What Japan's flags teach us about corporate identity design
June 6th, 2017
Japan's bureaucratic administration has three levels; national, prefectural and municipal. There are 47 prefectures each with their own flag.
Japan's prefecture flags can teach us a great deal about branding and visual identity design; the importance of simplicity and clarity, the requirement for a shared graphical language and consistency, critical use of colour, symmetry, circles and nature. In this post, I dissect these topics.
1. The importance of simplicity and clarity
Clear messages through simplistic shapes help to differentiate the prefecture identities. The most memorable corporate identities often use clear and simple images within their design, creating memorable links between the identity and their values.
2. The requirement for a shared graphical language and consistency
Aspects of each of the designs is shared across the series of marks which allows for the shared visual unity.
The scale and placement of the mark inside the boundary, the logos are centred and of similar height and width, which creates similar sized borders within each flag thus each flag has the same visual weight or power.
The designs are of consistent complexity, with just one concept being illustrated in each, often of the prefectural flower or birds-eye view of the prefecture's capital city.
Corporate identities must have brand usage systems and guidelines to ensure their brand is consistent across multiple touch-points, medias and geographies.
3. Critical use of colour
The use of simplistic colours palettes, the mark is often in white against a darker, muted background with each flag no more than three colours. The colour palette is muted, considered and restricted. Each flag looks complete alone, or as grouped against a number of other logos.
Within corporate identity design, critical use of colour translates maturity and trust to the viewer.
4. Symmetry and circles illustrate visual completeness
The use of symmetry in many of the prefecture flags helps translate feelings of completeness and unity.
Corporate identities that utilise these ideas include Pepsi, AT&T, Vodafone, General Electric, NASA, LG and Yamaha.
5. Symbols of nature translate feelings of honesty, hope and positivity
Images of nature such as the prefecture flowers are often used as the symbol on the flag. Relevant corporate identity examples include Apple, BP and Twitter. (Please remove the irony of petroleum companies using natural images such as BP and Shell!)
About the author, Adam
Adam is the design director of BrandCraft. Originally from the UK, Adam graduated with a Masters Degree in design from Goldsmiths University of London. Adam is a member of the New York Art Directors Club and D&AD. In 2014 Adam was shortlisted for Design Week’s Rising Star Award and in 2015 was appointed as a Global Brand Consultant for JP Morgan.
Adam has worked with clients in the UK, USA, Hong Kong, Tokyo, South Korea and China and has had self-initiated art and design projects exhibited at various galleries and museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum of Art and Design.
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