Corporate Design Today
In an increasingly technology-driven market environment, modern brands must be able to respond to changing customer needs in record time. Only if a brand is capable of adapting to new user trends will it remain relevant in the long term.
Many companies are faced with the challenge of modernising their corporate design with all its touchpoints while maintaining brand recognition and the reputation they have established. People in charge of corporate design frequently find themselves wrestling with existing style guides which, in their type and structure, are no longer a good fit for the challenges of today’s digital world.
However, complete rebranding is not an option for large companies such as Swiss Post. Too many ongoing projects, not to mention the costs for a complete redesign, may prevent brand evolution. The main reason for this is that design processes used to be organised in a very static way in large companies. And yet, digitalisation offers many opportunities to create a more dynamic image. This requires new methods for the generation and management of a corporate design.
Paper Tigers and Lab Rats
Corporate designs are usually developed under lab conditions. A handful of applications are used as a basis for new design guidelines: A sample website, a poster, a brochure and an example of building signage are usually sufficient to carve a corporate design in stone for many years. It is only during the digital implementation of these paper tigers that gaps become evident. The carefully designed guidelines cannot be applied to the digital channels consistently.
The lab situation is necessary to assess new design hypotheses, but the result is far from a functioning corporate design system. A functioning corporate design system requires real applications, real products and real customer feedback.
Get set. Go.
That is why with Swiss Post, we decided to apply the high-level CI/CD guidelines to ongoing digital projects as early as possible. This allowed us to put the new design to the test and to refine it in response to concrete problems. It also allowed us to integrate real feedback from stakeholders as well as customers into the development of the style guide early on. “Continuous integration” as a design process, if you will. With this approach, users become part of the “story” early on, which turns them into ambassadors for the new design.
In parallel, we continually collected and documented the design components from the projects in a digital style guide based on Frontify. A design committee consisting of marketing, UX and brand management representatives met on a regular basis to make the necessary decisions and guide the design in the desired direction. The goal was a continual increase in the quality of the design system in terms of design quality, applicability and usefulness for real projects.
Unlike traditional style guides that aim for continuity and completeness, much like a code of law, digital style guides are all about agility. Many brand managers still act like law enforcement officers for the brand guidelines. But digital product development requires active involvement and finding solutions in the interplay between product and brand.
The digital style guide for Swiss Post needs to be adaptive. Changes and modifications are welcome and increase the brand’s capability to adapt. This allows for the corporate design to grow organically while maintaining brand recognition.
The Copy/Paste Era
The purpose of brand guidelines has changed drastically due to digital production processes. Static reproduction rules for graphic elements or precisely measured layout rules have become obsolete in the copy/paste era. The new building blocks of the brand experience are code snippets, interfaces and template data, which are manually or automatically integrated into the development of new products and applications.
The design system was the foundation for the redevelopment of the frontend architecture of Swiss Post. The common web frontend (CWF) is a pattern library developed by Swiss Post. It is an easily accessible collection of pre-fabricated elements that can be copied and pasted into various projects.
This is how the digital style guide for Swiss Post documents the modules, explains their design and use and makes the code snippets from the CWF available to developers. Especially when there is a large number of different web applications, it is crucial for the modules to be implemented based on the same concept and that they can be reused for different use cases. The digital style guide makes up the foundation of a consistent and recognisable brand experience.
One major advantage of a digital corporate design system is speed. Large companies are slow to develop new products and services. To keep up with changing user behaviour, digital products need to be rolled out quickly.
For speedy product development, Swiss Post now has an established and prefabricated design system that is ready for use. And the new pattern library enables it to accelerate product development cycles. This allowed for a relaunch of the Swiss Post web portal in record time. Since the design had already been established within the company, no discussions on the fundamental design were required during the project. Instead, the design resources were applied to evaluate completely new concepts and ideas.
Using the design system, product prototypes were put together rapidly and tested with customers. This allowed for more focus on contents and the actual user needs in the project. Project meetings revolved around service quality and product structure. Not around pixels.
What does it take for Human-Centered Design (HCD) to work? That it does not just pay lip service? We have consistently carried out the optimization of post.ch in a user-centered manner. With prototypes and common principles.
We have been supporting the Swiss Post on its path to digitalisation for around 20 years. For this website relaunch, we were in charge of user experience, design, and frontend to backend implementation on Sitecore 9 and more.