Let’s just jump in.
P erhaps the first things that comes to mind are words like regular, dependable, stable and reliable. All good things when talking about cars, a bridge, or even perhaps a friend or family member. Maybe your mind immediately goes to sport when you’re talking about baseball averages, win-loss ratios, team or player statistics. All of the above are correct; to a point. The synonyms will be especially helpful later on ion this article.
So, what do we mean when we talk about consistency in design?
It’s about the expression of information and using memory to trigger informational responses. In a less annoying way, it’s about bringing the information once learnt about a place, brand, action, object or event and not having to relearn it. Generally, for the users benefit.
L et’s take a look at a brand that everyone knows. McDonald’s. No matter where you are in the world, you can be certain that when you walk into a McDonald’s, you’re going to have a familiar experience. The menu, food wrapping, and design of the building are consistent. All of these contribute to its branding, it’s worldwide image. To compound this consistency, they even have a “hamburger” training school to show the aspiring McDonalds chefs the best way to cook the hamburgers. All this, to show their employees the correct way to be the most efficient chefs. This, in turn, has lead to them being a chain producing the highest quality fast food they can; and once you reach the point McDonald’s has, you can’t let standards slip and become inconsistent.
For the most part, we have all seen the inside of a McDonalds. When you walk in, you are reminded of all the past experiences, so there is no new learning process, no curve to tackle. Everyone knows what they’re ordering, everyone knows how to order, where to sit, what to expect from their meal, from the service, from the whole experience. There is a beautiful consistency to the way the entire system operates.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
There are four different types of consistency. Aesthetic, Functional, Internal and External. So, finally, let’s walk into a McDonalds together.
A pproaching the McDonalds, you see the infamous “Golden Arches”, something found at every McDonalds in the world. Through the doors and the colour scheme is the same as every other restaurant, the floor, walls, seats. The friendly staff use the same script and wear the same uniform. The food is wrapped the same and for the most part, presented the same. It is reliable and dependable, because you know what you’re getting. And usually, we are comforted by that. One of the reasons McDonald’s is so recognizable is because of the “golden arches”, it is ever-present, dependable and reliable. It is the same colour in every store, the same size, usually in a very consistent position. All of this, is considered Aesthetic Consistency.
When we come to order we either walk up to a machine or we speak to a member of staff. Today, let’s use the machine. The machines are only of a few varieties across the globe, but the interface is the same, a regular experience. The Icons are the same, the process of ordering the same, and more often than not, the name of the ‘order’ is the same. This is Functional and Internal Consistency working together.
These are systems designed to reduce time learning and make the process easier for you. You are given a number, and we all know what to do with it; we wait. We look at the screens and being reminded somehow of the airport telling us when to board. The consistent use of processes, menu and symbols are examples of Functional Consistency. The regular use of the same systems and processes throughout the globe is Internal Consistency.
A esthetic and Functional Consistency can be used in all aspects of design. It can be used to develop identities and reduce learning processes for the user. They can increase recognizability and can simplify brand outreach. They can be carefully used to create perfect, easy to use and recognizable systems and processes and can lead to efficient work environments.
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