The corporate (visual) identity dilemma

So you just got yourself a new company. A startup if you will. You found a perfect little office that will make you look so good when clients come to you. On top of that you got yourself a nice little MacBook that makes you look so damn professional. Now the last thing missing is a nice pair of pants, a tie, a shirt and a jacket. Perfect. What is missing? Of course, the visual identity and you got yourself a pretty sweet one. You knew that a good logo and stationary is the key for your company’s overall look and feel. OK, you are all set to go. The last thing you have to do is to start some kind of marketing campaign. You contact a couple of graphic designers to get a quote.

This is where my story as a graphic designer comes in. Now I have to warn you that this may end up as a rant, just a fair warning. I had numerous times when I was asked to design something, nothing out of the ordinary here. The weird stuff starts happening when I ask the client to supply vector files of their logo (be it a PDF, EPS, AI, CDR or some other). I had situations when the client told me that they either do not have any such things or (and here the fun starts) they will not give me vector files.

The first time I encountered this type of behavior was well before I got it from any of the clients. I was really into design and was working as a part-time designer for a local firm. After a year I decided it is time for me to get some formal education on the topic so I enrolled in the Graphic and Interactive Communications program at the Faulty of Natural Sciences and Engineering in Ljubljana (Slovenia, EU) and was soon on my way to some education. Long story short – I was waiting for a class one day in my first year when a fellow student approached me and asked if I have any experience in design. Not knowing her background and experiencing a bit of under confidence I did not know what to tell her. Deciding I had nothing to lose I told her I design Flash web banners for a local firm. Debate went on when she asked if I use vector logos in my Flash animations. Not even thinking what she might mean I told her that I do – after all it is better than using bitmaps since the web banners often have a size limit and vector content help keeping the size of the banners small. Thinking I gave a really reasonable and good answer I realized something was going wrong. She frowned and said: “But someone could just steal the vector logo from the banner.”

And that was pretty much it. It took me days and I still did not figure it out. Why on earth would you think that someone would “steal” a logo from a web banner, and even if they did, what of it? If that logo appears somewhere it would only be more promotion for that company. Sure, someone could do some jesting with the logo but nothing that could not be done with a bitmap. As for stealing the file and making a derivate from it and using it for another company – again, nothing you could not do with a bitmap apart from saving yourself some time with tracing.

So what did she mean? I had no idea at the time and no time to waste on the notion. I let it slip into my sub consciousness. But, as I later found, the idea of not giving away vectors was still in the wild, alive and kicking. Another year passed when I got a task of designing a web banner for a discount supermarket chain based in Germany. The idea was that the banner would be fed data via XML so that the company could promote its weekly special offer, so far so good. I was sent a bitmap logo (should have seen it coming just by that) and some basic guidelines. I did a sweet little design and sent them a preview. What I got in answer almost blew me off my seat (and a good thing I was sitting). They wrote that the design was not according to their visual identity. Oh, they have one of those, good. So I send them an email asking for the manual and a vector file of their logo. The next answer was even worse than the first. They told me that they cannot send me the manual but that I should keep designing drafts and sending them previews and they would compare it to their visual identity and give me feedback each time. What they were suggesting in fact was a game of “you’re getting warmer”. I do not even want to go into the whole “we also have our own typography but you have to buy it to complete the banner” issue. Some other time, maybe.

Here it was again. You have a visual identity, you have a vector file of your logo – where on earth did you get the idea that you should not give them away to designers that work for you? The whole point of the visual identity is that it is a set of rules or guidelines, which ensure that the visual identity of your business will be consistent (hence the name, can’t you take a hint).

These two were not some lonely examples – they were just examples from two different extremes – from a newbie designer as well as from a company.

Now here is the long and short of it – if you have invested in a good (or even bad for that matter, I guess) visual identity don’t be afraid to give it to the designer along with vector files of your logo – that is what it is all about, the whole point of it if you want to maintain consistency of your visual identity.





Leave a Reply