Fluid? Why?

An Identity System that encapsulates the characteristics of ‘fluidity’ enables the values of the brand to merge and access the intended recipient through various connection points – and is thus dynamic rather than static. According to Delahunty (2013) a Dynamic Identity System approach is the outcome of brands and products trying to make themselves stand out in the overpopulated market.  A dynamic brand or product shifts its identity into multiple touch points, with multiple communicated values, for the multiple consumers perceiving the brand. Thus fluid identity can be used as a mechanism for a designer to shape an identity that can become more “inclusive”. This fluid, dynamic approach has led to the demise of the static identity and has introduced us to a type of Fluid Identity that merges itself with the adaptation of society and its structures. I hope to point out the mechanisms design can use to create an identity that is fluid particularly for use in a pluralistic South Africa.

“Idea of a fluid logo”

Fluid Identity within a brand speaks to the role of the multiple visual elements within a product/service or brand. Fluid Identities can change and keep up with the fast pace market without having to change the core market identification value of the brand. The application of a fluid brand far extends the usage of old traditional corporate CI’s. A Fluid Identity is driven via reason, a specific reason to reach multiple customer perceptions of what they like and how they place their own identity (Scher 2015). Fluid identities focus to bring out the conceptual background of a specific brand or identity through application of visual elements that carry core market identification value even if the value is to be all inclusive. I argue that this gives a fluid identity the ability to navigate past cultural differences and appeal to a wider market.

Fluid Identity can be defined as the maintenance of a single driven consciousness. Almost the same as keeping the straight line, but having branches protruding through the length of this branch. Although the designer must adhere to the parameters of a Fluid Identity System when creating visuals and design strategies, the designer now has the ability to structure meaning to multiple and different targets without losing its core market identification value as the identity shifts over all cultures, social spheres, identity preference and more. The identity of the brand is the link between the product and the perception that connects the brand to the consumer. According to Chernev (2011) the consumer has entered a phase where they construct their own identity preference, what they shape from different interactions, their value and the product value. It can be imagined by the idea that due to certain social-environments and digital social channels that the consumer is starting to feel that they can shape their own identity according to their own constructed idea of whom they want to be and as whom they can portray themselves within their social circumstances. This becomes a very important factor if we place the constructed identity within a pluralistic South African environment. This in the end enables the designer to shape the visual cues according to set rules that is laid down with a certain concept in mind with the idea to portray specific values and functions through identity and concept.

Identity Systems, according to Paul Hughes (2017), can be defined as the living organism that is a brand identity. An Identity System is the point where all interactions are connected to the identity of the organism that stands as the organization. An Identity System’s language is no longer solely based on the look and feel, and structure, but rather on the interaction between the Identity System and consumer. This interaction does not refer only to social media, but to all digital and physical platforms. An Identity System must now become coherent and specific over all mediated platforms and strive to keep a coherent message without losing the core market identification value of its own identity. The flexibility of the Identity System in this regard refers to material that entails logo use, font use, colour use, imagery, content creation and the brand’s tone when interacting with its end points.  A Fluid Identity System now aims for the designer to shape the system’s identity around the perceived constructed identity of the consumer.

Fluid Identity Systems, with a preference to a pluralistic South African consumer, can be seen as the elements that are shaped to showcase the core market value to the consumers personal preference. Within the traditional sphere, designers often considered identity perception as a one way conversation. But according to Chernev et al. (2011), consumers use Identity Systems to express and validate their identities and engage in acts of self-expression by customizing products to reflect their identity.   The rise in social media has seen an increase in this consideration, as social media is starting to rapidly contribute to identity formation and the ability to express identity. Brand and Identity Systems need to adapt to reflect this, which has resulted in static traditional brand losing its impact. I argue that designers should rather use dynamic Identity Systems that appeal to the rapidly dynamic identity formation. Designers can rather follow design parameters that can be adapted in order to communicate conscious goals that do not depend on singular identity conceptions, singular values, or specific mediums or platforms for the desired brand identity – ultimately referred to as Fluid Identity Systems.

A Fluid Identity is not a static identity. Barton (2012) has identified that social patterns and trends are shifting faster due to access to technology and information (Barton 2012). If a market is within this constant shift, so can a Fluid Identity then enable the designer to implement the core to multiple mediums, multiple informative contexts,  and new events’, without disrupting the core of that brand. Fluid Identities makes it easier to produce coherent mass content that needs distribution via digital and physical platforms (Delahunty 2013). More relevant to South Africa, however, is that a fluid brand enables us to break messages into all the different culture groups, micro groups, social media groups, heterotopias and classes, giving Fluid Identity a reason to have promise within a vast multicultural South Africa.

Paula Scher is known for her exploration with Fluid Identities in the popular market. She mentions the idea of conquering the fear to not wanting breaking out of traditional Identity Systems (Scher 2015). This fear constrains the company values and brings a stagnant stature to the company. The process that she uses to design Fluid and Dynamic Identities by challenging traditional systems results in an identity grown through perception and conceptual backing (Scher 2015). This can be seen in South Africa by looking at the new Corporate Identity of Absa. Although Absa has received criticism, particularly from Joe Public when they announced their “Africanicity” campaign, I argue that it is a direct Fluid Identity with direct cultural intent. Perhaps the criticism relates to Paula Scher’s idea where she highlights the fear to “not wanting to break out” of traditional Identity Systems.

Be part of the shift, also view my blog article on adaptive branding to introduce yourself to the idea of Fluid Branding. Feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this idea within branding.