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Building a Business Identity From the Ground Up
Make simplicity and consistency your mantra, and remember to "think digital" when building your identity

[© 1996 Microsoft Corporation]

Effective graphics and text that you use on business cards, letterhead, brochures, and other marketing materials are the two-dimensional equivalent of "dressing for success" sartorially speaking. Because your graphical identity speaks volumes about your professionalism, reliability, and corporate image, as well as being descriptive of what you do or sell, it’s important to invest some careful consideration into how you embody your marketing strategy and plans in your graphical image.

Where to start

Establish standards for consistency

Once you’ve determined what your overall identity will look like, the next step is to set standards for how your graphical identity is used in all media - advertising, collateral material, business cards, you name it. This will help you ensure that every time a customer encounters your business he or she is presented with a consistent impression of what you do - and that makes your product or service more memorable.

For example:

It’s not just a paper-based world anymore

According to a former Chicago advertising executive, "The big trend in corporations right now is to design logos that translate into three dimensions. This is because of the impact the Internet has had on how businesses communicate."

This doesn’t just apply to big corporations. By the end of this year, at least 40% of small businesses in the U.S. are expected to be on the Internet, many of them with web pages of their own. If you’re just developing your graphical identity now, you have the opportunity to factor in digital communication as well as paper-based media into your identity so that you’re communicating effectively and maintaining visual consistency on all fronts.

A major advantage for many small businesses today is that tools for taking advantage of the Internet are becoming integrated into the standard software tools businesses are already using. For example, in addition to being able to create brochures, business cards, and flyers, Microsoft® Publisher 97 extends the same tools to electronic publishing. This means that creating a web page is just like creating any of the more familiar printed documents, instead of "uncharted territory" (plus your printed and web-based materials have that all-important visual consistency).

Simplicity rules

Regardless of what media you use or what you do with your marketing materials, keep it simple. "Think of all the great corporate logos - the Golden Arches, the Nike swoosh - these are all incredibly simple in design. This is especially important for the small business. Complicated symbols and text logotypes are harder to print in more than one color. They’re more difficult to discern when they’re small. And - in the new media environment you have to think about this - they’re harder to animate."

The Chicago ad exec recalls a small business client in Chicago who built much of his marketing around a simple, low-cost, and easy to implement graphical identity. "Iggy’s was a small, New York-style supper club that was tremendously popular among an exclusive group. The owner came to me after he had been in business a couple of years wanting to do some advertising to expand Iggy’s appeal to a larger market. He didn’t have much to spend at the time: for a few hundred dollars we created a very simple identity - just his company name in white type on a black box. We then set some very stringent standards about how this identity was played out in a variety of media." Part of the marketing materials that Seaberg developed was a series of black and white postcards that were sent to customers on a regular basis.

The result was a very successful campaign that transcended the night club’s growth from a single storefront to a chain of clubs and ultimately a restaurant holding company, Food and Drink, Inc., that subsumed the chain.

Says the Chicago ad exec, "If you’re creative and you have a really good idea, you can make it happen on a shoestring budget. That’s what computers really facilitate. The tools can help you be creative by making it easy for you to implement your ideas."

For more information about Microsoft Publisher, click here to visit the Microsoft Publisher web site.


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