Style guide illustration

Respect the Style Guide: The Importance of Consistency in Design


If you want to earn trust and respect from your users and customers, consistency in your branding is crucial. Consistency means the tone, feel, and style of the company’s branding is the same everywhere it appears. It means committing to the visual appearance of your product and its marketing and not trying to sell yourself as anything else. This creates loyalty in users and customers as they get a solid sense of who you are as an organization.
What is it about consistency that is so compelling? For one, it is decisive; it is not watered down with excess variation. It is also clean. Nothing clashes; it is organized and pleasant to look at. Finally, it is familiar and recognizable. You see the business identity once and you see it forever. Consistency is an integral factor in a business’s trustworthiness, professionalism, and stability. I will elaborate on these three aspects a little more.
Consistency is Decisive
Consistency commits to your product’s branding so it is noticeable and memorable. It doesn’t try to go in too many directions at once. Human beings have an innate need to categorize and simplify information so we can save brain space for higher-priority functioning. We don’t want to work to make sense of discordant information. We are drawn to imagery that makes sense immediately and would rather use the extra brain space to think about more important things, like what we are having for lunch. Inconsistency in a company’s visual presence is likely to be ignored and overlooked. For this reason, everything in a product’s appearance should be carefully and deliberately selected. These selections are often referred to as a style guide and contain rules such as:

  • Two-pixel blue border under every menu item
  • 40 pixels of space between content sections
  • Main headers in Helvetica

The rules are usually quite specific, and there are quite a few of them — usually several pages. Regardless, the design never deviates from these rules. It stays within its confines so as not to send a conflicting or unclear message.
Consistency is Clean
Appealing and alluring branding has been refined. If the style guide is followed correctly, there is no room for messiness or conflicting styles. The layout matches; it does not noisily compete with itself. The style guide provides limitations on how any content can appear. There is no room for clutter to cheapen the design, such as extra fonts, randomly-placed drop shadows, or a one-time use of yellow for the sake of standing out. (Excuse me as I cool my fevered brow). No style should be haphazardly thrown in. Every piece of media, merchandise, and advertising should all follow a set of predetermined styles.
Consistency is Recognizable
When a design has a memorable style and is used consistently, it evokes recognition. The consistent message reassures not only customers but potential customers as well that your team is a familiar and dependable presence out there. This helps an organization earn trust. A product with inconsistent branding is easily forgettable, thrown right back into the messy, generic background of everything else screaming for your potential customer’s attention.
The power of consistency can make or break a company’s image and is arguably more important than the quality of the design itself. What good is a stunning design if it is not adhered to? Even with a less than appealing design, consistency will still reflect purpose, concision, and familiarity. Breaking one style setting may not seem like a big deal, but it is a slippery slope that can eventually chip away at your professional image and erode your user’s trust, recognition, and confidence.

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