© 2021 Autodesk, Inc.
Voice and tone

A lot of people say “voice and tone” when they really just mean content. Voice and tone are both key aspects of the way we use words in our communications, but each one has a specific meaning.

Think of voice as your personality: It stays pretty steady regardless of the situation. It reflects story you tell, the elements that make up your unique persona, and your guiding principles. But your tone changes depending on your audience or context.

The following information will help you understand the Autodesk brand voice and help deliver it in your customer-facing content.

Table of contents

Brand voice

What is our brand voice? It’s more than just our personality. It’s the embodiment of the unique trials, triumphs, and trails blazed in our journey. It’s expression writ bold that incorporates our story, our persona, and our brand principles. It’s not just how we talk. It’s who we are.

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Our brand story

From the greenest buildings to the cleanest cars, from the smartest factories to the biggest stories, amazing things are created every day with Autodesk. Over four decades we’ve worked together with our customers to transform how things are made, and in doing so, we’ve also transformed what can be made. A car’s performance now inspires the method of its manufacture, a city’s infrastructure helps predict the unpredictable, and the creation of ever-bigger universes shapes ever-bigger stories.

Today our solutions span countless industries empowering innovators everywhere. But we’re restless to do more. We don’t believe in waiting for progress, we believe in making it. By combining and recombining technologies. By blurring boundaries, reinventing rules, and merging fields. By unleashing talent and unlocking insights across industries. By helping our customers converge on solutions to the challenges we all face today. At Autodesk, we believe that when you have the right tools to work and think flexibly you have the power to transform what actually needs making. The power to design and make a better world for all.

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Our persona

At Autodesk, we see possibilities where others see roadblocks. We believe that a better tomorrow is made of the problems of today. We value ingenuity, unconventional thinking, and the spirit of restless innovation. “What if?” and “Why not?” are our watchwords. In the face of daunting challenges, we don’t despair; we roll up our sleeves and get to work.

What would this persona look like, if brought to life? Our brand principles (see below) provide a clue with the acronym COACH. Consider the best examples of the coaches and mentors that you’ve known. They do more with less, try unconventional approaches, and, when you bring them a problem, roll up their sleeves and help you find a solution. They’re resourceful, optimistic, and pragmatic. They’re inspiring but accessible. And they keep it refreshingly real.

At Autodesk, we celebrate all the real-world problem solvers, creative rebels, and innovators who are driven to improve the reality around us. Because we don’t believe in waiting for progress; we believe in making it.

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Our brand principles

We believe these five brand principles capture the ambition and idealism of Autodesk while reflecting our unique personality.

Confident

We love challenges because there’s always a solution. You just have to stare at the problem and put in the work. It’s not cockiness. It’s confidence.

Optimistic

We see every problem as a chance to find an unprecedented, groundbreaking solution. Problems are our partners in the process.

Accessible

We’re anti-jargon. If there’s a simple, gettable way to say something, that’s how we’ll say it. We prove our credibility by what we do.

Curious

We’re anything but rule-bound. If there’s a way things “have to” be done, we have to wonder if that thinking is outdated.

Human

This stuff isn’t academic. It’s about making real change in the real lives of people, connecting in powerful new ways to find powerful new ways of making change.

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Our brand voice

Our voice brings to life the stories we tell. It builds and deepens our relationships with customers. It’s authentic, real, and consistent across all touchpoints.

We can describe our voice using the Autodesk brand principles: confident, optimistic, accessible, curious, and human.

Consider this continuum to guide your content decisions—and find the sweet spot in the center.

Autodesk voice continuum

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Principles in practice

How can our writing best embody our principles? Here’s a deeper dive into how that might look.

Confident

Be the expert. Help people learn key concepts in language they understand, but don’t talk down to them. Have a point of view on your subject—don’t be ambivalent.

  • Establish our expertise and demonstrate that we know what we’re talking about.
  • Help people learn the things we know. We are partners in problem-solving.
  • Treat your readers as professionals and empower them without belittling them. Don’t claim we know them better than they know themselves. See your readers as we see ourselves: as innovators.

