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A Blue Perspective: The good, the bad & the ugly

The good, the bad & the ugly
12 December 2003

Look around your local shopping centre and you'll find plenty of businesses that seem to rely on the ugliness of their identity to create brand recognition; you know, the sort of people that use comic sans in their e-mails. It's fine to let these businesses carry on in their own muddling ways, but what happens when a company that doesn't design t-shirts for 18 - 30 year olds asks you to design their web site?

I am of the belief that the web site for a business should be strongly branded with their own identity — giving them a well defined presence on the Internet and providing users with an understanding of the company's individuality. Therefore, the identity (colours, logos, phrases associated with the business) plays a large part in determining the design of a site. The degree to which it does so may vary between businesses and sites — depending on what the client wants to achieve — but it always influences the design. There's a certain ethical twinge when you just stick the logo in the top left corner and make it irrelevant to what you're designing.

Given that influence, a business' identity can quickly bog down the aesthetic development of a web site, and I have found myself in some situations spending much less time designing the actual web site than trying to massage the company's identity into something presentable without losing the value of its recognisability — sometimes its a losing battle.

Recently, a client who I have worked steadily with — and whose logo was a bland remnant from the early eighties that always pained me to use it — was convinced to update their image. Spurred by a shift in company focus, the change allowed me to create a sharp, modern identity that is easily transferable between print and web, but which still retains the personality that customers have come to associate with the company and its products (and which millions of dollars have been spent promoting).

So, what do you do when you are faced with the same problem (if you're a style master)? Or are you part of the problem (if you're a style dinosaur)? Drop your thoughts off here.

Comments

1/3. 12 December 2003 @ 07:03, Simon Jessey wrote:

:::Therefore, the identity (colours, logos, phrases associated with the business) plays a large part in determining the design of a site:::

I totally agree with you. Working with an outdated brand is awful, because it means compromising a design. But sometimes working with a great brand identity can be just as frustrating.

I have always been thwarted by web typefaces. Of all the areas where CSS needs a kick in the backside, support for downloading fonts should be the one with the bright red target painted on it. I'm always asked if I can use a corporation's preferred typeface, and I'm forced to compromise with those few fonts available to all of us.

2/3. 12 December 2003 @ 11:14, Cameron wrote:

Fonts ARE very limiting on the web, and they're possibly one of the greatest hurdles in the way of a truly accessible Internet.

The whole reason that images are used for text on most web sites is to achieve a certain style through the use of a particular font, which then forces the use of alt tags, image replacement, etc. If those fonts were available to users, plain text could be used and everyone would be able to access the data -- visual browsers, screen readers, etc.

3/3. 12 December 2003 @ 15:39, Brad wrote:

To be honest, what I find MORE limiting than the technology (XHTML, CSS etc) is the clients themselves, and more often than the clients, the marketers.

Has no-one educated these people that Flash is just no good sometimes? I'm all for good use of Flash: in the right hands it's fantastic. However, throwing superfluous moving bits into popup windows and expecting it to sell a product is nothing short of misguided, in my opinion. Likely it also does LESS for their brand, as people who can't use the site are forced to look elsewhere.

If it was up to me, I'd educate the client a little, at least let them know their options. However, as an underling I'm forced to comply with business intelligence which dictates "The Client is Always Right". Even when they're ignorant.

I'm with you on this Cameron: let the needs of the site and the needs of the user dictate the design. If you're a good designer the rest should come naturally.

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