We have a favorite coffee house in our neighborhood. Every time we visit, the experience is impeccable. It isn’t just the service or the fresh brew and delicate pastries. It begins before we walk through the door. We are greeted with the over sized, urban, brushed steel signage. The interior design is harmonious with the exterior design and carries through the menus and into the place settings. The limited color palette, typography and attention to detail reflect the craftsmanship and attention to detail their brand stands for. These little details create the atmosphere conducive to thoroughly enjoying a coffee drinking experience second to none. Servers brew beautiful earthy beans table side, And, if you also opt to grab a bite, the dish presentation complements the coffee experience without detracting.


While it may seem intangible, a consistent design approach can translate a company’s brand essence into meaningful behavior (internal values and culture) and communications (advertising, pr, etc.) that get top results. In fact Interbrand’s 2007 Brand Marketers Report, on brands and branding by experts from top global brands, showed the most critical aspect of successful branding was Consistency at 36% (marketing and advertising rated at less than 1% and Innovation rated 18.2%).

To illustrate this point, let’s think about Virgin for a moment. Their strong identity system and unified graphics coupled with unique products and environments seamlessly carry the Virgin brand across a multitude of industries without losing their inherent mission. To date they have successfully extended themselves from music and entertainment to mobile services, airlines and financial services.


Now let’s briefly examine the flip side of the coin-Tropicana’s recent redesign blunder. They abandoned their core brand position and design identity. They ditched their iconic orange with a straw and swapped it for a boring glass of orange juice and bland typography. The self-proclaimed, “premium” brand became generic. The resulting public outcry was so strong that they are changing the packaging back to their former design.

This is not to say that brands should not adapt or refresh. It is necessary for a brand to stay atop of current design trends and ahead of marketplace needs. One only need look at McDonald’s latest foray into the gourmet coffee realm to see how consistent design can lead a brand into unchartered service or product territories while still staying true to their core brand. On, brand strategist, Rachell Simmons agrees, “It is quite incredible how much a design can be recalibrated and be injected with fresh ideas, yet still retain its fundamental soul and recognizable as the original face of the company’s brand. When this is done well, the design confirms and strengthens a relationship with the customer, saying essentially, ‘What you know and like about this relationship, you can count on’.

Tracey Bolton is Creative Director at Bolton Design in Los Angeles, California. Bolton Design is a nationally recognized graphic design studio that provides integrative communication design and branding solutions that connect businesses to people.To learn more, and to receive Bolton Design’s free email newsletter, please visit You may also contact Tracey directly at

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