“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”
(American Marketing Association).
The visual brand, although always clearly in sight, isn’t something people are aware off normally. For example, you look at a car and recognize it is an Audi or you grab a bottle of Cola and see it’s the “real” Coca Cola.
Both instances show you automatically know what brand you’re looking at. But you are not thinking: Hey, that is a nice red label with Coca Cola logo. It happened automatically without any effort from your side.
Except when something is different than how you remember the brand. In that case something feels off. That calls for a small visual example ;-). Imagine a brand uses a particular set of designs which form a consistent pattern as is shown below. As you can see the pattern is nice and consistent.
Now imagine that one of the designers fails in applying the visual branding correctly. If lucky you get it half right and the pattern somewhat looks consistent. However, somethings is off as is shown below.
Yes, it’s still a line but different than expected. It stands out from the rest of the designs. Although as a company you want that to happen when people view different designs from opponents in the field, you don’t want that as a brand, it looks clumsy and off.
Having said that, in the real-world however the second set of lines is more likely to be achieved than the first set. The first is more of an utopia, a point or goal you want to reach. The second is the more real-life example. Still a pretty coherent set of lines but not as ideal as you might want.
As the example shows a more coherent pattern is still pretty consistent. That’s where guidelines come in. Branding guidelines are there to accomplish the second example and to prevent a pattern like this:
As you can see that looks cluttered, clumsy and not professional at all. Again, if you see this in real-life examples you immediately think something is wrong. it just doesn’t feel right. By following brand guidelines and achieving a coherent visual set of designs you, as a designer, will make sure people recognize your brand effortlessly and can focus on the greater good, the task they are trying to achieve.