Take a look at most of the big companies, and they have a Graphic Standards Manual containing guidelines for the proper use of their identity, logo, and style of marketing. It describes authorized usage for communication of all kinds, with consistency and with purpose. You would never see the Nike swoosh above the Nike text part of the logo, as it always is placed below the text. You would never see more than one Apple logo on the same product, and there is an order to which the style, size, colors and organization of everything is used. Every company has what is called a standards manual, where the designers of the logo give parameters for the color, logo, size and the details for every possible variation. More often than not, this is very specific, and does not allow for use beyond that which the designers designed. This protects the brand’s integrity and keeps things simple. Why is this important for photographers? Implementing ample design integrity builds brand equity.
Lets call it “style integrity.” Style integrity is an adherence to a similar style to which something is done. It is the currency of collaboration and growth in today’s creative world.
Do you have style integrity? Take a look at your blog, your website, and everything that is produced from your business entity. Is there consistency? From your email campaigns to your business card, do things appear unified and cohesive? It has been wisely said, “we are often defined by the decisions we don’t make.” Sometimes our decisions unknowingly put is in a category we may not want to be in. When we do not decide what we are and what we are not, we lose out on opportunities to lead in our industry.
We live in an age where we are bombarded with so many small business and DIY marketing campaigns, with home cameras capturing Etsy products, or newsletters with profile pictures that don’t fit the vibe of what the company is selling, etc. we need to pay attention to our style integrity if we want to stand out from the majority. While often the average photography client cannot tell the difference between good and great, the people who are leading the industry that we want to collaborate and connect with with can tell the difference. Those who lead want to work with those who are also leading. Does the integrity of our style inspire others to collaborate with us?
It is easier than you think to maintain your style Integrity. Here are some basic tips that might help. Pick some of your favorite companies that do this well, and take note of their style. Write down words that describe them, for example, Apple, is “smart,” “sleek,” “cutting edge,” and “fun.” I would challenge you to find anything on their site, blog, or marketing campaigns that does not fit these parameters.
Now let’s do that with our own work. Looking at your website, blog, etc.:
1) Are there words that define who you are and what you do that could act as a filter for what images and words you do and don’t put on your site?
2) Are there consistent text styles, colors, and sizes that you use throughout your entire branding?
3) Do you keep everything as simple and clean as possible to keep your client clicking as few times as possible to get to what they need?
4) Write down a few phrases, client testimonials, or descriptions you would like to be known as, and then test this against what you currently have on your site, card, etc. Ask some friends you trust to give you honest feedback.
We can set ourselves apart from the sea of competition by being simple, and putting everything we do through this filter. If this is hard for you, bring on a board of directors, or several friends with a critical eye that can help catch what you don’t filter. Have them give you monthly reviews. This process of wrestling with what you choose to post, print and produce will become easier once you have set parameters as to what you do want your style to represent. Once you define what you are and what you are not, and remove the things that do not fit with that defined style, as the months pass you will train your eye to “see” this style integrity.
Set out your goals for your style integrity in 2011, and set yourself apart. You will attract others who are inspired, and thus the door opens to collaborate and grow.
**If you want to learn more about developing your style, visit Mike’s Platform talk at WPPI in Las Vegas on Feb 20th from 3:30-5:30pm.**
Written by Mike Larson
Mike Larson is an international photographer who began his career traveling the globe in search of photographing exotic locations, amazing surf, and beautiful cultures. Since then, he discovered his passion for photographing people who are in love and enjoying life. Residing in Southern California when not traveling, Mike is honored to be sought after to photograph spectacular weddings around the world.