A brand’s guidelines used to be just as important as any other part of their identity, be it their letterheads, business cards, or brochures. They existed as beautifully printed pieces of design, that now, through their reissues, can be found on the bookshelves of nearly every design studio around the world. Take Otl Aicher’s guidelines for the 1972 Munich Olympics as an example. Its superbly considered use of materials and easy-to-follow layouts make the complexity of the identity feel simple and digestible. Great brand guidelines should be just as useful to the client as the designer that created them; Otl Aicher and his team did the perfect job of just that.
Nowadays, guidelines usually exist as PDF’s that are put together at the end of the design process, which are then filed away and rarely seen again. The problem with the PDF format is that it doesn’t easily allow for continuous updates; making amends takes time and assets have to be shared and re-shared in multiple file formats. Even after they’re done, they can take up precious studio time with post-project support and email back-and-forths.
Enter Brandpad, an interactive brand guidelines solution for both designers and their clients. Designing, maintaining, and sharing the guidelines for one, some, or all of a designer’s branding work can all be done in one place, and it’s accessible to everyone involved. Brandpad brings back the ease and accessibility of the printed guidelines, but in a new digital format that can be continuously updated and automatically synced. Thousands of studios across the globe, including Ueno, IDEO, Matchstic, and Scandinavian Design Group, use it to standardise their delivery and make life easier for both themselves and clients after the project is finished.
“We wanted a product where the identity was in focus, not the system that hosted it.”
Brandpad was created in 2018 to get around the challenges the founders encountered themselves while working in a creative studio. Digital guideline tools were bulky, mostly targeted towards large corporations, and priced accordingly, which made them pretty hard to use for a small studio or freelance designer. Brandpad, on the other hand, is made particularly for designers and studios.
Espen Getz Harstad, Co-Founder of Brandpad, explains to us that they “wanted a product where the identity was in focus, not the system that hosted it. A platform where we made the brand experience – to match the brand identity it contained.”
Brandpad created their own visual identity in-house, taking the work of Massimo Vignelli as an inspirational starting point. Especially the design system for the New York City Subway. A complex system that’s one hundred percent functional and logical, while carrying tons of identity. The understated simplicity of his work made them realize that their own branding needed to be very subtle so that guidelines created with their tool could be designed and showcased without distraction. The lively character that appears on the business cards – which originates from Brandpad’s logo – is named after Vignelli as a homage to the Italian design icon. Together with New York and London-based foundry Commercial Type, Brandpad got a typeface with enough character to carry the brand, but still, be functional and non-distractive in the system.
“The identity consists of a few distinctive elements that ensure Brandpad's recognition.”
“The identity consists of a few distinctive elements that ensure Brandpad’s recognition. It is constantly iterated in line with trends and technological advances,” says Brandpad Creative Director Nicklas Haslestad.
The simplicity of Brandpad’s identity makes it the perfect platform for evolution. Like any successful identity system, there is enough freedom available for it to grow and for new elements to be introduced, or taken away. A few defined rules, such as the typeface and colour palette, are there to hold everything together and provide a consistent and pleasant experience.