A visual identity is more than its assets.

For a long time, hosting files in the cloud was a new and more practical way of distributing assets. For brand designers, this offered the option of uploading the brand identity assets in a shared folder instead of having to email updated files. Whether you used Dropbox, Google Drive or another digital asset management solution, the concept was to distribute assets efficiently. In many ways, this still works fine, and a lot of designers still use this approach with their clients. But as identities become more and more about experiences and less about “just a logo,” the assets alone can’t tell the story of how a visual identity works. And for those who use it on a daily basis, it’s like buying furniture from IKEA without getting the brochure that explains how to put it together.

It’s about the composition.

I’m not a designer, but I’ve been on the client side a lot. The first time I heard that a brand guideline easily could take hundreds of hours to make, I was a bit shocked. It took some explaining for me to understand that an identity is more than just the sum of its parts. A proper brand guideline is made from scratch to reflect and showcase the identity it presents so that it’s easier for clients (like me), colleagues and partners to read what is between the lines and use the identity correctly. Making it includes a series of aspects besides just adding creatives; setting a grid, building the layout, writing content, explanations, and guides. Of course, it takes time. It’s about creating the right composition — not just adding the notes.

Show what you’re showing.

By now I know a lot of designers. And all of them focuses heavily on conceptualizing when creating new identities. They research, strategize and think a lot about the positioning of the brand they’re designing. Before anything gets produced, there is usually a good idea of what the big picture will look like. In the end, there are so many intangible thoughts and decisions that the actual design output is the small part of the job. Because of this exact point, the way the visual identity is being presented is as important as the identity itself. Just having access to the files won’t help me use them in the right way and even though using cloud storage is easy, it defeats the purpose of a concept. A list of files can never express the vast universe a designer creates around an identity. If the way you present the identity doesn’t match the identity you’re presenting, what’s really the point?