Book Review – The New Guide to Identity by Wolff Olins

The New Guide to Identity

I feel this will be a short review. Frankly, it’s a short book. It weighs in at about 86 pages.

The tag line for the book :

How to create and sustain change through managing identity \ the design council

As the main title so clearly states, this is a guide to ‘identity‘. Don’t make the mistake of believing that this book is therefore below you if you feel you are already an expert or a seasoned identity tradesman. This isn’t a Dummies Guide, so don’t be fooled by the word Guide in the title.

I feel that this should be on every persons wish list and or bookshelf, anyone who considers themselves a experienced designer, marketer, brander, identity chef, the list goes on.

The fact is, with so many self confessed experts on branding and identity, with so many blogs and websites shouting out their own personal definitions or beliefs on what constitutes identity, the fact is, there is way to much conflicting information on the various definitions that make up ‘identity’.

With so many interchangeable terminologies now floating around from countless individuals and companies, more so on the net, trying to be 100% sure in your own mind ‘what means what‘ can be tricky. You may think you know, then all of sudden, someone else who seems to be more experienced that you starts using phrases in a totally different context. Leaving you wondering who the hell is right or wrong.

As the introduction states:

Much of the terminology used within and around identity activity is loose and sloppy. The terms corporate identity, corporate reputation, corporate image and corporate personality are used more or less indiscriminately and interchangeable by many people who talk and write about the subject and who should know better, including no doubt myself (Wolff Olins).

My thoughts

When I personally picked up this book in Borders and started flicking through the pages, it was this intro that really gave me pause for thought. Even if I believed myself to be a very experience designer with heaps of commercial experience with identity and branding on one level or another, I had to admit to myself that having this identity guide, written by the foremost expert in the field would be a pretty handy thing.

There are numerous case studies from many famous world wide companies, many of which Wolff Olins was responsible for in re-branding. Companies such as Repsol, Prudential, P&O and Orange to name but a few. You really can’t deny that this Wolf chap is the one true person you ought to be listening to if you ever have any doubts about identity and branding terminologies.

Finally, here is one guide that set’s it all out in plain English with no room for error or misinterpretation. It levels the playing field, the more people read it means we can begin to really talk and communicate on the same level, and knowing it without doubting it.

All to often I am in conversation with someone, and the terminologies being exchanged do leave me wondering, who the hell is right here. Chances are, neither of us.

The book is well structured, and goes through the various process involved with each aspect of identity, from the roots up.

Get this book, even if you think you are the master of identity and therefore, there is nothing more for you to learn. In my humble opinion, that is a foolish lapse of judgment. Even if you find yourself slightly out of sync with a few definitions, reading this book will set you fully on track.

If you want total clarification on the whole identity business then this book will set you on the right path. It’s a great primer for someone new to identity but equally, it’s indispensable for those that have seen and heard a whole manor of misused definitions and meanings. Those that end up having that seed of doubt about ‘what is what‘, this book will clear all that indecision up in no time.


Written by: Graham Smith: The Logo Smith
1st Posted: 2009/01/11 & Post Updated: 2010/04/10
Filed In Categories: Uncategorised

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