Discover more from Logo Histories' Extra Issue
Standards Manuals, 1989
Eugene J. Grossman on the importance of corporate identification standards. Published in Graphis Corporate Identity 1.
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Corporations invest huge sums of money to establish and maintain images that accurately reflect their reality. It is desirable, in fact, that image lead reality in order to heighten positive perception of the corporation. Enhanced images allow corporations to be seen as distinctive, well-managed, profitable, growing and innovative leaders in their respective industries. At the same time, the corporation gains visibility.
It is no easy task to break through the barrage of communications that bombard the public: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, point of sale, packaging, product merchandising, etc. To do so requires communications that are unique, memorable and well-managed. Too often, however, corporations that spend extraordinary amounts of money on their identities are communicating more inefficiently than those who spend considerably less.
The answer is efficient communications; the planned method of structuring corporate communications to maximize the use of communications dollars to project a credible, functional corporate presentation directed to specific audiences. A consistent and carefully structured communications plan should avoid redundancy, dilution or clouding of public's perception. If well conceived, it will provide the framework for a visual identification system that is flexible and encourages creativity, while still achieving continuity of purpose. Since corporations vary considerably in size and organizational structure, it is essential that their identification system and its mode of implementation be carefully considered. A global, multidivisional corporation will have a totally different set of application requirements than one that is monolithic and regional in nature. The corporation with a strong retail marketing capability will apply its program in still another manner; there will be greater emphasis between the corporation and its association with its brands.
There are other aspects of the corporate makeup that help establish the parameters and implementation of the identification system such as corporate structure, management style, corporate culture as well as a centralized or decentralized mode of management. It all boils down to the fact that corporations are so different from each other that they must conceive tailor-made identification programs which must be applied in a prescribed manner; there are no "cookie-cutter" solutions. The carefully developed corporate identification program designed precisely to accommodate a corporation's communications needs is only as effective as its implementation. The optimum program is doomed to fail without a well thought out implementation plan.
Answers to such questions as "Who is in charge of the program?"; "Will it be monitored by an (individual, group or department?"; and What degree of management support will help to insure the program's success?" are critical. Purchasing policy, and the quality of creative sources employed to apply the program become crucial to is continual maintenance and effectiveness. After all, a corporate identification program is not merely the creation of a new symbol or logotype with instructions as to how and where it is to be used. It is a strategically designed system of verbal and visual components, structured to communicite consistent appropriate characteristics about a constantly changing corporate entity directed to a host of varied audiences. These components comprise the basic ingredients of an identification system; to achieve a consistently high quality level of program implementation corporations must establish methods to control their use.
The Need for Control
Often, standards manuals are viewed as an expression of corporate management's commitment to administer a planned and efficient approach to communications. More importantly, they are the necessary "tool" used to accomplish appropriate control over the program.
With the need of corporations to rely upon many different sources for program implementation, control becomes essential. Consultants, agencies, printers, writers, fabricators, designers, individuals inside and outside the corporation have responsibility for program implementation.
Therefore, guidelines, specifications, and program controls must be written to be clear and appropriate to various levels of individual talent and expertise; being neither primer-like nor overly technical.
There are many types of manuals that may be created to accommodate specific corporate communications requirements, and they will vary considerably in their composition.
It is important, however, that manuals not be seen merely as symbols of a corporation's identity but as a working document to guide the user toward achieving excellence in the implementation of the program.
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Interim manuals, or guidelines as they are frequently called, are written to guide program implementation during early developmental stages. They are intended to be general and merely touch on program basics. Being of a temporary nature, they will be replaced with complete documents when the program design is completed. Interim guidelines will not be supplemented, and therefore may be spiral-bound or saddle-stitched to keep production costs at a minimum. Frequently they are reproduced in two or three colors or moderately priced stock with typewritten rather than typeset text and specifications.
