Branded print communications – Nov, 2020

Using agency designed Microsoft templates

Using agency designed Microsoft templates – how and when. Microsoft do not create professional design software. And, that’s a good thing. Agencies create templates for organisations in order for them to produce some in-house comms which adequately manifests the brand’s visual identity. Christine Moore of DTP graphics says, ‘when correctly formatted, they make creating a presentation adhere to an organisations brand allowing a freedom to project your message clearly.

The objective is not to transform middle managers into graphic designers or PA’s into publishers. In the same way graphic designers are not going to be that great at dentistry even if they’re furnished with a pokey, pokey tool and a drill. It is to create and share relatively simple communications, quickly, economically and on-brand.

Excel, PowerPoint and Word are phenomenally powerful – and ubiquitous. Almost universally organisations use Office somewhere in their business; a true inditement of Microsoft’s superiority over other generalised, business related publishing software. Users may only be comfortable with a just a small percentage of what these packages are capable of, and that’s just fine. This illustrates its unused features are applicable to other business tasks in other industries. The attraction of the apps are they have a pretty good way of handling many written, numeric and visual business tasks. It’s not industry dedicated, professional software. It doesn’t have to be. And there’s the rub.

Almost certainly using agency designed Microsoft templates will save organisations some expenditure due to not having to ask their brand and or design agency each time they require something to share an important message. That makes perfect business sense. The important point is for an organisation to decide when a template can be used – and reused – and when something should be created by a professional, perhaps for a specific purpose. Should an organisation use their own staff, appointed for their competence in likely something entirely unrelated? And, deciding if that’s a good use of that resource. The answer will certainly be yes for somethings, but no for others.

There’s often an assumption everybody is able to use Microsoft products well. But this is clearly often not the case. Christine Moore, who has been creating and supplying Microsoft templates for decades states: ‘I’ve always found the user is often part of the problem, when they create a presentation from a branded template. A wee bit of individual flair will not go amiss, they think. Maybe a bit of clip art will solve this or that problem and not to worry if there are so many words on a page that no one can read it. I’ve found that when the user does not have an understanding of how to use the template, this is where projecting an organisation well becomes muddled, with various fonts and colours being used for example.’ She goes on to say, ‘Therefore, maybe a better understanding on how to use templates would help, maybe a Zoom meeting to explain certain points which aren’t obvious’.

Using agency designed Microsoft templates can work, does work and is a useful business tools to a point for certain items and many users – but not all. Commissioners need to determine when they are deployed and by whom,  considering the cost/benefit compared to having a piece of comms generated by a professional. The visual identity application is important, equally the copy and context. These and many other aspects collectively contribute to how audiences experience a brand. It is this experience that creates emotional resonances users will associate with and remember brands, for good or ill. It’s also worth remembering internal audiences, the people who build the brand, are just as important as those externally. You can read more about this in a previous ‘THINK ON / brand’ piece here.

What is fundamental is each template user has adequate knowledge of the brand identity and sufficient skills to use brand templates effectively. Though Microsoft products are not professional design software, templates still require some skill and care if they are to be used effectively and to not be detrimental to a brand. Moreover, more complex templates are never likely to generate communications as good as those created by designers who know the brand and understand the message.

Posted by Jack Owen