A design audit, or any type of audit, might sound like a daunting, tiresome task with no return on investment. Conducting a design audit will help you consolidate all the designs which represent your brand in the market. Design audits should be done regularly to keep things in check.
Why do a design audit in the first place?
Sometimes change happens really quickly. Often it happens in small increments over a long period of time. Design trends change; new staff are hired; new teams are formed; different services are promoted. As this happens, new designs are created which can quickly dilute your brand image. The general style of design elements morph and evolve over time. This is especially true for growing companies.
Consolidating all your brand designs will give you a sense of how your brand looks and feels to the outside world, at every touchpoint.
How does a design audit strengthen your brand?
Strong brands are consistent in how they look, feel and communicate. Consistent branding is memorable and promotes trust. Once you have completed your design audit and have rules to enable consistency moving forward all communication will be in line with the image you are wanting to portray.
Strong brands have a distinct personality. A thorough design audit will help you get rid of any alter egos that have crept in along the way.
How to do a design audit
Getting all the elements together is the first step in your design audit. You can choose to do this by creating a digital folder or presentation with everything. Alternatively, you can print everything out and lay it out on a large surface to see how it all fits together. Once all your designs are in one place, you will be able to start analysing.
Here are some ideas of what to look at during this exercise:
Corporate stationery (Business cards and letterhead)
Flyers and leaflets
Posters and signage
Advertising (Magazine, newspaper, billboard, etc.)
Staff uniforms, badges, etc.
Website (both desktop and mobile versions)
Social media profiles and posts
Financial communication (Invoices, statements, etc.)
Find the common ground
This means looking at everything you have designed and finding the common elements. Some you want to keep, some you may want to phase out and other elements might need to be removed immediately. You may choose to change or introduce new elements to your design style based on trends, competitors or even due to personal preferences which can change over time.
Run over the basics
While you study all your designs, you might find instances where small things are incorrect. Even if they seem like small inconsistencies, they must be fixed for consistency. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Is the logo correct? (Correct colour, payoff line, resolution)
- Is the logo placed consistently across designs (eg bottom right-hand corner)
- Are the dimensions of the logo correct? (Check the logo is not stretched)
- Is the font correct?
- Is copy applied consistently? (eg. are all headings in title or sentence case?)
- Are the colours correct (CMYK, RGB and Pantone values)?
- Are design elements consistent with the brand?
- Are images consistent with the brand?
- Is the tone and style of the communication consistent? (i.e. is it too casual for the brand)
- Is the messaging consistent? (eg. do you mention “services” on the website, but your brochure speaks of “areas of expertise”?)
A note on user experience across digital channels
Digital design brings a unique set of user experiences, which form an integral part of customers’ interaction with brands. This will apply to your website, landing pages, promotions, email communications and any other digital interface your business communicates through. As part of your design audit, check that your menu structures and navigation remains consistent. If you refer to a customer login in one place and call it a customer zone somewhere else, you create confusion. Consistency of placement, colouring and terminology will put users at ease while navigating your digital offering.
Certain symbols have become universally recognised in the digital space. These include an X to close a window or a heart to add an item to the wishlist. Relying on these symbols in your digital presence will promote trust and an easy experience for your users.
Set (or review) the guidelines
If you already have a corporate identity guide, you will use the brand rules it provides to measure all your designs against. The design audit will highlight where changes need to be made or where new guides need to be set. If you don’t already have a guide, now is a great time to get one in place. Read more on Corporate Identity Design here. It would be futile to do the work of an audit and then not document the results to guide future designs.
Any design which doesn’t fit into your brand must be changed. Following trends or trying something “funky” can be detrimental to the brand personality you are trying to build.
Keep everyone informed and empowered
Whether your team is big or small, everyone needs to be involved in keeping your brand consistent. Communicate the design direction you have settled on to all your staff. You can empower them to help strengthen your brand by providing resources for them to use on a daily basis. These resources could include:
- The updated CI guide documentation
- A writing style guide
- Various formats of the logo for use on print and digital platforms
- Image libraries
- Icon sets
- Document and design templates
Make it easy for everyone to stick to the brand guidelines and the chances are, they will.
Conducting design audits isn’t a monthly task. Keeping your brand in check is a constant process though. Keep the design guidelines top of mind so that a complete design audit is not required too often. As your business grows (in both staff and locations) you will need to conduct more frequent audits.
The design audit exercise will not achieve anything if you do not take your learnings and apply them to your brand. The application is where your brand will be strengthened through the consistency you create.
We love to create and evolve consistent brands. Let us know if you would like to chat to us about getting your brand image back on the straight and narrow.