Corporate identity style and flexibility: 17 things to bear in mind

A huge amount of solutions for online creation of documents are becoming available over the last couple of years. More and more products are in the market, and that makes choosing the best solution for you not easier at all. Here’s what you should keep in mind whenever you are thinking of investing in such a solution.

A corporate identity style should not become a straitjacket!

First of all, let’s define again what a corporate identity style exactly means. A corporate identity comes with a couple of guidelines ensuring a brand of a consistent and recognisable look. A corporate style should not, however, become a restrictive corset. It should indeed be sufficiently flexible to become a defined area in which creativity should flow as free as possible!

Most online solutions for creating lay-outs, function with templates, in which texts and images can be placed. Templates should be flexible in order to be able to create a wide range of types of documents. Replacing a title or label, or replacing a picture is relatively easy, but a good solution should be able to do more than than. What does ultimate flexibility mean?

Between corporate identity style and templates: 17 signs of ultimate flexibility.

There are 17 questions we could ask ourselves whenever we are looking for an online solution to produce our marketing materials with. Ten of these questions have directly to do with templates. When is it that we can really speak of a flexible template? How can we test the flexibility factor of a template?

1. Does the solution have a WYSIWYG mode?

In other words, do you see right away what you are doing? WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get. A template containing the WYSIWYG mode makes you see all the changes you are making in realtime during the creation process.

Solutions that do not have an automated tool for the creation of flexible templates, implicate having to script template after template with computer coding. Not only does this take a lot of time, it is also an expensive process, and less user-friendly in general. Automated tools which are integrated in the standard product for designers (InDesign) are better capable of delivering functioning templates timely.

2. Is it possible to scale texts automatically in order to make longer texts fitting as well?

Templates in which the font size automatically adjusts to the length of a text, are very useful. If, on top of that, these templates take the corporate identity and the readability of the texts into account, we can really speak of flexibility.

3. Does the text automatically flow over to the next page?

Let’s imagine you have a template with a text frame of a certain size. However, the text that you would like to add into this frame is too long and your corporate style does not allow a smaller font size. One option could be to shorten the text until it fits the frame, but you know you have room left on the following page. Ideally, the solution would notice this space and make the text automatically flow over to the next page while you can keep concentrating on the content you are writing instead of dealing with lay-out trouble.

4. Are optional image frames possible on a page?

Templates often have fixed frames to insert images on certain parts of the page, but it doesn’t mean you always want to have those images there. The most practical solution would be that the image frame disappears automatically: if no image or photo was added in the frame, the text column will scroll over.

5. Are style sheets adaptable with just one click?

Imagine you are creating a document for a different business unit or faculty, or you need a document in a different language. Does your template allow you to make changes in style sheets, such as color tones, fonts, logos and languages, with just one click?

6. Can a colored text frame grow along with the text?

It is not unusual that a corporate style has more than one background color. Sometimes this could give some issues, because your text could for example flow over the limits of the colored square. A solution would of course be that the template, as well as the colored text frame, would grow along with the text.

7. Can a standard page be replaced by a different page with a different design?

Can you replace your whole page with just one click, while your text and images remain unchanged and automatically adjust to the new design?

8. Can a title extend over several lines and do the other text elements adjust to the title?

Templates that are really flexible, should, so to speak, make interaction possible between various text frames on a page, and have a lot of adaptive capacity. For example, if a title is longer than foreseen, the other text frames should be able to make room easily.

9. Is the number of pages scalable?

Could you, for instance, turn a brochure of eight pages into a brochure of four pages, or the other way around?

10. Is it possible to crop photos and measure the dpi?

Does the template allow cropping photos directly into the frames? Does the image frame automatically indicate if the resolution of the added photo meets the printing quality standards? A template with the ability to measure automatically the dpi (dots per inch) even after cropping, avoids the hassle of having to work in a separate photo-editing software.

Authorisations, approvals and managing versions.

Real flexibility is a solution in which it is even possible to assign various levels of authorisation per user. For instance, a volunteer is only allowed to adapt an address frame and add a logo, but not to make changes in other text frames. How flexible could a software be in terms of authorisations, approvals and managing versions?

11. Is it possible for editors to make determined text frames firm so they cannot be changed?

Is it possible to give franchisers access to adjust (or even see) address details of a brochure?

12. Is version management available?

Does the solution dispose of a tool which automatically assigns identification numbers and backs up older versions in a practical system, so you can always return to an older version?

13. Does the template allow you to configure certain approvals for publications and orders, and does it make use of e-mail notifications?

A solution in which you can determine a certain hierarchy, avoids dozens of e-mails going back and forth. A volunteer could for example make a change, after which an employee receives a notification to review and approve the newest version. An extra practical tool making the working process flexible as well.

14. Are permalinks possible in order to make published documents instantly available on websites?

A flexible solution should be able to make PDF’s directly available online thanks to the use of permalinks.

15. Does the solution make it possible to create DM campaigns with variable data?

Is the option to create direct mail campaigns with variable data available, so that, for example, you just have to add an excel file?

Lastly, multilingualism and integrations

If the solution does well on all of the above stated questions, there are still a couple of important aspects to take into account:

16. Is multilingualism possible?

For internationally operating businesses it is also very important to have templates that are able to handle multilingualism. This is certainly a huge issue when dealing with a different alfabet or non-western languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, but also Russian and Thai.

17. Are there any integrations with other applications?

Integration between various function is a very important one. Because what is online creation if you do not have access to all your images? An integration with an image repository or Digital Asset Manager can come in very handy. And if you want to be able to order the document you just created, an integration with your ordering system is also very important. And if, on top of all, your solution is connected to a worldwide printing network to even serve all of your international customers, well… Need I say more?

Content is often stored in external data resources. A good online creating solution makes it possible to integrate with external resources in order to upload texts and images into the templates in a very simple manner.

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