How Bevel and Emboss Saved Brand Design

Today I was on the phone with a client discussing brand guidelines and the challenges of policing them as an in-house marketing department within a large institution. I mentioned that I had created a “bevel and emboss” version of their logo to hang up as a joke in their design department. For those of you who like this look…for the love of Zeus, please keep reading. For those of you who proudly claim a career in design, finish cringing and also keep reading.

Ironically, Photoshop just celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Adobe licensed the first version in 1988 and released Photoshop 1.0, exclusively for Macintosh, to the public in 1990. With the introduction of this cutting-edge (albeit expensive) software, photos could be digitally manipulated, edited and color retouched with the click of a button. Mind-blowing technology in a world where photo retouching cost $300/hour. Suddenly, that expensive software seemed a bit more reasonable.

22 versions later, Photoshop—along with several other Adobe products—are standard knowledge requirements for graphic designers. The Adobe Creative Suite is also used by non-design professions, even children, and has empowered everyone to suddenly become “a designer.” Though the advancement of technology has improved our industry in many ways, some might argue it has equally damaged the value of our profession.

In my opinion, the graphic designer is more important than ever.

With the invention of Photoshop, Instagram filters, Google images, Microsoft Powerpoint, and countless other programs, the risk for a brand to “go rogue” is at an all-time high. It is our responsibility, as designers and marketers, to fight tooth-and-nail for our clients’ identity.

The world is already a confusing mess – all the more reason to value a strong, consistent brand and understand the need for it to be carried across all communication touch points. A logo, for instance, does not define a brand alone, but is part of a foundation of elements (both visual and written word) that point back to a positioning statement. We define this by conducting an exhaustive amount of research and carefully crafting visual and verbal language to represent the truth behind what the company and its products or services stand for.

Furthermore, every brand identity should be delivered with a brand guideline: a manual outlining the use of brand elements for internal and external use, which should be shared with all internal employees, stakeholders, partners and vendors—anyone who might create public-facing content. This “brand bible” can consist of logo specifications, logo do’s and don’ts, color palettes, photography style, ancillary graphics, iconography, motion graphics, video style, typography, illustrations, language and messaging that ultimately comprise a brand. Brand guidelines are the cement that holds an identity together and protects a company’s unique position in the marketplace. Without a consistent visual and verbal representation of a brand, it is guaranteed to get lost in the clutter. And it is our job as graphic designers to create and enforce those rules.

So thank you, bevel and emboss.