I was just observing the rift in graphic design between authoritarian brands and principles-led brands.

I think principles-led branding—and design—is the future within my industry, which gives me hope for everyone else.

Suddenly I don’t see a battle between “environmentalists” and “industrialists” or “left” and “right,” but between authoritarian/controlling forces and open/trust-based forces (which have less interest in battling).

Authoritarian branding mandates typeface, typeface spacing, position of logo, distance of other things from the logo, copy tone, punctuation, etc… ad nauseam. Principles-led branding has looser mandates, but more importantly, it lets a little shitty design happen.

Authoritarian branding issues cease-and-desist orders. Principles-led branding sends thank you notes with gift cards and better design tools for fans’ future use.

Traditional attorneys think in terms of protecting the brand. They have to be on guard against precedents that could erode what they (and courts) understand the brand to be. It’s conceivable we won’t ever have laws protecting principles-led brands because that kind of identity is impossible to steal. If I were to completely lift Chipotle’s brand principles and make them my own, I would not end up looking like Chipotle, even if I actually did make burritos (huge ones).

My point, however, is this: Looking at my world through the lens of design (the human drive*, not the mystical anointing), it becomes clear that the issues we have been divided by are irrelevant. The more exciting schism is across this choice, to trust the strength of our own values, which frees us to be curious about and respectful of the values of others.

* Repeat after me: To design is human.

Photo by Penina S. Finger


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