Optimistic

Show people what’s possible and help them discover solutions to their challenges. Position problems as opportunities in another form. Acknowledge that difficult tasks may be hard, but they aren’t impossible.

  • Focus on progress and outcomes, not difficulty.
  • Help people learn by doing. Show them actions that they can take or ways to improve their work.
  • Be positive, but don’t overpromise or upsell.

Accessible

Speak like a person. Pay attention to context and communicate with the appropriate tone. Don’t use language just to show off your writing skills.

  • Be authentic. Show the world there are real people behind our products.
  • Be conversational, but not overly casual. Use plain language.
  • Admit mistakes.

Curious

Don’t be afraid to ask questions (and answer them) in your copy. Be thought-provoking and encourage your readers to think about the possibilities: for the future, for their own capabilities, or for innovative ways to use technology.

  • Use words such as “wonder,” “ask,” “explore,” “experiment,” and “discover.”
  • Choose specific ideas (“What will the next CGI breakthrough look like?”) instead of vague cliches (“What will the future hold?”). Don’t pose questions without paying them off, suggesting we don’t have a vision or point of view.
  • Embrace uncertainty.

Human

We are empathetic to what our audience is experiencing. We are warm and welcoming. We show that we understand their problems and their challenges. Talk to the audience, not about them.

  • Help people understand what they can do, what they can’t, and why.
  • Empathize with and understand their challenges, needs, and points of view.
  • Share our philosophy, embody an open-minded approach, and embrace a dialogue.

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Voice mechanics

Our choice of vocabulary makes an impact on our writing, as does the way we structure our sentences and the grammar rules we choose to embrace—or break. Keep these tips in mind when constructing copy.

Focus on first or second person (we/you) in your writing. You can use third person for clarity or to identify a particular industry.

Our industry collections offer an integrated set of tools to help you create more imaginatively and fluidly, solve complex problems, build smarter and faster, and make better design decisions.  AutoCAD helps architects create award-winning buildings, revitalizing a Detroit park with adaptive reuse and environmentally responsible design.

Intersperse short, punchy sentences with longer ones. Don’t be afraid to start a sentence with “and,” “but,” and “or.” Break these grammatical rules carefully but deliberately.

There isn’t a roadmap for doing what hasn’t been done. You have to travel way out of your comfort zone. Think beyond your industry. Bust open best practices. And rebuild things from the ground up. In fact, to us it’s precisely when things seem impossible that the better tomorrow everyone talks about comes into view.

Use subtle alliteration to add flavor.

Problems are our partners in the process. Blur boundaries and reinvent rules. Unleashing talent and unlocking insights.

Keep your language simple. Don’t try to write to impress.

  • Use instead of utilize
  • Do instead of accomplish
  • Get instead of acquire
  • Other instead of alternative

Approach humor with caution.

Jokes, puns, pop-culture references, and other humorous content can fall flat depending on your audience—particularly when that audience is global. We don’t need to go for laughs to engage our readers. If we do reach for humor, make it self-deprecating or use understatement or hyperbole for effect. And never punch down.

What did it take to get Perseverance to Mars? Millions of hours to design. $2.4 billion to build. $300 million to land. So…not much, really.

Well, THAT didn’t work. (for caption accompanying an image of an explosion)

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Vocabulary

Our vocabulary uses words that reflect our brand attributes. Some of these words include the following:

Adjectives: better, creative, passionate, restless, powerful, visionary

Verbs: ask, imagine, make, question, seek, think, wonder

Nouns: curiosity, excitement, innovation, innovator, future, aspiration, ambition

And keep in mind our guidance on words to avoid, including clichés and words that might be legally problematic.

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Voice in action

What does our brand voice look like when put into practice? This will depend on how it’s used. Our tone—how we modulate our voice—can change depending on audience, medium, and goal. Content for advertising or marketing campaigns will offer many opportunities to lean into our voice; product and help content may offer fewer. When possible, look for small ways to inject our voice attributes.

