The corporate identity might be defined as the group of design elements that, if coherently connected, transmit a unique, single corporate message. But not all of them are equally important. The most important is the corporate logo, as it is fundamental and foundational. Fundamental because no company can launch its products unless they have a corporate logo; foundational because it is the “foundation stone” for that coherent, consistent criterion on which all the other elements constituting the corporate identity are based.
If we should have to make a list –although this is impossible in actual fact–, we would say that, in corporate terms, the website is the most significant design element after the logo. And then the catalogues, personal cards, packaging, e-mail templates and brochures. The website, given its characteristics (described in the above section The website ), is a key element, absolutely essential for the corporate identity of any company. Hence a good design will produce so much benefit as a bad one harm.
A good website design should agree with the foundational criterion –that of the logo, although also reinforced by the other design elements. Even when website design has its own distinctive characteristics –as it is the case with the design of any of the other elements–, that does not mean that the original criterion can be altered. But then again, it is not advisable to restrict those distinctive features to achieve this end, neither. On the contrary, these features should be maintained as far as possible for the sake of the design, but there is a need for skill and expertise so that they adjust well to the other homogeneous elements of design.
A website that fails to stick to the original, unifying criterion will cause a lot of trouble. There can be two major problems: a) a failure to adjust to the other elements of design; and b) a retroactive failure to communicate.
The first case occurs when a website is way too different from the other design elements constituting the corporate identity of a company –as a result of incoherent use of the design tools, e.g. color, shape, size, texture, typography, etc– and therefore it transmits a different message. This leads people to regard the website as not belonging to the company it represents. What is more, they forget all about it. The consequences can be disastrous, considering the complete waste of the money invested in the Web page. But there is something even worse, and that is the lack of a website! –although actually existing, such unrepresentative website is useless to a company.
If the previous case frightened you, this one will simply terrify you. Under the same circumstances as before (i.e. a website which is far away from the original design pattern of the other elements forming a company’s corporate identity) there is another possibility, namely that people do consider the website to be representative of the company, as they might think –and rightly so: “the website is so important that it just can’t be wrong.” Then, since the Web page transmits a wrong message, all the other design elements, individually and as a whole, will be mistaken. It is as if they got infected with the mistake in the website.