When I was in AmeriCorps in Los Angeles, there was one section of our guidelines that I hated more than any other. I hated our Branding Standards. I was working for a national subsidiary with 21 sites, and so they were awfully specific. I got slammed my first week working on the newsletter for messing up the logo. The logo could not be stretched, altered, put in certain page positions, used as a watermark, placed next to certain types of text, could not appear on a background, and a whole list of other items. It’s weird to me that despite my initial resistance to that, I’m now the marketing person for a regional library system.
Marketing has a lot of aspects, and it’s really easy to push them away because you don’t have a lot of experience with them. However, in a day and age when libraries are fighting for every scrap of attention, marketing simply can’t be ignored. Since most places don’t have the money to devote to hiring an agency to completely re-brand their presence, over the coming months I’ll be giving some tips from the field for people who want to make sure their library’s marketing is on-point.
My first tip is to unify your look and feel, and more specifically, your look. This is the typefaces, layout, colors, and shapes that typify the way that your library communicates. Organizations that have a unified look are easily identifiable. You know from the color, the type, and the way things are laid out who is sending you this message so people don’t have to spend the first 30 seconds figuring out who is talking to them. A high arched golden M is always McDonald’s. Red and yellow circles are always Mastercard. Once these ideas have become second nature to the public, they don’t have to spend time and attention re-identifying it every time they come into contact with them. Libraries can use this same shorthand to make sure that everything that they produce looks the same. Here are a few things to decide on to get you started:
- What typeface/font will you use? At West Georgia Regional Library where I work, our logo had two typefaces on it: Georgia and Gill Sans MT. Since that change, I’ve worked to make sure that everything we send out is in Georgia and Gill Sans MT. Whether it’s a poster, a graphic for a message board, a release, a newsletter, banners, signage or anything else, we always use the same type. With this, you can put any combination of our materials together, and they look cohesive.
- What is your color palette? Choosing a set of colors and sticking with them can help you provide a unified look. You can see a sample from the WGRL Branding Guidelines to the left. Basically, it ensures that whenever people create materials for our library, the colors match and all look like they came from the same place.
- How will you use your logo? I’m sure I’ll cover logos in more detail in the future, but every library needs a logo that is clear, identifiable, and easily reproducible in color and black and white. Your logo should be included on everything that your library produces because it is the key to your identity. Don’t let people alter it to fit a whim; instead, decide where and how your library wants your logo to be used to best enhance your visibility.
Choosing these items is difficult and may take time, but I promise it is worth it.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule and if a specific instance calls for something else, we go with what’s best. But as a general rule, a unified look is better than a disjointed look. If you have multiple people producing items for your library, setting down some basic brand standards can help you get everyone on the same page while helping to up the professional look of your library’s out-facing persona. Not everything will get updated all at once, but over time, this will help you in creating a more unified brand.