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On a daily basis, the identity of the Orange brand is an essential landmark in my activity as a designer, and its evolution has punctuated my career in the company. Along the way, I became aware of the value of the brand and how much everyone is a guarantor of it in their roles.
My first experience of implementing brand identity was when I started producing support tools for the sales force in the corporate market. I worked as an operational marketing manager, within a small entity. In a rapidly growing and competitive sector, the brand had to be perceived as solid and consistent across the various media that were produced.
I then became a designer, choosing to specialise in interface design applied to Orange websites.
Interface design happens everywhere in our daily lives. In our cars, our televisions, our food processors, our watches, our computers, in our tablets and mobile phones. The interface is this multisensory intermediary between us, the users, and a sometimes complex system. Thanks to it, we can control this system, command it, in order to know the time it is, a quantity of remaining gasoline, what is on TV in the evening, buy a book, or order dinner on a website or an application. Interface design, as an extension of UX design, materialises a pleasant, efficient and useful experience.
Our websites incorporate the distinctive characteristics of our brand, gathered under the word ‘Identity’. The identity of a brand allows attribution, memorisation, reference and reassurance because it is present in all products and services and points of contact, digital and physical, with prospects, customers and institutions. Identity means logo, colours, typography, images, icons; but also sound, words, tone of oral and written expression, interaction modalities on the various physical and digital channels. These landmarks reflect a personality and contribute to establishing the uniqueness of a brand. Identity is key. It is an element of understanding, conquest, preservation and sustainability of our company.
I worked as a designer on several Orange rebranding projects in countries where Orange had acquired a pre-existing local operator. I also had the opportunity to train designers and communication managers in the Europe and AMEA zones, to our brand identity and web design charts. I then measured how much the designer is the guarantor of brand identity, but also a major contributor to its evolution, in the context of a multi market, multi product and service, and finally multicultural company such as Orange.
In their daily practice, each designer gives substance to this brand identity. The UX designer by creating experiences that meet user needs. The user interface designer manipulates the visual identity of the brand, embodied in its logo, its colours, its typography, its imagery and its iconography, as well as its sound identity and its tone of voice. Being in charge of that, they are an essential partner for his colleagues from the communication team who are responsible for thinking and developing this identity over time.
When in 2016 our brand identity evolved to integrate the frames and cutouts from the Orange logo by introducing the ‘themes’, I had the opportunity to work with the core team to develop the principles of the adaptation of these graphic elements to web interfaces. From a brand perspective, these elements were crucial as a visual milestone in its evolution. But the constraints of implementing these graphic elements in a digital environment quickly turned out to be heavier than initially envisaged. Designers and communication domains therefore worked in close collaboration to find solutions allowing the compromise between the need to implement the new identity and the need to build interfaces that remain simple and effective.
This continuous and pragmatic dialogue about the reality of design with regard to initial intentions allowed us to arrive at the shared observation that these elements were not viable. This, coupled with unfavourable studies on the apprehension of these elements by customers exposed to Orange communications, led to their withdrawal from the brand identity in 2018. This illustrates how Brand and Design are two areas of expertise which interact particularly closely, being fed of the daily experience of those who practice them, and feedback from the end customers.
At Orange, when it comes to our brand, we talk about ‘personality’: proximity, simplicity, dynamism and optimism. Knowing these traits is important because in design practice, the digital experiences and interfaces we design are vectors of this personality. Whether it is the use of typography, colour, imagery, iconography, layout or even the tone of writing; these visible elements carried by a simple and responsible user experience help to anchor the design in a noticable and memorable brand identity. The designer applies that questioning to himself, but also in his interactions with stakeholders such as product owner, project manager or developer. They have a real role of raising awareness, and sometimes of evangelising thanks to their activity. They act as a relay for colleagues from the communication team.
Sometimes people object that the brand framework is too strict so that it restrains creativity. Surely, the implementation of the Orange brand identity on digital is framed. But this is the case for all major brands; Orange is no exception. Our brand evolves regularly, but in a reasoned way in order to be able to remain unique and memorable. Orange changed its typography in 2016, introduced secondary colours, introduced the Small logo, changed its photographic style, restyled its web interface components, and mobile components over the versions of the operating systems. But in a group of more than twenty countries whose activities extend over three continents, these changes must be thought out to be transversal and the most sustainable possible, because they result in an increase or decrease in the ‘brand attribution’, but also require substantial financial investments for the Group and its entities when it comes to thinking about and implementing a new identity on a multitude of contact points. Every designer must be aware of these ins and outs when questioning the brand framework.
The brand identity framework offers latitudes. Secondary colours are an example. In France, Orange stopped using them and now limits itself to core colours. But in Africa, our subsidiaries sometimes want more colour. It is therefore necessary to accommodate these two needs in a brand framework which is both normative – these are the secondary colours to be used – but leaves the choice to use them or not. There are intangibles such as the logo, the core colours or the icons, but also opportunities for flexibility when it comes to typography, imagery, layout. Such flexibility is then justified by marketing, technical or cultural needs.
So what does ‘being creative’ mean when you have to design the interface of a digital service within a relatively standardised framework? The designer has multiple elements at his disposal within the brand framework to structure and organise content, symbolise, illustrate and write. This is where they are expected, and in this exercise they can allow themselves to push the boundaries of the frame without breaking it. This approach is beneficial for the brand because it demonstrates that an identity can take on multiple aspects and leads to exploration in the perspective of future evolutions.
It is this process of stretching the framework that guided the work of designing a new visual style associated with a new method of navigation, intended for multi service applications under the Orange brand umbrella. This design work deployed on the My Orange application was rewarded with a Red Dot Award in 2021.
The designer is therefore an essential stakeholder of the brand framework. They contribute to shaping the identity when incorporating the brand in the products and services they design on a daily basis, experiencing its opportunities as well as testing its limits. They are a custodian of the Orange identity, providing a dual perspective that is necessary, essential and beneficial.
Updated Jul. 2021
Updated Feb. 2022
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