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Explore the Facebook app’s new brand design system and strategy’s role in bringing it to life.
The Facebook app brand is built on the core belief that people can do more together than alone. This belief is at the center of the way we communicate across marketing campaigns, events, sponsorships, social content, or within the app used regularly by nearly three billion people.
Last year we identified an opportunity to amplify our belief that people can do more together by evolving our brand design system. Although the Facebook app’s logo and signature color are recognized around the world, we needed more tools to consistently visualize our strategy and help us better connect with people. We needed a design system that could establish a more cohesive visual identity and maintain that cohesion across a wide range of marketing touchpoints.
A project of this scope offers plenty to think about, but we settled on a set of key objectives that guided our thinking throughout the project:
- Translate strategy into design
- Build a scalable system
- Clarify our brand architecture
Facebook’s in-house creative agency, Creative X, took on this challenge and created a brand design system that is now the foundation for the Facebook app’s global marketing communications.
Translating strategy into design
As the project began, we quickly established that our system would have to capture the essence of the product and celebrate the people who use Facebook by communicating a sense of activity and energy. But, what really unlocked the idea was going deep into the strategy itself by unpacking the meaning of “More Together” and translating it into a simple yet powerful creative concept that could be executed in countless ways.
We landed on the notion of Facebook as humanity’s shared canvas — a place where people can come together and create unlimited possibilities. The “shared canvas” concept manifests as a base layer of structured brand elements such as color, layout and typography mixing with a more varied expression layer containing the stories of the people who use our platform. It also maps to the product experience, in which consistent and thoughtfully-crafted UI design creates a foundation for an endless mix of posts, photos and other types of content.
Having established the core creative concept, we then developed a set of fundamental design behaviors to guide our thinking and keep us connected to the underlying strategy at all times. The practice of establishing design behaviors was put into place during the development of the Facebook company’s brand system, and we followed that approach when creating the Facebook app’s brand design behaviors. Our work should always be:
- Expressive — able to flex across the full range of human emotions
- Proud — showing confidence in our brand and how we empower people
- Uniting — bringing together Facebook and the people who use it
Given the Facebook app’s scale, the brand needs to communicate about everything from entertainment to commerce to dating. Our layered approach enables us to flex our designs to support these needs while remaining consistent in style. We’re also able to iteratively update elements to stay in sync with our marketing needs and the always-evolving interface design.
Building a scalable system
Building on the creative concept of Facebook as a “shared canvas,” we took a methodical approach to each design element so every aspect of our brand expression would be rooted in strategy and used with purpose rather than as decoration.
We continued investing in our logo by expanding how this iconic symbol is used. Reflecting our proud design behavior, we use it more often as a prominent masthead rather than as a quiet sign-off or secondary design element.
Facebook has been associated with the color blue since its earliest days. We’re continuing to build on this association, particularly in headlines and titles, but have also introduced a paperwhite color to our palette to add warmth. Our color strategy reflects the product itself, where people’s colorful content sits on a white background.
In 2017, our product team introduced a custom geometric sans serif font called Facebook Sans for use in the Stories feature. We adopted this as our marketing typeface two years ago, and as part of the brand’s evolution have dramatically amplified the way we use it. We now have a broad spectrum of alignment and font style shifts that we apply with rhythm and variation to express personality and add richness to the stories being told.
Our layouts build on the “shared canvas” concept by taking an editorial approach to combining our core brand assets with community content. Layouts are based on a simple grid which acts as a foundation for free-form design, thus providing consistency across a variety of projects and deliverables while allowing room for flexible expression.
Motion is an integral part of our new identity, incorporating subtle and intentionally imperfect movements that reflect the interaction between the human hand and digital content. Animated typography mirrors the moods and experiences of the people whose stories we tell.
We use illustration in everything from social marketing to policy communications, and given this wide range of needs a tightly defined illustrative style would be limiting. Instead, we take a principles-based approach, where artists can use a variety of techniques as long as they’re celebrating people and their passions.
Our photography reinforces the brand’s emphasis on people and how they can do more together than alone by reflecting how pictures are taken in real life. We avoid meticulous stylization and instead embrace imperfection and randomness to express different personalities, experiences and emotions.
Clarifying our brand architecture
Brand architecture also presented another challenge for our brand design system. Sub-brands such as Facebook Watch, Facebook Dating and Facebook Marketplace need to retain a clear connection to the Facebook app to benefit from its recognition and credibility. They also each need a distinctive style that allows them to compete within distinct categories: entertainment, dating and commerce, respectively.
The solution was to build on the “shared canvas” concept. Each sub-brand uses the same base and expression layers as the Facebook app, including design elements and rules. This allows the sub-brand to add a unique third layer, including additional colors, graphic elements and art direction, so that it can stand on its own.
What we learned
Looking back on the process of creating our new brand design system, a few key lessons are clear:
Most importantly, making sure every step of the process was deeply rooted in our core strategy was absolutely necessary to developing a design system that could support such a large and complex brand. Without a unifying idea to hold it all together it would have been impossible to keep so many different projects pointed in the same direction.
It was also crucial that our connection between strategy and design be easy to communicate and understand. The “shared canvas” idea, which balances consistency and flexibility, can be executed in many ways, but is simple enough for any team or agency making work on behalf of Facebook to implement.
Tackling a project of this size requires a sense of openness and collaboration at all times. At every step, the input from our colleagues across the marketing and product teams was essential to understanding the spirit of the brand and the best way to bring it to life.
And lastly, a project like this is never truly complete. We’ll continue to learn from the way our teams and agency partners are using the system and will refine it to meet our needs as the brand continues to evolve.
See this article and others like it at the Facebook Design website.
Building a brand identity for the world’s largest community was originally published in Facebook Design on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.