Too many chefs spoil the broth.
We have the same idiom in Norwegian, but the English version is more accurate. I discovered this when I checked the internet for the accurate meaning of “spoil.” It means to diminish or destroy the value or quality of something, as you know, of course.
Imagine that a business or an organization has spent money (or their time, which is the same) on developing a visual branding for itself. This has been achieved through the co-creation between the business and the brand designer, with the intention of providing the business with a visual appearance that accurately represents its values and vision.
It has been decided that the business should always have a special look. Colors, fonts, and image styles have been chosen to ensure the business invariably uses the same visual voice. The goal is recognition through consistency. This visual contract can have different names; a brand book, a visual profile, a style guide, or a graphic profile. Its intention is always the same; to protect the valuable business asset that visual branding is.
Then, the business/organization grows. The founder/business owner may no longer be the only person handling the visual branding. Team members and assistants share the task. These people have not been part of the initial creative collaboration between the brand designer and the founder. Maybe they don’t even “agree” with the original decisions about how the brand should look. They have their own ideas and perhaps also a strong urge to be “creative.” So they take matters into their own hands and add their own ingredients to the brand broth, using different formats and formatting, different colors and fonts, and adding funny emojis to their communication. (Don’t get me started on Instagram stickers).
However, all this ADDING does not make the broth any richer or thicker; on the contrary, it dilutes the brand. The core ingredients become obscured, and the visual voice of the brand becomes hoarse and unrecognizable. In other words: Too many chefs spoil the broth.
The role of a visual brand can be likened to that of any uniform. It is a contracted appearance that demands respect. Any police officer that decides she would rather wear a pink flowered shirt with her uniform would soon find herself without a job. The look of the uniform is something that has been decided on.
Of course, this does not mean that a uniform or visual branding can’t be changed if circumstances call for it. This is necessary from time to time. It is done by executing a process of re-branding, resulting in a new contract, which serves as a guide to maintaining the value of the undiluted brand.
If you are a founder or business owner, be sure to share the value and intention of a Brand Book with your team to avoid dilution. This is design management.
If you are a team member working with an established visual brand, respect the decisions that have been made (and paid for) by the founder/business owner. If you disagree with the design decisions, present your viewpoints to the founder and back them up with design- and marketing facts and knowledge. If you are not able to do that, bring your creative urge home and do some home-decoration or coloring books.