Building Brand Consistency: Materials Checklist

As a graphic designer, I work with clients that range in size from a few people to tens of thousands. If you are reading this, you probably work for an organization somewhere in between. No matter what size your company is, you need a cohesive system that simplifies marketing and communications while building your brand. Implementation is always more difficult in large companies -- there are more people who need to understand the importance of branding standards, more people who are resistant to change and more people who really don't care about any of it. It's easier to get all five employees in on the same page than all 5,000.

Small or large, high quality consistent design is imperative to the success of a company. Actually, I have seen great success with poor-quality consistent design. I was recently in Las Vegas, and for those of you who have never been, Las Vegas is at once a creative Mecca and cesspool. On every sidewalk, every ten feet, someone in a smock is handing out cards. The cards are poorly printed, cheap, loud and ugly. With a photo of an excessively proportional, mostly naked woman on the front and an 800 number, I bet these cards get a higher response rate than all the design work I've ever done and will ever do in my life. At the other extreme is the incredibly well designed digital wine list at Aureole Restaurant, a posh restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Customers use a tablet PC with a stylus to touch through wine characteristics (red or white, dry or sweet, cheap or the cost of a yacht, etc.). Rather than an ungainly wine manuscript that would include Aureole's 10,000 bottles, the process is efficient, beautiful and fits perfectly into the restaurant's style and theme. Whether quick and dirty or slick and high-tech, both systems work for their specific audiences (which, only in Vegas, is the same audience).

With marketing and communications, your goal is to make sure everything that leaves your company is consistent. When Sally in HR is sending business e-mails with smiley faces in a kid print font with a quote from Family Circus in her signature and she works for a chain of funeral homes, there is a problem. Or if Jim the football freak in sales is signing off all his proposals "Are you ready for some football!" on paper pre-printed with the face of his favorite quarterback, his corporate accounting firm really needs to review its communication standards. In a more subtle example, if one employee sends out a formal proposal printed on letterhead in a company folder with her business card, and her cubicle neighbor prints a proposal on paper from the nearby fax machine, staples it and sticks it in a manila envelope, both are weakening their company brand. The strength of your brand relies on consistency -- you'd be better shape if everyone sent out proposals on fax paper.

The following list aims to help you get organized and save time and money. Use it to conduct an inventory of your marketing and communication materials. You may have a killer brochure but never thought about your company e-mails. You may have letter templates in Word but no easy way to communicate with your customers or donors on a regular basis. You may have gorgeous letterhead that you send out with a flash presentation on CD, but you are missing digital letterhead for letters you send via e-mail with the flash presentation. You may have your bases covered or you may discover some gaps. The list should help you develop a comprehensive, efficient marketing and communication system.


Print Marketing Materials

  • Folder: Cohesive way to hold all materials. Includes no specific information. Can be a simple two-pocket or a funky plastic envelope.
  • General Brochure: Describes services/products in a general way; is easy to distribute.
  • Product/program specific brochures, product sheets or postcards: Easy to reproduce, update and change.

Digital Marketing Materials

  • Website: Looks like your print marketing materials, easy to update, keep it clean, update it often.
  • E-newsletter: A cheap and efficient way to stay in contact with your public on a regular basis. Have recipients' permission, have a professional HTML newsletter template designed and update the content each month.
  • Product Demo: A digital presentation you can e-mail or mail on a DVD (like a little company movie). Staff at a sales meeting can use DVD to introduce a new product or service.

Internal Communications

  • Internal Newsletter: Can be digital or photocopied or printed. Relax your standards, content includes what employees need to know and what they will enjoy knowing, give employees a forum to voice their own ideas.
  • Memos: Use a template consistent with your stationery.

Printed Stationery

  • Letterhead
  • #10 Envelopes:These are standard envelopes for general correspondence
  • Business Cards
  • Forms: Invoices, donation forms, order forms
  • Printed Notepads: Gives employees a way to insert a quick, informal note on something other than a napkin. Post-its with logo work well, can be used as leave-behinds.
  • Fax Forms: Half sheets are fine, use photocopied forms not printed letterhead.
  • Blank Cards and Envelopes (with your logo): Great for thank-you notes or reminders
  • Window envelopes for Forms
  • Large Envelopes: preprinted with logo and address, used to send folder
  • Envelope Labels: If you use a lot of different size envelopes, these prevent you from having to preprint multiple envelopes. Preprinted with logo and address, get sheets that can go be printed or handwritten

Digital Stationery

  • Letterhead Template: When e-mailing proposals and letters, Word files or PDFs can look like digital versions of your letterhead with your logo and address in the same color and location.
  • E-mail Templates: You can design e-mail in most programs (Outlook, Eudora, etc.) Get everyone on the same page with font, color, and signature. Use a custom signature to include a monthly message.

ŠArtifex Design Inc.

Audrey Nezer is an award-winning graphic designer in Seattle, Washington. Her company, Artifex Design, creates playful, edgy and effective marketing and communication materials for companies and organizations throughout the United States. Visit to learn more (and win a prize!)

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