Photo: Duncan Hull (CC-BY)

Brands are bulls**t

This is an excerpt from Will Grant’s forthcoming book ‘101 UX Principles’ which is available to pre-order now on Kindle, eBook and in paperback.

I don’t mean ‘brand’ in the sense of ‘visual identity’: a good logo, wordmark or tagline is a great idea. I mean ‘brand’ in the modern sense, a wooly definition that’s come to be commonplace over the past 10 years or so.

‘Brand’ has come to allude to the company, or to stand for the entire personality of a corporation or product — the ‘feeling’ of interacting with their products and services, and inevitably the core interactions of those products.

The problem with this approach, developed for over a decade by multinational branding corporations, is that we already have a discipline for this: user experience.

By crafting a product to adhere to a brand (in the modern sense of the word) we defer control of the user experience to the marketing and branding teams, not user experience professionals.

Similarly, I’m not talking about the megabrands with a billion customers: Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nike, etc — these guys are so big and their brands so powerful it does and should make a difference to how their products are designed.

Your brand however, with a few thousand or tens of thousands of customers… Your small company or product or newly-launched startup…

Nobody cares.

Harsh, but true. None of your users care about your brand. They care about what your product or service lets them do.

They care about how your product improves their lives, enhances their productivity, and so on. The experience of your product is your brand — and it shouldn’t be designed by a marketing team, but by UX people.

This is also your competitive advantage against the big, lumbering dinosaurs who have to adhere rigidly to their brand guides.

Don’t let the ‘brand guide’ ruin your product with;

  • Unreadable brand typefaces: just use the native system font stack
  • Branded splash screens: just show me the damn app
  • Build-your-own nightmarish UI controls: oh, the things i’ve seen…
  • Awful, unreadable contrast ratios — don’t stick to the brand palette if it doesn’t work in your product
  • Unnecessarily quirky copy, the ‘wacky’ humour on the side of a smoothie bottle

...and so on.

A brand can help enforce consistency, but if you’re a decent designer you shouldn’t need a brand guide to tell you how to build consistent user interfaces.

Brands are bullshit, focus on the user experience and the experience becomes the brand.

📗 This is an excerpt from Will Grant’s forthcoming book ‘101 UX Principles’ which is available to pre-order now on Kindle, eBook and in paperback.

If you liked this post you might also like an earlier UX post on Medium ‘We have failed’.