In today’s extremely design-savvy climate most people have a general idea of what a brand guide is. A document that contains rules about how to use your logo with the correct fonts and colors, as well as rules about what you’re not supposed to do (please don’t rotate your logo), etc. All pretty basic stuff. So once you have a brand guide it should be pretty much smooth sailing right? You can just hand this thing off to some designer you snatch off the street and they will be able to produce amazing designs! Well, not quite. A brand guide, as much as we want them to, can’t actually teach “good design.” Instead of thinking about the brand guide as some kind of end-all be-all, we should really see it for what it is, which is essentially a recipe book.
A great chef is first a great technician. If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.
— Jacques Pepin
The Home Cook vs Experienced Chef
So let’s take a recipe book then and ask ourselves, “Will we get the same quality meal from a novice home cook or an experienced chef following the same recipe?” Probably not. And why is that? Well because design, like cooking, is full of nuance. Nuance that even the most detailed recipe book can’t account for. Missing an ingredient or two? A chef knows how to compensate and adjust. A client asks to add an ingredient or two last minute (this is completely hypothetical of course) an experienced cook can make it work. As with all professions that require any kind of craft, there is simply no substitute for “putting in time in the kitchen.” A fundamental understanding of cooking and ingredients makes a chef more prepared for unforeseen variables. Design is no different. All those late nights moving letters around ain’t for nuthin.
Having said that, recipe books are great and extremely valuable. A well-written recipe can coax really good results from cooks of all levels, elevating the baseline of product quality. The same holds true of a good brand guide. It should establish a higher bar. But what if we want to soar over that bar instead of just stepping over it?
Putting a Great Meal Together
At the end of the day, people that consistently produce great food are great cooks. So if you really want to put together a memorable meal, get people that know what they’re doing — and more importantly — that love to cook! It’s 100% the same with design. Find people who are passionate about a project and I guarantee you’ll see better results. After all, you always cook best for people you like.