Insights / Designing For Scalability


In Light of the Dumbing Up of Mediocrity, How Do You Design for Scale and Still Do Something Amazing?

“It takes striking a balance of consistency and creativity: You’ve got to find that sweet spot between brand consistency and creative freedom.” 

We’ve been talking about the rise of mediocrity and how it’s shifting the benchmarks for what’s considered great work. But how do you maintain a level of greatness when you’re designing for scalability?


Especially when you’re handing over the reins to a client-side team that’s got to juggle commercial realities with brand integrity?


The Challenge of Designing for Scale 
Designing for scale can be a bit of a beast. You need to consider the range of stakeholders, each with their own set of needs, but for the sake of integrity, it all needs to sing from the same hymn sheet. It’s not only about the rules; it’s about interpretation, challenge, and creativity.


Examples of Scalable Branding
Take Spotify. It’s a brand that needs to be as dynamic as their playlists. Different artists, different genres, different moods, yet when you open that app, you know it’s Spotify. It’s consistent but not monotonous. It’s like cracking a code on maintaining brand DNA while letting a thousand flowers bloom.

I don’t often talk about the work we do, but TAFE NSW is worth mentioning. We had to create a brand identity system that could stretch across multiple institutes, markets, and audiences, all while repositioning and integrating into the one institute. We had to shift the perception of TAFE from a “Plan B” to a “Plan A” educational choice, and it had to work across place, culture, audience, and needs. It took crafting a brand identity that could be dialed up or down depending on the audience but still feels like family. I think to this day it’s a great example of what I mean by a scalable brand identity system.


Balancing Consistency and Creativity 
It takes striking a balance of consistency and creativity: You’ve got to find that sweet spot between brand consistency and creative freedom. And it’s not just about the visuals; your tone of voice and communication strategy are equally as crucial. They’re all part of the brand identity, and they all need to line up. In fact, you can’t create a set of brand guidelines that account for every situation. That’s why it’s about building a system that’s intuitive enough for internal teams or an agency village to run with, but robust enough to keep the brand on point.

For the brand agency, it’s a tightrope, but the outcome means that anyone using the system should be able to implement within a framework, achieve a commercial outcome, and if it’s really well done, allow others to have some creativity and fun with it as well. 

I think of it as a specialist skill, a niche. While everyone sees the shiny end product; it’s the hours of backroom work that elevates a brand identity from good enough to truly great. Designing for scale is more than a task; it’s a craft. It’s where strategy meets aesthetics, where vision meets execution. And fundamentally it’s the realm of the brand agency. 

Designing for scale is both an art and a science. How do you balance brand consistency and creative freedom in your work? Share your insights and experiences in the comments below. Let’s continue the conversation!


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