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Brand Consistency & American Psycho

Ok. That’s it. We need to talk about this. You are probably going into this very confused from a title like that.

I’m about to show you one of my favourite movie scenes. Besides being great cinematography, this particular scene from the 2000 film, American Psycho pops into my head every time a business card comes across my desk. Without Fail. In turn, it means I’ve had plenty of time to analyse the crap out of the cards in this scene.

If you are unsure of the scene, it can be viewed below:

There’s a few things going on in this early scene from the film. However, in true designer style, we are going to see past the complex story behind this scene (jokes we touch on it at the bottom of this post) and pull apart just some stocks, fonts (real and fake) and talk about one thing that really jumps out at me, Brand Consistency.

Let’s break it down:

Patrick Bateman

Patrick Bateman’s Business Card from the movie, American Psycho (2000)

We’ll start in order of appearance, with Patrick Bateman’s business card. Patrick goes on to say his card is printed on “bone” coloured paper whilst set in a complete make-believe typeface called “Silian Rail”. After a few glances if I had to pick I believe the font in use is actually Garamond all in small caps. As we go through the other cards you will notice a theme emerge of miss alignment and the correct use fo margins.

All these errors may have been done on purpose which gives the card an unhinged appearance, which might speak to the character’s mental state (though we’ll try to steer clear of film and character analysis here and stick to talking about the cards).

 

David Van Patten

David Van Patten is the second character to show off his business card. Just like Patrick’s, his card is set off-centre. David describes his card as “Eggshell with Romalian type,” but are in fact printed on heavily textured uncoated paper and set in Bodoni (there’s no tricking me David). Though his card is set too high, it is at least centred from left to right, which gives it a slight advantage over Patrick’s card.

 

Timothy Bryce

Coming in third is Timothy Bryce’s card. He introduces it by saying “raised lettering, pale nimbus white.” No fooling me. This print is not raised, nor embossed. The card may be letterpress printed however we don’t get a clear shot of the impression depth. The typeface is the ever-popular and ubiquitous Helvetica, giving it the most contemporary feel of all the cards. San Serifs FTW.

Whilst there is quite a texture going on, it’s slightly more understated than David’s. By far the cleanest card of the bunch, the pairing of a simple clean font like Helvetica and a textured stock make Tim’s card look presentable, rather than stand out in any way.

 

Paul Allen

Oh my God, it even has a watermark…”

Whilst Paul isn’t actually part of this scene to describe his card, Patrick’s envious voiceover says it all, “Look at that subtle off-white colouring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark…”

I don’t wear glasses…yet but I’m 100% sure there is no watermark on this card. The card is printed on a relatively smooth, uncoated stock, similar to but whiter than Patrick’s. The typeface is Copperplate Gothic (which incidentally is also the typeface used in the film’s title sequence – how’s that for a bit of useless information).

Paul’s card doesn’t appear to be terribly off-centre vertically or horizontally, making it the most confident of the bunch. Overall, his card might be the “ideal card” of this particular crop, though none are particularly special.

 

Brand consistency… the important bit.

Whilst it’s quite fun to pull apart scenes in movies, there’s one underlying issue we need to discuss here. Brand Consistency.

I’m not quite sure I can predict how I would behave if employees of the same company had free rein over the design and production of the business cards.

Brand consistency is in fact the practice of always delivering messages aligned with the core brand values in the same tone, presenting the brand logo in a similar way, and repeating the same colours throughout your visual brand elements. Guess this can be extended to paper stocks as well.

Brand consistancy can help with the following:

  • Shaping brand perception
  • Evoking positive emotions
  • Building trust and loyalty

and most importantly

  • Differentiating your brand

There are a few ways to do this. You can ensure that you adhere to your brand’s style guide. Which is something Stoke Design Co does for all of our branding clients. You can also simply allow a creative studio (that’s us again) take care of your business cards and other stationery to ensure it remains consistent.

 

Bonus!

If you are one to look into things past the surface, a few years ago, The New York Times added another instalment to their “Anatomy of a Scene” with director Mary Harron. In the following video, Harron breaks down the moving parts to the hilariously intense sequence.

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Stoke Design Co are an independent web, design & marketing agency in Ballarat delivering a passionate & tailored service bringing together smart thinking with brilliant design.

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Bone, Eggshell or Pale Nimbus

It can get confusing. This is what we do for a living, we know the in’s and outs of all the papers, finishes and designs to ensure your card sticks out amongst your peers.

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