How can the signature and the recognition value of the Audi brand be maintained if the leeway in the design becomes broader?
Labonte: Of course, changes in the design are always accompanied by questions concerning the corporate identity and global consistency of the brand. However, as soon as the designers have developed a basic understanding for the brand, such changes also lead to better quality. Moreover, the creative freedom also helps create more exciting results, which in turn make the brand livelier. CI policies should not be too strict, which may be appropriate and important to achieve global consistency and recognition of the brand, but they should never be allowed to limit the creativity and vitality of the brand.
That sounds paradoxical: on the one hand, designers are responsible for the design of CI guidelines. On the other hand, they are always trying to question stringently defined guidelines.
Labonte: One sure must never lose sight of the brand’s signature and the DNA of the brand. Yet the brand also wants and needs to breath with life. In classical brand communication, overly strict CI guidelines were sometimes deliberately counteracted by the designers.
How does a new understanding develop when applying the fundamental elements of design and communication?
Labonte: The design agencies are strongly called upon regarding this point, because the creative freedom that Audi now offers is very much aimed at enhancing the impact of the overall layout. Alongside the core elements of the corporate identity that characterise the brand – and which we have not changed, such as the Audi lettering and the red, silver and white brand colours – the visual language is an essential element. Today, it is not so much about presenting a vehicle in an artificial environment, but rather about an emotional experience, an experience that emphasises the premium quality of the brand and at the same time promotes a natural, realistic image. And this brings diversity and liveliness to the brand communication.
At Audi, you have been working together with many different agencies. How can you ensure that they understand the new design principles and apply them appropriately?
Labonte: An important basis for a shared understanding is certainly the newly developed CI platform on the Internet, which, alongside the design principles, also provides details aimed at making it as easy as possible for project managers and designers to quickly find solutions in making an implementation. The platform features many elements for easy download and integration into a graphical concept. This fosters the ability to find quick and good solutions.
Could you please expand a bit on the principle of the audi.com/ci Internet platform?
Labonte: Sure. In the past, access to the CI platform was regulated and only possible after registration. This has changed fundamentally. We have made the Internet platform open access, because basically it does not host any secret content. Of course, there is a legal framework prohibiting the external use of the design elements for advertising purposes. Also, the main design principle must be adhered to: “Don’t play with the rings”. So far, we have had very positive experiences with this, because many platform users have thus developed an interest in the brand. For Audi, the platform has become a very important tool. It makes no sense to develop a CI and then not make it available. And there are no more PDF files.