Hopefully, when I mention the words “branding” and “print” in the same sentence, every web developer out there reading this cringes. So, with that in mind, how many of you have web branding guidelines that grew from print standards? I hope the number is very few, but I suspect that there are a lot of hesitant hands in the air. This post is more for you. I don’t have an answer, and am more interested in what the feeling amongst you all is.
My question is this: How do you set up successful branding standards for the web? My opinion is that there are three answers:
- You have a global university branding document that just sort of covers everything (sucky)
- You have a global university branding document that outline some exceptions for the web (better, but not great)
- You have a true web branding/style guide which helps direct your web site (best)
The reason I don’t think we see more of #3 is that it takes time and experience to develop such a document. The need for one has only recently become really apparent, and frequently we lack a truly diverse and experienced staff base to write a good web branding guide.
I ask because it’s come up more than once that we shouldn’t use Times New Roman font, because the branding standard serif font is Goudy Old Style. Naturally, the people recommending this have no clue about web safe fonts (nevermind how poor use of TNR as an alternative just makes your site look dated and scruffy). Also, we have a number of guidelines regarding the exact proportions of our logo, and how it can’t be modified to a different shape. Realistically, there’s no way we could just slap our two tone graphic on the site like a sticker and have it look good. Don’t even get me started on the fact that one of the school colors is gold (basically yellow). Oh how fun working with yellow is!
Obviously, web design requires certain artistic flexibility. You have to be able to design your site, and that means you cannot be bound by all the chains of print. Besides, print needs bounds because it’s limited in what it can do. We are, in many ways, limitless. Web and print are different monsters, through and through. Trying to retrofit print standards is just going to stifle and choke your web site, and keep it from ever reaching its full potential.
So, talkback below. What do you think makes a successful branding document for a university web site? Who has the best? How would you change yours? Let’s brainstorm some best practices.
photo credit: Jolante