Deriving Design From Content at MOO
“They could be updated, moved around . . . you could pull out a specific card and stick it on your monitor. The brand guidelines were very much meant to be used—and they were meant for the whole company.” 1 That’s how Denise Wilton, the former creative director of MOO and moo.com, described the editorial and visual brand guidelines she developed for MOO, the charismatic custom printing company based in the UK.
Is there a place for high-quality paper stock and inexpensive, extremely small print runs in the $100 billion global print industry? As the custom printing industry has commoditized low cost, low-volume solutions—100 business cards for less than $50? No problem!—MOO stands out for its cheeky, can-do value proposition. How? While its products offer value with fairly quick turnaround, they’re often not the cheapest or fastest solution for the target audience, many of whom are freelancers who demand quick turnaround. Instead, MOO maintains its brand through peerless consistency and builds an enthusiastic following by ensuring the brand comes through in every touchpoint and interaction:
■ Category nomenclature
■ Gallery of audience submissions
■ Calls to action
■ Error messages, 404 -page design, and metacontent
■ Confirmation emails
■ Product packaging design, inserts, and promo codes
■ Tweets from @overheardatMOO
Spanning verbal and visual style and tone, those are just a sample of MOO’s touchpoints.
Call it loyalty, call it love, but many of MOO’s customers greet even the most mundane interactions, like confirmation emails, with glee, forwarding them to friends and tweeting out quotes. Naturally, this free advertising only further bolsters the brand and company. Printing millions of cards every month and shipping to customers in more than 180 countries, MOO soon noticed more than half its customers lived across the pond. MOO responded by opening a US production facility in 2009 to meet the volume of orders coming from the US. The headquarters remain in London, and the voice remains distinctly British.
Brand loyalists are “in” on maintaining the magic of MOO. What’s the secret? They engage with a brand that never breaks character—ever. This all comes down to how the content and visual design (along with interaction affordances and features) all work together to maintain a cohesive voice and consistently manifest the same communication goals, or message architecture.
A message architecture is a hierarchy of communication goals; as a hierarchy, they’re attributes that appear in order of priority, typically in an outline. I usually focus on establishing three to five main communication goals, or big buckets of terms, and define them in as much detail as is necessary for the team that will use the document. In this chapter, we’ll discuss how visual designers and content strategists (and, later, copywriters) can apply a message architecture to develop a cohesive, consistent user experience.