You know what's a real bummer?
It's when brands invest a lot of time, money, and effort into pulling together their brand strategy and identity, only for it to feel dated in ~2 years. Now they're stuck between investing another 5k+ into a rebrand or continuing on with something that feels out of alignment.
What went wrong here? Typically, this is caused by a brand solely focusing on what’s trendy at the moment, without any real substance behind the design decisions that they made.
This is NOT to say that all trends are bad and you need to steer clear of them. Quite the opposite, actually—if you do it smartly!
So, how can you build a brand that stands the test of time and evolves as the years go on?
In order to make an informed decision on the trends you're going to draw from, it's important to conduct the necessary research in order to understand the landscape of your industry and what's hot right now.
Some questions to ask yourself include:
Thoroughly looking at the trends that are hot right now will help you strategically leverage them rather than blindly follow them.
You don't necessarily need to design your logo on a typewriter for your brand identity to use inspiration from the past. There are a lot of ways to mix the old with the new in a modern and innovative way.
In addition to looking at classical typography and layouts (I’m a sucker for vintage Parisian invites!), you can also find timeless inspiration in a variety of mediums such as:
Let’s say you found a current trend that you absolutely love and after researching, feels right for your business. Try mixing an element from the trend with an element inspired from the past. This is going to help you attract a relevant audience while also grounding it in what we know works time and time again.
In order to design a brand that stands the test of time without feeling stuffy and dated, it’s important to consider how it might change in the future as trends evolve. Basically, how can we create this brand so that it can be evolved in the future while keeping its core identity?
To do this, you’ll want to consider which parts of the brand are flexible vs. inflexible.
Some brand elements that you’ll want to keep the same over time (and therefore are inflexible) are your logos, typography, and color palette (although color palettes can sometimes strategically be expanded on). These core elements help your audience recognize you in the sea of brands that are out there. Changing them up willy-nilly as trends come and go will lead to confusion and less brand equity.
Brand elements that may have the flexibility to change in the future are the “peripheral” pieces of the brand, such as illustrations, patterns, layouts, and print materials. You can experiment with these and fit them to today’s trends without losing as much brand recognition.
A word to the wise, though—go slow with the changes! Overhauling these elements all at the same time might cause your brand to become unrecognizable. It's better to update slowly so not to alienate your audience (we don't want that!).
So, how can we ensure that our brand foundation is built to be flexible? A good idea is to keep your inflexible elements on the more classic + minimal side so that you can complement these with trendier flexible elements.
For example, In the late 90’s, funky shapes and patterns were everywhere. In the 2010s, watercolor was all the rage. Now, neon Y2K vibes are everywhere.
If we keep our logos + typography on the classic side, we're able to update our backdrop brand elements to fit the times.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make that leads to creating a brand that feels shallow is designing your identity without any consideration for your audience or the problem you solve for them.
This fatal mistake leads you to design your brand with only trends in mind. Additionally, because you’re not quite sure of who exactly you’re serving, it’s easy to fall into the trap of following in your competitor’s footsteps and not coming up with anything new or innovative.
Getting a strong understanding of your audience also helps understand what types of trends and design cues they will respond to. For example, in today’s market, if you wanted to attract 40-something working moms, you likely wouldn’t be using the Y2K-esque style mentioned above. By not thoroughly analyzing who you’re trying to target, you run the risk of attracting the wrong audience that won’t actually connect with your product or service.
All in all, crafting a timeless brand is all about balance and a deep understanding of design conventions + trends. When in doubt, it’s ideal to err to the classic side of things, unless you’re fine with forking out the big bucks for a rebrand a few years down the line. That being said, you don’t want to seem so traditional and stuffy that you don’t make waves in your market.
One more thing to note—these are just general suggestions, and they may not apply to every single brand. Do you feel like one of today’s trends TOTALLY encapsulates your brand’s energy and target market, and you’re just so excited to share it with your audience? Go for it, girl. Are you an absolute sucker for old-style script fonts and feel like you were born in the wrong era as a vintage bookstore owner? Why not go for that completely vintage-inspired look.
So, if you feel really passionate about leaning one way or the other (and have the data about your target market to back it up), you don’t necessarily need to fall right in the middle of the spectrum between trendy and timeless. Working with a brand strategist can help you clarify where along this line you should aim for in order to craft the best-fitting (and best-performing) brand identity possible.
Looking for help creating a timeless brand? Get in touch here about a project together.