Defining a visual/emotional target for a new product is at the heart of what every designer does. It is one of our “bread and butter” skills. Things get exponentially more interesting when the challenge shifts to a line of products instead of simply one. Does the line of offerings have similar basic forms to deal with (such as automobiles) or do they vary greatly (as in sporting goods)? Do the different iterations imply differing levels of expense and quality, or does each target some unique functional segment of the market – maybe a mix of both?
Just as there are a multitude of scenarios to contemplate, there are a multitude of approaches which can be taken. Some approaches opt to rigidly define a language and apply it in a systematic manner to the line. This can be very successful in regards to customer recognition, but it also can be very limiting if your brand needs to serve a wider customer base or react to changes in those markets. Not exactly niche concerns – I know, right?
To effectively support a brand vision over time a Visual Brand Language (VBL) strategy needs to be agile and adaptable. The mutability of a brand language is what gives it strength. We don’t want it to be so rigid that it is fragile; one element out of position makes the whole house of cards come down. We want a VBL strategy to be more like a melody – where if I whistle it to you out of pitch, out of time, with inconsistencies in interpretation, you can still easily recognize it for what it is intended to represent.