By Jo Wdowiak
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Step up Flexible Branding

There was a time when a logo came with a ’don’t mess with me’ attitude. It would sit at the centre of a brand identity, rigid and unmovable - and cushioned by it’s brand guidelines. Logo size, it’s colour, where it could sit and where everything else could sit around it was predetermined. The golden rule as a designer was to follow the rules. And a logo always came with rules. Its time for flexible brands!

Despite the above many would argue that branding was much more straight forward 20 or so years ago. Printing methods were relatively simple and the all encompassing digital world had yet to all encompass us. Brand experience had a long way to go to represent everything that it does today.

Fast forward 20 years and it’s fair to say that things have become a bit more complex. The unrelenting progress of the digital world has bought with it new and exciting possibilities for the term branding. And born from the necessity to keep up branding has undoubtably had to adapt to survive. It has had to morph and expand to accommodate the growing platform onto which a brand can now project itself.

Internet enabled devices bring brands to our fingertips, literally, and in a way that was never possible before smart technology. We’re shopping, watching, discussing, debating, gossiping, dating and rating all from the comfort of our own homes. Or on the commute – or from wherever we are, when ever we fancy.

Even the word device is broader and more complex than it was a few years ago. Across different platforms, mobiles, tablets, watches, cinema screens etc. the application of a brand is now so much more demanding. And it becomes clear why the static logo is no longer adaptable enough to keep up.

Flexible brands - Netflix billboards on the side of a building.

Flexible brands. How does a brand adapt?

In a world where new platforms and possibilities are emerging at a rate of knots, how does a brand adapt?

In many ways core principles still remain the same. However, rigid standardisation and constant repetition can no longer be the winning formula for familiarity and brand success. That way of thinking is just not compatible any longer. And that’s not just in reference to technology either. Consumers are also looking different – easily bored, used to change and a quick paced lifestyle. As Grant McCracken sums up in his Harvard Business Review article ‘Say boring, repetitive stuff and you suffer the punishment that every bad conversationalist faces. First, we ignore you. Then, we exclude you.’

Consistency is still important – yes. But we now require something that is far more fluid – that can flow seamlessly across environments, digital platforms and devices. To accommodate the different needs of print and screen. As branding has developed a new term has emerged to describe this shift in thinking – step up flexible brands.

Flexible brands - Netflix posters - recognisable without the logo.
Netflix, a flexible brands - showcasing the difference on desktop, mobile and tablet.

Netflix branding – designed by Gretel

Patterns showcasing flexible brands, for Mohawk.
An open page showing the flexible brand for Mohawk on printed material.
Flexible brands like Mohawk, including a pattern.

Mohawk branding – designed by Pentagram

Flexible brands such as The Massachusetts Institute of Technology media lab.
MIT media lab showcasing its flexibility as a brand.
Flexible brands such a MIT media lab use icons to extend their reach.
MIT media lab is an example of a flexible brand, displayed on a tote bag.
Examples of flexible branding and how it is applied within a sub brand system.

MIT media lab branding – designed by Pentagram

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