With the holidays upon us, ‘tis most certainly the season for licensed brand owners to be jolly. Q4 is that magical time of year where licensed products fill retail aisles and capture the mindshare of consumers from October through December. As experts in the development of style guides for licensed toy and entertainment brands, we recognize the immense potential of the holiday season to create memorable and enchanting experiences for consumers. Creating a holiday-themed consumer product style guide for a licensed brand requires an approach that’s a bit different from how we typically create a non-seasonal licensing program style guide. In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps we take when designing captivating holiday-themed style guides that empower licensees to translate the brand’s visual identity into magical holiday merchandise.
The magic of holiday-themed style guides
Holiday-themed style guides possess a unique charm that goes beyond standard brand licensing. They allow licensed toy and entertainment brands to tap into the spirit of the season and evoke a sense of celebration, nostalgia, warmth, and joy. Creating a style guide for the holidays requires a delicate balance between maintaining the brand’s identity and infusing it with the magic of the season. Here’s how to achieve this balance:
1. Establish a trend theme
To truly resonate with consumers during the holiday season, licensed brand owners should take a close look at what’s trending in home décor, fashion and other popular categories that are dense with consumer products for the holidays. Then, a trend theme should be established for the licensed brand’s holiday-themed style guide based on a look that’s fresh and contemporary, and also relevant to the brand. Doing so will ensure that all design elements associated with the holiday-themed licensing program will have a common visual aesthetic, and will allow the licensed brand’s library of assets to be refreshed every year with a new visual twist.
2. Maintain the brand’s core visual identity
When creating holiday-themed design elements, licensed brand owners need to be sure that they’re staying true to the visual perception the consumers have of the brand. While the licensing program and its design elements should be dedicated to the holiday, they shouldn’t overpower the brand itself, or dilute the brand’s overarching aesthetic, tone or personality. A holiday-themed licensing program should be a carefully-considered blend of holiday cues and the brand’s core visual identity.
3. Allow creative freedom within brand boundaries
A holiday-themed style guide should provide guidelines that offer room for creative interpretation of the licensing program’s design elements. Licensees know their products better than the licensed brand owner. Therefore, they should feel free to infuse their own creativity into their designs while adhering to the brand’s overarching visual aesthetic. They should have the ability to modify and reconfigure design elements in a way that works best for their products and emotionally connects with their consumers.
Key design assets for a holiday-themed style guide
Developing a holiday-themed style guide is a multifaceted endeavor. It requires the inclusion of various design assets and design elements that are essential to creating a captivating holiday licensing program. Here are the key elements to consider:
1. Logo and typography variations
Holiday-inspired treatments to a licensed brand’s logo and typography can add a festive touch to the brand’s visual identity. Licensed brand owners should provide their licensees with logo variations that incorporate holiday motifs and iconography into the design while aligning with the chosen trend theme. And, they should consider changing the property logo colors to a seasonal palette, or at the very least, consider adding seasonal colors to complement the core brand color palette while infusing seasonal hues. Font selections for a holiday-themed style guide should play well against the brand’s core font families and emphasize the trend theme through holiday messaging.
2. Holiday-inspired color palettes
The holiday season often brings specific color schemes to mind. But, they can often come across as cliché if the licensed brand and the selected trend theme aren’t kept in mind. There are many ways to establish a holiday-themed color palette without leveraging the most obvious colors associated with the holiday. Quit often, the palette should be a mix of the licensed brand’s core color palette and a few holiday-related colors to give the licensing program’s design elements an ownable, holiday-specific aesthetic. If the core brand color palette is bold, complement the palette with bold interpretations of key holiday colors. If the selected trend theme is upscale in nature, perhaps the property’s core color palette and the selected holiday-related colors should shift to more muted hues to reflect the theme’s sophisticated aesthetic.
3. Dedicated holiday character artwork
Many heritage toy and entertainment licensed brands have extensive character art libraries that may already feature key characters in holiday situations. However, if the brand is new to licensing, brand owners should consider creating dedicated artwork where key characters are depicted in celebratory holiday scenes in festive poses wearing holiday-inspired attire or holding iconic holiday props to align with the spirit of the season.
4. Key holiday imagery, symbols and icons
The holiday season is rich with imagery, symbols and icons that consumers associate with fun and celebration. As licensed brands incorporate these elements into their licensing program’s design elements, they should create a bridge between the brand’s visual identity and the holiday spirit. They should capture the essence of the season within the context of the brand.
For the Christmas holiday, in particular, it is acceptable for some brands to create dedicated assets that depict imagery, symbols and icons directly associated with the holiday. However, for other licensed brands, careful consideration should be given to whether it would be appropriate to commit to Christmas in a dedicated manner or if it would be best to leverage the more all-encompassing “winter holiday” approach in an effort to avoid incorporating religious motifs. More often than not, this decision is based on the heritage of the brand, how it has been historically represented, and how it is currently perceived by its core target audience.
5. Holiday merchandise product applications
Product applications are a critical component to every licensed brand’s style guide, as they help licensees understand how the brand’s visual aesthetic should be translated into real-world products. By including mock-ups of holiday-themed merchandise representing the key categories the brand intends to pursue, a style guide provides licensees with tangible examples of how to incorporate the licensing program’s design elements into their products. This practical approach fosters a deeper understanding of the brand’s aesthetic and ensures that holiday merchandise maintains visual consistency.
Wrapping it all up
Creating a holiday-themed consumer product style guide requires a delicate balance between the licensed brand’s core identity and the magic of the holidays. By establishing a trend theme, creating dedicated design elements, allowing creative freedom and showcasing the proper visual aesthetic through product application examples, licensed brand owners can ensure that their holiday licensing programs will resonate with consumers while maintaining visual consistency. These style guides not only inspire licensee partners to development well-conceived and well-executed holiday merchandise, their design elements also help to create enduring connections with consumers who seek to celebrate the magic of the season with their favorite licensed brands. Ultimately, a holiday-themed style guide is a gift that keeps on giving, enriching the holiday season for fans and boosting brand recognition and loyalty.