Branding Outside the Lines with Douglas County, GAAugust 6, 2018
DCI recently had the opportunity to create a new brand identity for a vibrant and growing community located just outside the lines of Atlanta, GA: Douglas County.
Here are a few key takeaways from our experience with the new Douglas County identity that may help you with your community’s brand.
The Right Voice for the Right Audience
A successful design is a one that communicates your message. In the case of Douglas County, we saw the opportunity to create a brand that could be adapted to resonate with multiple audiences: potential residents, businesses and visitors. The primary tagline, “Live Outside the Lines,” calls on potential residents and businesses to break free of the costs and hassle associated with larger metro areas to find a fresh start and a new way of life in an affordable, diverse and safe small-town environment. Naturally, “Live” can be swapped out for “Work” and “Play” to suit the county’s other audiences.
The result of this direction was the creation of a brand signature with modular icons and colors that could be changed to best suit the audience they’re engaging.
If not done well, this level of variety can put a strain on the cohesion of a brand, so we took great care in structuring the supporting colors for each theme to blend seamlessly with the master brand.
Speaking with One Voice: The Importance of Co-Branding
During our evaluation of Douglas County, we found that there were a number of affiliated organizations that each had their own distinct messaging and style—from the convention and visitor’s bureau to the school system. While each of these brands certainly have their own value, when taken as a whole, they appeared stylistically at odds with one another and therefore did not present a unified brand for the region. After all, it’s hard to discern between multiple voices in a crowd if they aren’t speaking together.
The more unified a region is in its brand, both in style and in substance, the stronger its message will be and the more likely it is to be heard. To promote brand unity within your region, saturation is key. The more people are exposed to the elements of your brand, the more familiar they will be with it and the more likely they are to be effective ambassadors for your brand. This can be particularly impactful on your internal audience, since they will be coming in contact with your brand the most and have a vested interest in promoting your community. With this in mind, we developed several mock-ups of potential logos for county-wide organizations that borrow elements of the primary brand while maintaining their own individual style.
Bending the Rules of Engagement
During the visual brainstorming process, we found that this logo lent itself to certain fun and interesting paths that required more flexibility than your average brand signature. What that meant, in this case, was to simplify or strip away logo elements in certain environments, such as separating the “Live” icon from the logo to be used as a bold graphic.
As a rule, you want to protect the fidelity of your brand’s logo. A consistent image and message is the cornerstone of brand recognition. To do this and maintain the logo signature’s integrity, we realized that we needed to craft an internal logic to how and when it was appropriate to separate elements of the logo. We landed on the notion that these parts could be stripped away in an application, like on merchandise or business cards, but that somewhere on the product a full version of the logo should appear even if it is small, in order to ensure that the brand is always tied back to Douglas County, GA.
In the case of the business card, we detached and dramatically enlarged the logo’s icon on the back, while the full version lives on the front.
Safe, But Not Too Safe
Between the modularity of the logo and its internal logic that governs the flexible application on marketing materials, the new Douglas County brand system was a welcome challenge that allowed us to flex our creative muscles. Making an effective and exciting brand requires a willingness to experiment and push boundaries, balanced with careful thought, to make a strong and enduring system.