Insight Creative's Brian Slade on the importance of a line of sight in design

  • Design Thinking
  • October 13, 2015
  • Brian Slade
Insight Creative's Brian Slade on the importance of a line of sight in design

I always enjoy working through the challenges of an identity system that is segmented by key audience groups. It helps you really focus on each identity element and its flexibility to communicate in different ways to different audiences. A ‘line of sight’ is an approach where you create a visual set of cues that you can dial up or down to pre-determined levels dependent on the audience you are talking to. It allows the viewer to get a sense of who you are, with enough rigidity to maintain the integrity of the visual identity but with enough flexibility to allow for agile interpretation. On the flip side, if left until ‘later’ to organically evolve, you can end up leaving budget-shy aspects of the business or under-represented areas lagging behind, playing brand and visual identity catch up.

It takes a bit of focus and commitment, with the biggest hurdle getting everyone holistically appreciating the value in creating a line of sight. So who should consider this and why? 

First, think about the various audiences who interact with your organisation. Typically, this could be staff, contractors, suppliers, customers, investors, government, media and community groups. They’re all after something slightly different. Chances are you’ll want to speak to them in the most relevant way that resonates with them. The next consideration is consistency. You may operate in a marketing or communications team where interpretation may be an issue, and if you’re looking to guide a consistent approach, think ‘line of sight’.

We’ve worked with Mighty River Power (MRP) for a good few years now and when we first started the relationship we realised creating a strong visual line of sight was going to help us. 

Fundamentally, we stripped the visual identity back to simply the logo and began to build from there. First we developed the brand positioning and then the visual identity in order to tell an integrated story from generation to supply. Our brief was initially focused around a corporate audience; however we knew their audiences were more far-reaching. This is where the line of sight kicked in. 

Without a visual or brand audit or strategically mapping out the full landscape, we could quickly have come unstuck as the relationship evolved. We created three core landing stages that looked, respectively, at a corporate, community and an internal audience. Each landing stage has unique elements that build into one visual identity palette. There’s a strong visual continuum that allows for responsive and agile creative design, creating really positive results and continuity.

We defined the tone of voice and personality of MRP. Then agreed a framework for managing different types of communications to different audiences. The primary colours used in all communications are the same regardless of audience, although we do use a broader and more vibrant colour palette for internal communications. Community communications use a variety of clear-cut imagery that reflect the human aspects of MRP, supported by an additional typographic treatment. Corporate communications that focus on assets and process have more solid, confident, bold features in the palette. 

The internal palette has helped unite all employees as ‘one team’ with a common voice and clear understanding of the company’s external brand story. Within the line of sight, the strong overlapping visual elements express unity and collaboration. 

This simple but effective approach has allowed us to create a cohesive visual language that clearly speaks to all of MRP’s audiences. The rollout of the identity has been an exercise in logistics management, from environmental experiences in their corporate offices to hardworking hydro facilities. Internal communications, health and safety programmes, shareholder reports, sponsorships, electric car initiatives, online, profiles, presentations … the list goes on, as do the benefits of the early decision to develop the flexibility of a ‘line of sight’ and not rely on ‘she’ll be right’ or ‘later’. 

  • Brian Slade is the creative director of Insight. talktous@designedbyinsight.com
  • This story was initially published as part of a content partnership in the September/October edition of NZ Marketing.

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