8.23.2009

Brand miscommunications

When I go to the mall with my wife we usually tend to stop by The Limited. Luckily for me The Limited is a visually stimulating store. The displays and colors are usually beautiful and the use of typography is elegant so even though I may not be interested in checking out pants or skirts I can look around not end up bored. During a recent trip I saw an autumn sales flier and eagerly picked it up, hoping for some good design to look at. Unfortunately I ended up with this:

I was completely surprised. I began to wonder if I had picked up a catalog from a different store or if there was some kind of mistake. For those of you not familiar, here's a screen shot of their website. The website exhibits The Limited's actual visual identity.

I don’t think these two designs could be any more different. Seeing such disparate pieces from the same organization just reminds me that the importance of consistent visual branding still seems to be undervalued. While it’s certainly true that there’s much more to a brand than it’s visual identity, it is one of the more important factors that sways a person during their first encounter with the brand. This concept is probably illustrated most clearly if you compare a brand to a person. People form their initial assumptions about other people based on their appearance. Actually it makes a lot of sense that way. Most of the time vision is probably going to be the first of the senses to encounter any given person. This is where the visual brand comes in. The visual brand tells you what kind of a company you’re dealing with. It tells you whether you’re about enter a Shop Rite or a Dean and Deluca’s. Granted a well-dressed person could still be a jerk and a great visual identity could still belong to a crummy company. However as designers we don’t want our audience to wade through a sea of mixed messages hoping that if they hang around for long enough they’ll find out what a good brand the company is on the inside. The goal of visual branding is to communicate the personality and values of the organization visually so that when a customer interacts with the organization the interaction is consistent through and through.

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