In this final post in our design element and principles series, we will focus on unity which is the the sum of all of all principles and elements of design. Unity is the cohesion between different design elements. It is the sense that all of the parts are working seamlessly together and in perfect harmony to achieve a common goal.
Unity can be achieved through the effective and consistent use of any of the elements, but pattern, which is best achieved with repetition is the most fundamental element for a strong sense of unity. Consistency of form and color are also powerful tools that can pull a composition together. Use of accent colors in a pattern can help pull together the different elements in a space.
However, unity also exists in variety. It is not necessary for all of the elements to be identical in form providing they have a common quality of meaning or style. While a hotel lobby may be different from the rest of the hotel, unity can be achieved by maintaining certain features throughout the hotel. For instance, a wood panel finishing as a decorative finishing on the roof in the lobby, can be applied to the wall of the restaurant to communicate unity. Another way to achieve unity is to bring together all the rooms by having a continuous wall skirting in same color and material flowing through all the different parts of the building.
Unity can also be a matter of concept. The elements and principles can be selected to support the intended function of the designed object; the purpose of the object unifies the design. The products and services you design for your customer must relate to your brand essence in every way. For example, there will be disconnect if tomorrow Apple, a brand known for simplicity suddenly decides to be more complicated and cluttered than it is known for by loyal customers. Apple customer touch-points scream I’m uncluttered, I like lots of space and calming grey. Yes, grey and lots of space are unifying elements in for Apple as seen in their stores, products, websites, advertising and promotion. Of course, you need not be an Apple to use unity to your advantage in business. Simple rules like using a signature typography, consistent color palette, same style and language of communicating across different channels would help you achieve unity for greater impact.
One of the easiest and probably most cost effective ways to achieve impact through unity is to consistently repeat certain elements that are unique to your brand across all customer touch-points. It helps weave a better and more enduring brand story. The Virgin red evokes a lot of messages that are uniquely Virgin. The Coca-Cola bottle (perhaps one of the most recognizable silhouettes and shape in the world) communicates different stories that is wholly Coca-Cola.
After all is said and done, there can only be a true sense of order to the madness when the principle of unity is embraced wholeheartedly in business design. It is the key to ensuring brand building is not a money gulping venture with little to show for it. Tie all those efforts together seamlessly for greater impact. Please.