Splitting a Brand Design Project Between Two Design Firms

I’m often asked if I could just do either the print side or the website side of a brand design project. And while that’s certainly possible, I don’t recommend it.

Splitting a branding project typically results in a lack of consistency between pieces in your marketing kit. All of your brand materials should have similar design elements. When a project is split among different design firms, often those firms don’t have a similar style, and you can wind up with print collateral, for example, that looks dramatically different from your website. In this case, when potential customers receive your business card and then go to your website, it might take them a moment to realize that they’re in the right place… and that moment can affect the level of trust that you build with them. Since trust is one of the most important factors in the buyer/seller relationship, breaking this trust can have a poor effect on your sales.

Projects are typically split up for a few reasons:

• Lack of full-service design capabilities. If the firm you choose has strengths primarily in just print design or just web design, then that firm will probably not be the best choice to execute both projects. Many firms do offer both print and web services these days, though, so you might look around for a firm that can fill both needs.

• Short timeline. If you’re looking to launch your business or product quickly, you might find that one firm can’t offer you the turnaround time that you need to get to market fast. If this is the case, and you split the project in half so that the halves can be developed simultaneously, you might actually harm your brand: there will be no opportunity to create consistent graphics between the two projects. You might have better results if you design a minimum number of materials and a shorter, less complicated website for the launch, and then continue to expand your suite of materials after your company or product is up and running.

• Lack of budget. Developing a full brand collateral suite can be an expensive undertaking. However, you’re often better served by having fewer materials that are consistent and of a high quality than having more materials that have been pieced out to different firms at a lower initial cost. Good, matching marketing materials will add a lot to your credibility and should last quite some time; great materials can last for the life of your business!

• Hesitancy to decide between firms. If you’ve requested proposals from several firms, and you really want to work with each of them because they’re all so great, resist that temptation. This strategy won’t have the best result for your brand, and your brand is one of the most important tools in your business’s toolkit.

If you must split the project between two firms, you can get a better result if you insist on:

• Communication between the two firms. If the two firms both talk about your Brand Foundation, then that ensures that your marketing pieces will all be on track in terms of their design’s messages about who you are, what you do, and what makes you different.

• The creation and use of a Visual Vocabulary and Brand Rules document. Make sure that one firm-typically the one that designs your logo-also will create and deliver a Visual Vocabulary and Brand Rules tailored to your business. These two elements are not always a guaranteed deliverable, so you might have to request that they be created. Your Visual Vocabulary is made up of all of the graphics that supplement your logo to form the graphic “face” of your business and anchor your brand identity. This can include design elements such as:
– Font styles
– Colors
– Shapes
– Layout conventions
– Backgrounds
– Photographs
– Special textual treatments
– Paper type

Your Brand Rules document will detail the use of each of these elements, as well as the specifics of your logo and the “do’s” and “don’ts” that surround the use of your logo design.

• Completion of the logo, Visual Vocabulary, and Brand Rules before the rest of the project begins. Or, you can have one of the final design deliverables-or sets of deliverables-completed before the design on the next one begins, and have the next one designed to match.

• See if the two firms will collaborate on the two projects. If the two firms are agreeable to it, and your budget allows for a few extra hours, have the two firms meet to offer feedback and suggestions to each other on their designs. Some firms might not agree to this, though.

Splitting up a project haphazardly can be detrimental to your brand, but if you find that it’s necessary, and you manage the process carefully, you can still create a strong brand that will create beneficial bottom-line results for your business.