The Discipline of Design

“There is no design without discipline.
There is no discipline without intelligence.”
— Massimo Vignelli

The definition of what role a graphic designer plays in developing an effective brand identity and overall look and feel of communications can be confusing these days. Much depends on the value the client puts on design to communicate their brand values and the skill set of the designer to be able to work across all media platforms. By choosing to pay attention to the how as much as the what, communications is made more connective, informative, distinctive and effective.

This is a challenge. Rarely is there an opportunity to build a brand up from a clear space and from the inside out. It takes a strong leader with vision to be able to reimage a company while having to manage it every day. Most times, a designer is brought in to solve a particular problem. Each assignment provides different degrees of “input.”

One of the core principles I teach my design class at RIT is this: To create great work, the designer has to own the project, not just work on it. There has to be investment. I love to work with strategic brand development experts as the first level of client investment. When I can become privy to their process of arriving at a client truth, I have something solid to build from that I know is right.

Once the strategy and direction is clear, it guides the way the brand story and all the visual attributes that inform the story can be developed. How we go about doing this is really important, not only in terms of being consistent yet uniquely appropriate as we build the brand out, but also inventive with the element of creative spark.

I wish more marketing and brand managers within companies understood better that how we build the brand story, how we create a unified brand architecture and all the communications infrastructure pieces that go along with it, can really be done efficiently. Not only does this save time and money in the long run, it also assures us that all the disparate communications pieces we develop connect and build on one another for a stronger brand.

One of my simplest yet most effective ways to avoid the request to just look at one aspect of the brand, like a website, is to start with brand and content development, both graphically and through voice and story. We can then think about articulating the tools we have created across media, keeping the brand connected and identity strong.

Design does become grounded in discipline, as Mr. Vignelli states.
A clear brand strategy based on a specific business strategy is the intelligence of which he speaks. As a designer, it is something I find hard to work without.

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