Like when London Stansted Airport opened in 1991: Foster + Partners challenged the conventions of contemporary airport design, attempting to recapture the simplicity of early airport buildings by allowing passengers to walk in more or less a straight line from the roadside, through the terminal, and onwards – airside – to an awaiting plane. It was a simple idea, designed to remove confusion and make journeys easier.
Brand architecture is the same. All brands have a blueprint, although often less visible and more susceptible to change over time.
Brand architecture systems – the logic that underpins the way a brand is organised – come in different shapes and sizes. They can be designed to accommodate just one brand – what can be described as ‘monolithic’ – or to accommodate many brands and/or sub-brands, and with more or less similarity to each other. But a well-constructed brand architecture system doesn’t mean that the brands that hang off of it are all the same. The brands that the architecture supports can be as different as the market requires.
Just like in buildings, brand architecture seeks to create a coherent experience, supporting the purpose of the people using it. It allows for a greater or lesser association between its different parts in accordance with business strategy (and oftentimes politics). It describes the relationships between a business, its products, services and initiatives, both externally and internally. Brand architecture determines how an offer should be understood in relative terms, so that it can be most easily accessed.
But there’s theory and there’s reality. The fact is, that as businesses grow, brands grow too, and the likelihood of architecture going wonky increases. It is what happens over time when any building is extended, remodelled or renovated; by definition – a need was not anticipated in the original blueprint. Whether you need new bedrooms because the number of people in your household has increased, or a new airport terminal because the old one no longer meets the changing needs and demands of passengers, the choices are essentially the same: add, reconfigure or move.
‘But there’s a limit to how many times you can keep adding without either running out of space or degrading and confusing the experience. Eventually, reconfiguration or a move becomes necessary.’