Designers will know that brand guidelines are only as useful as the client on the receiving end is prepared to make them. Months of work developing rigorous specifications and fine-tuning details can all be flushed away the moment they’re handed over. For clients, however, following – or indeed finding – guidelines can be an unwieldly, time-consuming chore, a never-ending trawl through a convoluted PDF that has likely been lost in a wormhole of computer files.
In a bid to update the way brand guidelines are created, shared, stored and referenced, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – the team behind publisher Standards Manual – are designing a tool called Standards that aims to bring an outdated process into the modern world.
Standards is being created in collaboration with Seattle-based design and tech agency Shore and Brooklyn-based Order (a studio also founded by Reed and Smyth). Together, the teams have co-authored strategy, product experience, and UX/UI, with Shore leading development.
The platform will house the most common elements of brand guidelines, including colour values, adaptable assets, typefaces and animation. It also promises to allow designers and clients to exchange comments on WIP guidelines and eventually sign off on a final set.
While sharing files and assets using cloud-based services like Dropbox is commonplace across the creative industries and far beyond, brand guidelines have been left in the past. A web-based platform rather than a static PDF format should make the process far less painful, while also making guidelines more watertight in terms of version control and simpler to manage. It is the kind of solution that feels so obvious that it seems unbelievable that it isn’t already an industry norm.
The tool was designed based on learnings from guidelines over the years (of which Reed and Smyth will have seen plenty), and on how the system can be tweaked to fit for the design practice of today. Designers are now able to take an early look at Standards, with the full platform set to launch at the beginning of next year.