24 Apr Continuity beats logic every time
The ‘Save’ icon in most applications is universally an image of a 3.5” floppy disk. A technology that hasn’t been used in decades. There are now generations of computer users who would never have seen a 3.5” disk, let alone saved something to one. What about the phone call icon on your mobile? It’s an old handset shape. The kind that occasionally gets used in the office and that’s about it. Or the ‘Mail’ icon being an envelope… how often do you send letters?
There are plenty of examples of obsolete technologies being used as current iconography. Semioticians will tell you that the actual image itself is arbitrary. Logic be damned! The thing that makes an icon powerful is the agreement a community has in associating the image with the action over time.
The thing is, the power of logic is nothing compared to continuity. There is a gravity to continuity which is both good and bad. As a positive, it can keep the powerful symbols and commitments we create in a close orbit to our brands and, in doing so, create an enduring memory pattern with people.
Continuity is important when familiarity is established. For example when people are “used to” seeing certain colours or symbols associated with your brand (Coke have kept their ribbon & Nike their swoosh since the birth of the brand), or when your presence is intrinsically associated with an event, like Rolex with Wimbledon or McDonalds with the Olympics. Continuity can also pertain to experience. The consistent experience a customer has with your brand will define success. When you travel on Qantas, when you book a cab with Uber, when you watch a movie on Apple TV… you know you’ll have a certain experience.
But the big watch-out is when continuity is what holds us back with an “it’s what we’ve always done” attitude. In this instance, continuity becomes complacency. When complacency-creep occurs (and it always does), logic must prevail. If the market has moved on, consumers are demanding change or the opportunity is greater elsewhere, then we must forgo continuity for progress. Otherwise we risk becoming the next Kodak – left behind and forgotten.
So, consider the projects you’re working on right now. Is it logic or continuity that determines your actions? Is the gravity of continuity working for you or against you? It’s a simple sense check. And even if it doesn’t change what you do, being aware of what you’re doing and why is a powerful precursor to creating positive change.