Because typewritten correspondence, and how it appears on corporate stationery, is an important visual communication, clerical guidelines are developed to ensure typing consistency. These manuals are directed to clerical personnel in an attempt to apprise them of the newly developed typing formats for stationery items. In many instances these are considerably different from previously used styles. Word processor guidelines, for typing stationery and related business forms, are specified and illustrated.
Since there is a particular tendency among clerical personnel to resist change, these manuals serve to functionally and psychologically muster their valuable support.
Permanent Identification Standards Manuals
Permanent standards manuals may be structured in a variety of ways. The amount of detail, number of pages and writing style are largely dictated by the complexity of the program and the audiences it must reach.
The degree of internal management control for monitoring a corporate program will establish the depth of information and specification detail within a standards manual. Generally, more centrally monitored identification programs will be better served by briefer standards manuals; for programs where less communications management control is exercised, a more comprehensive set of guidelines would be more appropriate.
The familiar adage, "a picture is a thousand words." is particularly applicable to the development of identifications standards. Manuals are for the most part visually oriented. Clear and simple specifications for prototype materials are important. Their physical size, typographic details, stock selection, color, and use of graphic components applied within the grid are directly related to color illustrations. This presentation of prototype materials is the most effective approach toward insuring a quality interpretation of program standards. Whenever possible the presentation of designed examples, treated in full size, is particularly desirable. Full scale treatments of stationery items, business forms, publications and advertising are easier to understand and tend to produce a higher level of program implementation.
The manual developed for Citicorp Savings is a good example of this. Because the degree of program control at Citicorp Savings was moderate, the manual was developed to provide more specific design guidelines. The Citicorp Savings manual is illustrative, user-friendly, and treated informally with physical characteristics such as a soft cover, wire binding, and a page-
integrated indexing system, which creates a work book-like quality for the document.
Identification standards manuals that do not appear intimidating to the user are likely to be referred to more frequently. While these manuals are somewhat less detailed, they can provide ample information with effective results.
Briefer, more illustrative manuals, such as the one designed for Unisys Corporation provide sufficient specifications to inform the user of the program essentials, but in an inviting manner. Text written in a friendly and informal style coupled with a more elaborate use of color help to avoid a "text-book" presentation.
The unique physical structure of the manual, a series of individually saddle-stitched volumes in a sleeve-like holder, provides ease of storage and use at a generally lower cost than the more frequently used loose-leaf binders. Each Unisys volume is specific to particular areas of the implementation process: basic standards, stationery systems, signing, etc.
Because Unisys' communications management wanted a greater degree of personalized guidance and implementation control for its program, this briefer manual format is both appropriate and functional.
Manuals designed in a more traditional style, using loose-leaf binders, are possibly the most practical means for specifying corporate identification guidelines. As communications needs change, the standards for control must be flexible enough to accommodate these changes. The addition or deletion of pages or sections allow for revision at the lowest possible cost.
Manuals such as those developed for USG Corporation and Raytheon Company are designed for maximum flexibility. These manuals have been designed to transmit a great deal of information about their respective programs, since less internal implementation control will be exercised by the corporation.
Specifically, the Raytheon manual provides detailed information about the structure of its communications system by describing and illustrating how its operating subsidiaries associate graphically with the parent company's identity. An important feature of the Raytheon manual is the comprehensiveness of its reproducible materials section. Raytheon, in its desire to exercise control over the presentation of its operating unit signatures, created reproducible signature sheets for each. Although somewhat expensive initially, this method of control can be valuable over the long term. As a result, Raytheon has managed to maintain a significant degree of program integrity. Standards manuals such as USG and Raytheon are sectioned and structured in a typical manner. A message from corporate management articulating management's commitment to the program is followed by an introduction stating the rationale for adopting a planned approach to corporate identification along with a description of the program's scope.
The basic standards section essentially introduces the corporate identifier, symbol or logotype, and controls for its application. Also contained in this section is the introduction of the program's visual design vocabulary and the essential design elements that contribute to the corporation's distinctive presentation.
