A couple of years ago, branding style used to be a huge PDF covering multiple visual aspects of a brand, such as typography, colours and photography.
When digital came about, style guides started to account for pixel-based touchpoints between brands and consumers, including things like header styles, grid systems, and more detailed interaction design patterns.
Over the years all the above mentioned have continuously evolved. Static PDFs were not appropriate for representing hover states, animations, drags and drops, and other user interactions anymore.
In the past couple years, we started creating living design systems, covering interface behaviours that can only be represented in real code, like motion design, transitions and accessibility features.
So what will happen to branding as the future of technology moves towards a world of invisible interfaces?
Screens will start to go away, and interactions will primarily happen via voice, gestures, glances or even by thought. Branding means a lot more than just visuals these days.
We expect to see branding taking other forms, in particular:
Voice: Google Assistant’s tone of voice, timbre, speech cadence, all had to be designed. The experiences we design are quickly expanding to voice-based channels, and we have to make sure they feel like coming from the same brand.
Personality: With the growth of chatbots and other text-based interfaces, the words chosen by a brand have a huge impact on how people perceive and interact with the company. The concept of a tone of voice has expanded to include other aspects of a brand’s behaviour and personality, from the jokes it makes to the emojis it uses.
Action: When Airbnb decides to ban alt-right users from its platform who were organising an extremist rally in Charlottesville, US, people admired the brand more. The actions a brand takes through its products will have more impact than the way it looks or what it communicates in mass media.
Still, why would UX designers have to worry about branding?
As designers of experiences, they frequently look at the brand’s ecosystem in a holistic way, to ensure its customers can frictionlessly transition from one channel to another. Whether you are accessing the brand’s website, downloading their app, watching a TV commercial or simply reading a story in the news, all these moments are adding up to the experience you have with a brand.
Now, more than ever, the efforts of the design team have to be orchestrated with efforts from marketing, PR, customer service, and other teams within your organisation.