or updated perspective on already existing guidelines.  Guidelines can help you narrow down what areas to experiment in, rather than spending all of your time looking at the endless design options. Put your design energy in the right places, rather than the places that are already defined.
  3. Measure back to the guidelines. Keep brand goals, audience needs, key messages, and brand personality central to each and every decision made in designing for the brand. It is easier to justify your design decisions because the client has already approved their guidelines. Once you can design really well and with new ideas within the limitations given by the client, you can clearly understand the best way to adapt the brand to new platforms (social, mail, web, etc). The most successful and gratifying design systems work show a strong brand voice and visual style across multiple mediums without becoming too repetitive.

There are many brands out there whose designers rely heavily on the visual guidelines and still create some badass designs. Like these:

Counterpoint: How to Design Outside the Style Guide (and not get caught)

By: Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director

So I was nominated to write this counterpoint by my team. I guess they see me as that annoying creative who just won’t stick to a style guide. Maybe that’s slightly true, but I see a style guide as just a guide and not an end-all-be-all. It’s tough exploring creative directions to take a brand without wandering outside the style guide a bit. Rebellious design superhero, Paula Scher, talked about guidelines at the Adobe Max Conference (13:00).“Guidelines are difficult things because they’re rules that prevent bad things from happening, but they don’t really promote good things TO happen.”

It’s not that I think designers should irresponsibly blow off style guides and have a creative free-for-all. But as creative experts, it’s our job to ask questions, challenge the rules when necessary, and push our creativity beyond its limits. Personally, it’s my favorite part of the job. The key is to use brand guidelines to maintain the spirit of a brand. As long as your brand remains consistent, recognizable and the design doesn’t suffer, the guide has accomplished its goal. As John Moore from Idea Sandbox put it, “A Brand Style Guide is essentially an internal communication compass. It provides guidance on how a business should communicate the Identity, Personality, and Authenticity of a brand.”

Common Style Guide Challenges

There are some style guide challenges every designer is familiar with. An incomplete style guide is the most common. Its creator can’t predict what all the uses for it might be in the future. For example, often it is created for print, not for digital. This leaves important brand details such as color (CMYK versus RGB), and fonts (web-friendly) up for debate. The ridiculously strict, 598-page style guide is just as tough to work with. As blogger Geri Coady explains, “Guides can be so strict that it can be virtually impossible to introduce a little creativity.” If you are spending more time measuring pixels than exploring creative directions, just take a step back. The last thing you want to do is kill any amazing ideas you have because they might not exactly fit the style guide. Sometimes, the style guide looks like the ugliest pair of moon shoes you’ve ever seen. If following the style guide is forcing you to make bad design decisions, you’ll need to bend the rules a bit, for everyone’s sake. Chances are that making some small tweaks will vastly improve the design without looking off-brand. If you can pull this off while keeping the brand police happy, nice job.

How to Design Outside the Style Guide:

  1. Know the rules before you break them. Read the style guide. Thoroughly. Really get to know it. THEN you’re ready to challenge the rules. You’ll need to have a good reason for doing so, not just because you think it’s fun to break rules. (Sorry.)
  2. When in doubt, share your thoughts with your client. Even something as small as an inverted white logo on a dark background may just have never come up for a brand. Crazy, I know. If you want to challenge the style guide, why not just talk with your client? Paula Scher suggests making your client a co-conspirator with you (16:52). Be up front and explain to them why you need to deviate from the brand guidelines. You’d be surprised how effective this can be.
  3. Don’t let the style guide become a design crutch. At the end of the day, people will see the final product and NOT the style guide you are following, no matter how beautiful that guide may be. Don’t be afraid to push the creative. The brand police will rein you in if necessary.

Above all else, just remember, “I was just following the style guide” is not an excuse for bad or boring design. Have fun and rebel — responsibly.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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