Corporate color and its supporting color system, use of typography and its specification, and the introduction of a grid system designed to provide the structure upon which the visual system is built are also discussed and illustrated within the basic standards section.
The subsequent sections deal with how visual components are applied to such corporate materials as stationery, business forms, promotional materials, advertising, signing, vehicles, etc. Specific applications are illustrated and explained in detail to achieve the optimum level of program implementation. Finally, the reproducible materials section provides signature artwork and color control chips to guarantee reproduction accuracy.
Unfortunately, a manual cannot guarantee quality implementation. But if properly followed, the implementor of a corporate identification system can apply program specifications to literally any piece of corporate material in a consistent and creative manner.
Retail Identification Standards
While identification standards manuals are relevant to corporations, there is also a need to develop standards for retail identification purposes. The Texaco retail identification standards manual specifically addresses how an international graphic and environmental program can be controlled and used to maintain standards for virtually all of Texaco's marketing outlets, packaging, vehicle design, and signing applications. Descriptions, illustrations, and specifications for graphics, architectural components, and space planning aspects are also presented.
Because Texaco installations are either corporate owned and operated, franchised or independently owned, the requirement for program control becomes critical. The global reach of the program reinforces this need. The scope of the manual is substantial, covering new retail installations as well as those existing units requiring rehabilitation or adaptation of the retail system.
Upgrading and revising the Texaco manual within a six-year period is evidenced by the development of a second edition of retail standards to reflect the rapid changes in the petroleum industry. Integrating the original retail standards with those recently developed demonstrates once again the flexibility of the loose-leaf binder system.
The Citibank Manual
Probably one of the most thorough and comprehensive corporate standards manuals is the one developed for Citibank. As the bank had branches located in 108 countries, management preferred not to create an international communications management group to monitor the widespread program. Instead it was decided to create a set of standards so complete that the manual became the ultimate international authority.
The manual covers standards for the usual printed materials but incorporates an extremely thorough section on the bank's facility signing system. The fact that exterior signs would be manufactured in local countries was of concern since Citibank's facilities department was unable to control their construction and application. As a result, the manual incorporates elaborate engineering details for sign construction in order to maintain the design integrity of the system.
Another interesting aspect of the Citibank manual is its detailed explanation of the conversion of the design program to the metric system for purposes of adaptation to the bank's international affiliates.
As well, physical samples of paper stock, specified for use in the United States, were incorporated in the manual's reproducible materials section so that an approved equivalent grade of stock could be selected in local countries.
In retrospect, the desire for the manual to become a total controlling force for the Citibank program was not realistic. Many who were involved in its implementation found the manual too far-reaching and perhaps too technical in its content.
Methods of Controlling the Program
It takes more than a well-conceived, written control document to effectively control an identitication program. The added value of a functioning communications team or department with enough authority to keep the program on track will certainly reinforce written standards. A manual really cannot answer all of the questions that surface during the application process.
The liaison between those responsible for program implementation and the corporate identification management team is often a desirable combination; it has been successful in practice in many instances.
The optimum solution for maintaining a corporate identification program is the establishment of an internal corporate design center (often considered to be a corporate luxury). This select group can implement the program based upon the authorized manual and work closely with local constituencies in order to solve everyday communications/design problems, thereby achieving on target, appropriate design solutions.
Unquestionably, computer software technology for developing identification standards and maintaining them is available today. Accessing or modifying information by computer is undoubtedly the most efficient and flexible means of maintaining corporate implementation standards. As an information storage and accessing mechanism for corporate standards, the computer is excellent. Its ability to print out precise color examples is still relatively crude compared to those from offset printed manuals, however, the quality gap is closing at a very rapid rate.
It is apparent that the documentation and maintenance of the standards for complex corporate identification programs may be accomplished in a variety of ways. There is no question, however, that once a corporate identification program is completed, a series of control factors need be put into place, regardless of the physical form they take. Standards manuals provide the specifications necessary for the program's success; without them there is no benchmark for quality.
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Logo Histories’ Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.