“I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all, timeless.” – Massimo Vignelli
The life expectancy of a brand and its graphic appearance is crucial to that brand’s establishing its presence in its market or industry. Graphic consistency and timeless design are essential in this quest to stand apart from the crowd. This timelessness is a challenge, especially as we’re bombarded by flashy design trends.
Trends Have a Shelf Life
The funny thing about trends is that they look attractive and feel like a great idea at the time.
Take the “long shadow” trend and the “crossed “X” logo trend”, for instance. The former is made up of a flat graphic casting an infinite shadow, typically downward diagonally. The latter is made up of thin lines or long objects crossed to form an “X”, with letters, icons, or other graphics in each quadrant. Though attractive, these are by no means styles that stand the test of time, especially if applied to the design of a logo. That means that these styles are bound to go away, which will force changes in graphics, logos, websites, etc. to maintain brand relevance. Using trendy design or graphics to brand your company is a sign of poor design and brand strategy, and it can cost you money in the long run.
See also: Successful Brands Have Focus
Timeless Design Builds Brand Recognition
Look at the most successful brands out there, like Coca-Cola, Apple, Nike, and IBM. Though these brands have undergone changes, their logos have stood the test of time. They’ve undergone tweaks and slight updates, but there was intentionality and good design in their inception. Because these brands’ signature icons are timeless, they’ve been able to build heavy brand recognition throughout the years.
When applied to a franchise scenario, brand recognition is essential. Franchises need people to expect the same positive experience from one franchise location to the next. In order for that perception to be in place, the core graphic look and feel of the brand should remain intact across the board.
See also: Successful Brands Have Soul
An Example of Timelessness
Until 2013, American Airlines passengers saw the same logo on everything from boarding passes to seat headrests, for 45 years straight. The AA logo and brand identity stood the test of time. Their designer was Massimo Vignelli, a man who considered it his life’s mission to “fight against the ugliness” in our world. Along with AA, Massimo created iconic logos for brands like Knoll and Bloomingdale’s, and was famous for designing the New York City Subway map that was printed from 1972 to 1979.
“If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” Massimo said. He proved this by diving deep into interior design, environmental design, package design, furniture design, and product design. The world lost Massimo on May 27th of this year. Though his physical life ended, Massimo leaves behind a lasting legacy of exceptional creativity, inspiring generations of designers. The legacy he leaves behind is as timeless as his work.
Thank you for your inspiring life, Massimo. You will be missed.