One item I have noticed clients asking for more and more regularly is internal templates, usually in the form of Microsoft Word or Publisher files. Using these kind of templates in-house can be a huge cost and time saver, but what concerns me is how they contribute towards inconsistent branding.
When we design a template we utilise the branding elements as best we can within the restrictions of these programs but as soon as it leaves our studio any control of the brand is out of our hands. Generally the end user of these templates is not a designer and hence important branding elements such as choice of typeface, image treatment and placement, line spacing and the point size of the type are often overlooked. All of these elements are what add up to create a consistent brand image and by omitting them you dilute your brand.
Desktop publishing programs have a lot of limitations. Something as simple as rounding the corners on an image or even placing a photo within an image box can often be impossible to achieve. Leading any more complex than ‘single space’ or ‘double space’ is tricky if you don’t know what you are doing, as is choosing exact colours. Illustrations can be difficult to include because certain file formats (and versions of formats) are not recognised by desktop publishing software. Unless you know what formats the program you are using will accept; the best format to convert your illustration to so that it reproduces well; and have image editing software to do this properly; you will probably end up having to miss it out. For some reason there is also the temptation for many people to make use of the huge variety of clipart and novelty fonts these programs offer. These overused icons and drawings may be semi-acceptable on a birthday party invitation but on anything business related avoid them at all costs – they do nothing for your brand!
If any of these things mentioned above are an important part of your brand and brand styling then you are reducing its strength by designing it yourself.
Desktop publishing programs are also not designed to produce industry standard, print ready artwork. Infact many print houses refuse to print any artwork that has not been designed in professional software because they know they will never get a good result with a brochure designed in Microsoft Word or similar. This may mean your only option is to print your documents in-house or on an A3 or A4 laser printer at your local ‘print’ shop. This generally means your artwork will end up with a white border because standard office printers are unable to print to the edge. It is more costly than commercial printing and the finished product is not as good.
All this said, internal templates do have their place. Simple communication such as a letter you need to email to someone should be typed on a branded electronic letterhead if possible and documents where only minimal changes to text or simple image swaps are required often can work better as an internal template to save you time and money. Just make sure when sending it to someone you save it as a PDF rather than in its native form. With items such as brochures and newsletters that are more complex it is important to consider whether doing it yourself and saving money is really worth the effect it will have on your brand in the long run.
My advice – if it needs designing and you are not a designer get a designer to do it.