In Part 1 of this series, you learned the right questions to ask in developing a communications strategy to support your state’s quality rating and improvement system.
In Part 2, we outlined specific guidelines to keep in mind in crafting that strategy.
In Part 3 you’ll see how to use that communications strategy as the framework on which every design decision is based.
More than just being visually pleasing, great design (both in print and for digital) should elicit a directed and predicted response. Your marketing communications must stand out from the crowd, connect, be memorable, and inspire action.
Given that your QRIS brand already has a look, it can be a delicate balance to be sure the new look connects to the past while also moving your organization forward; it’s important to get this right. For any rebranding project, the goal is to create a brand identity that can take your organization to the next level and reflect the changes that have taken place.
Building that brand foundation was also the goal for Virginia Quality, Virginia’s quality rating and improvement system; you’ll see examples of that work below.
Your Name and Logo
Your name and logo are the most important elements in your brand identity. Your logo serves as the primary recall mechanism for your brand, and the full expression of that logo will include your name; note that the general rule for successful brands is that the name is only one or two words. (Read What’s In a Brand Name? Everything, Including Your Future Logo for more about how to create a successful brand name.) For later reference, keep in mind that, for better recall, your website’s URL should match your name.
Initially, Virginia’s quality rating and improvement system was called “Virginia Star Quality Initiative.” At the time, that name was appropriate: the QRIS used a star rating system, and the word “initiative” reflected that their quality rating and improvement system was a new effort.
When they revised their QRIS, however, that name was no longer relevant: the new system no longer used stars, its new focus was on continuous quality improvement, and it needed to stand out more among other quality efforts in the state.
As a result, “Virginia Star Quality Initiative” became “Virginia Quality,” with a different color palette and modified icon. We kept the same tagline to provide another link to the original brand, yet shortened the name to improve the logo’s effectiveness as a recall mechanism.
When designing the logo, the true test of its importance as a recall mechanism is how well the logo works in a small space or on a piece where it’s seen only quickly. For instance, when creating a yard sign or a small electronic or print ad, the logo needs to be strong and easy to identify. The stronger it is as a recall mechanism, the more successful your communications will be.
Mood Boards for Your Brand
Once the new name is approved, a series of mood boards can help you visualize different expressions of the brand identity and logo variations. Using visuals to demonstrate the different ways your name and logo can be expressed can help you evaluate the feelings you get from each new direction. This comparison of different interpretations of the new name and logo is a key step in the process of creating your new brand identity.
The mood boards include:
- The new name and logo
- A color palette
- Typeface choices
While all mood boards feature the name approved by your team, each one offers a different visual expression with variations of logo, color, typefaces, and images. Your team can then choose the direction you want the new identity to take.
There are many people involved in the brand of your quality rating and improvement system, all of whom will be affected by this change, and the use of mood boards is a good way to get high-level approval for one visual direction.
This approval is critical because the elements on the mood board serve to inform design choices made in the next phase in the process.
A New Visual Identity
The final test for making sure the new brand identity works is to create “mockups” (fake prototypes) of all the marketing materials needed for your communications strategy.
When designing a new brand identity, it’s crucial to design these mockups at the same time, and early in the process; this step not only tells you that the visual solution works well across all pieces, but also lets you see the brand look and feel in its entirety.
For Virginia Quality, our team used the approved mood board and the list of marketing materials needed (refer to Part 2 of this series) to create mockups. Note that at this stage, you don’t need to provide all of the approved content; that will happen during execution. (See Part 4 of this series for more information on that phase.)
Using Visuals to Tell Your Story
Since many people are visual learners, reinforcing your message with visuals whenever possible makes it more engaging and clearer. For those quality rating and improvement systems moving from ratings to levels, one of the most important parts of your brand identity will be the visual that explains the new levels and how they work. This image will be used repeatedly for different audiences and in a number of marketing pieces.
In the case of Virginia Quality, for example, there were several key factors to creating this visual:
- Because the standards had been simplified, we used the top of the graphic to easily communicate what each level represents.
- In addition, we used the graphic to reinforce the forward movement of continuous quality improvement (going from one level to the next) instead of visualizing the system as steps going up. Virginia had moved away from ratings, and this simple forward-moving graphic was a better visual expression of the new QRIS standards of continuous quality improvement.
Armed with a new brand identity—including name, logo, colors, fonts, and visual representation of your QRIS’s process—and having approved mockup versions of all marketing materials, the next step is to fully execute the specific materials and distribute them to your state.