Creativity within brand guidelines: revive your marketing materials without ANY sign off

If your last brand update was a while ago, it can feel like you’ve created every layout or used every colour combination possible within your brand guidelines. Bound by that big old book that’s gathering dust on a shelf (or, more likely, a server) and with a fast-approaching deadline for some collateral that needs to feel fresh and relevant, what can you do?

We’ve already discussed brand evolution on the blog – that is, how to keep your brand feeling fresh without doing a full rebrand – but those tips require some level of sign off. And sometimes there’s just not the time or budget to make that happen. 

So here we’re taking it one step further and sharing our top three tips to avoid the time and hassle of getting any sign off from the powers that be and finding creativity within brand guidelines.

Introduce a one-off headline font

Of course your brand guidelines will specify the font(s) you or your creative studio can use – but for one-off use that needs to make a big impact, a distinctive headline font can breathe new life into marketing collateral.

That’s what we did for our long-standing client, CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) whose team in Northern Ireland were feeling a little underwhelmed with the invite design for their annual gala dinner.

You’ll notice that the copy on the invite is almost exactly the same between the two versions, but the large script font and glitzy background image gives the 2023 edition, which we designed, a much more premium feel.

Mix up the imagery size and subject (or cut it completely)

Photography is a fantastic way to bring variation and visual interest to content with rigid guidelines. Whether it’s changing the subject matter of the images, resizing, repositioning or removing them all together, playing with photography can really alter the feel of marketing materials.

We think that the covers we designed for LABC’s Building Excellence Awards illustrate this point nicely. From the slick design in 2018 that centres the awards’ star motif in an on-brand pale grey to a full bleed photograph the following year, 2021 combines the two elements by using a point of the star motif to mask a much smaller image (2020 was skipped due to Covid.) And in 2022 we removed imagery altogether in favour of a more graphical representation of a cityscape, with the orange accent colour really coming to the fore.

Positioned side-by-side, you can clearly see the brand guidelines at work. But released once a year, as they were IRL, there is enough variety between designs so that artwork looks annually revived – not recycled.

Run with a theme

For annual events, like trade shows and exhibitions, matching the theme of your designs to the theme of the event is a great way to keep collateral feeling bang up to date. 

We’ve been designing all the event collateral for Cereals, a very popular annual arable event, since 2020. While the format of the event itself remains relatively fixed, the creative needs to feel fresh each time so we draw inspiration from the theme of the year.

In 2020, the imagery and graphic shapes echoed the process-driven theme for the year, with blue skies and golden corn giving a vibrant feel to the collateral. 

The following year, while the cog-like curves are still present, it’s the hexagon motif that is highlighted, holding scientific icons, and reflecting the theme of soil health that was the focus of 2021. Background imagery draws the eye into the dark soil itself and gives the collateral a very different feel to the bright, open spaces of the surrounding years’.

And in 2022, when organisers wanted to highlight collaboration and innovation amongst the farming audience, our designs emphasised real life interactions through increased photography. 

While each route feels distinct, they all sit comfortably within Cereal’s brand guidelines – building the brand without needing to update it.

So there it is. No lengthy sign off process. No unnecessary hassle. Just revived marketing materials, ready to go quicker than you can say ‘where’s that brand book saved, anyway?’

Do you have an annual event or campaign that is starting to feel a bit tired? Get in touch to see how we can bring your collateral back to life.

Are you ready to start your next creative project?

Email us or give us a call on 01275 400 777