« Back to Blog January 21, 2016 | Branding

Designing an Adaptable Identity

An adaptable identity design is a recognizable system that can be used across many different mediums. Unlike more rigid visual identities, adaptable identities gain their recognition by using the same elements or typography in the same manner each time while still maintaining a unique look to the specific use.

Adaptable identities are not less strict than traditional identity designs, in fact, they take much more effort and care to maintain them. They have the same sets of rules, but require the care and thought to enable their continued effective use.

The identity for MIT Media Labs is one of the more well known adaptable identities. The system works by using a grid to create unique marks for each of the many different groups and projects within the program. Even though each mark is different, they all retain the same look and feel. Looking at one of these marks brings to mind the over-arcing brand without needing a specific mark to remind you. This is where the power of adaptable identities comes from.


Is an adaptable identity right for me?


Adaptable identities aren’t used all the time for a reason. They take a lot of work to put together and require the dedication and time to be continually maintained. Where a traditional identity system can be handed off to other designers with ease, an adaptable identity requires a pretty intimate knowledge of the system to get the best results from it.

Adaptable identities benefit from being used in a wide range of different mediums. Seeing the wide range that the system can work in is how they build their value and show their strength. Without a large sample size of uses, they can appear to look disjointed or just plain strange.

Strength in abstraction

Having an adaptable system means you can fit your brand into more situations naturally and in unique ways. You are less bound by specific rules, but at the same, you need to follow a stricter, less obvious system of rules.

Instead of making sure the logo has the right amount of spacing around it and that you are using the correct color red, you need to make sure that patterns and images you are using fit in the right way.

People are a lot smarter than we often give them credit for when we design things for them. Giving them the room to connect the dots in their minds is what separates good design from great design. The obvious always has its place in design, but designing something that takes a few seconds to “get” is where the truly unique and memorable comes from.

« Why You Need a Visual Identity | Asking the Right Questions to Find Clarity »

Sign up for my newsletter

Get updates from Airship on creativity, branding, case studies, and more.

Top Home Work Blog About Contact