Here are some examples to get you started.

Advertising or marketing campaigns

This kind of writing offers an opportunity to be full-throated with our brand voice by using aspirational language, varying sentence structure for impact and playing around with clever constructions.

Don’t wait for progress. Make it.

Good things come to those who see things as not good enough.

We think making a mountain out of a molehill isn’t as effective as making a mountain out of Maya.

When today gives you lemons, make a lemon-fueled bioeconomy.

Dreams really do come true. You just have to render them.

If you want to open a visionary, hydro-powered space colony, you’ll need to open 3ds Max first.

Product, learning, and community content

For informational or descriptive copy, we’ll modulate our voice. Often, we can inject flavor with a compelling introductory sentence or paragraph.

Please keep in mind that Autodesk embraces brevity as a best practice for copywriting. Adding voice to copy doesn’t require tacking on superfluous content. While some copy may benefit from a little more verbiage, strive to keep your writing tight, bright, and focused on essential information.

These before-and-after examples show how you can make small changes in copy that retain the meaning and intent while better reflecting our voice.

Example: Collections copy

Autodesk Collections example

Example: Certification copy

Autodesk Certification example

Example: Solutions copy

Autodesk Solutions example

Example: Community copy

Autodesk Community example

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Using tone

While our voice should be consistent across the customer experience, our tone shouldn’t.

Just like interacting with people in your daily life, you’ll need to change your tone depending on their needs, emotional state, and the situation. From our website, to emails, to in-product messaging, to support content, our tone needs to shift to meet the customer in their current context.

Tone Scale

This tone scale provides a detailed description of writing in different tones and when to use them.

Celebratory

Motivational

Educational

Informative

Helpful

Supportive

Compassionate

Let’s look at more specific descriptions, guidelines, and examples for each of these situations.


Celebratory

Congratulatory, appreciative, and welcoming

Sample context:

  • First time in a new product
  • Welcome emails
  • Completing a major task
  • Upgrade or renewal confirmation
  • Finishing a tour or walkthrough
  • New feature or product announcements

Audience state of mind: engaged, accomplished, ready to continue

Audience goal: to start working or move to the next step

Autodesk goal: inspire goodwill, show thanks, encourage more activity

General writing guidelines**

  • Don’t overdo it. Only celebrate truly valuable accomplishments or milestones.
  • Speak in the first person (“we appreciate” vs. “Autodesk appreciates.” Better yet, just say “Thank you”).

Motivational

Inspiring and encouraging people to continue or try something new

Sample context:

  • Website homepage and product overview pages
  • Customer stories
  • Introducing a new feature in the product
  • Onboarding instruction
  • Tips/calls to action
  • Getting started videos

Audience state of mind: curious, excited, likely distracted

Audience goal: possibly interested in doing more or trying something new, but may just want to keep doing what they were doing

Autodesk goal: inspire or encourage new action, promote our brand/products

General writing guidelines

  • Show what’s possible, but don’t oversell.
  • Keep it high-level with key concepts and ideas. Use an instructional, informative, or helpful tone for the details.
  • Keep it active. Use imperatives and calls-to-action to engage the audience.

Educational

Descriptive, useful explanations about how and why to do something

Sample context:

  • Contextual learning and tooltips
  • Product overviews and details
  • Subscriber emails and how-to articles
  • Wizards or in-canvas tutorials
  • Getting started videos/articles
  • Release notes/descriptions

Audience state of mind: interested, curious, impatient

Audience goal: quickly learn more about what they’re looking at, or how to do something

Autodesk goal: help people understand what something is, what it does, and how

General writing guidelines

  • Stay positive. Focus on the things you can do, rather than the things you can’t.
  • Help people understand not what to do, but also why.
  • Write in layers–deliver information on a need-to-know basis that anticipates the user’s experience.

Informative

Reference, conveying information in the most clear and concise manner

Sample context:

  • Button or field labels
  • Feature lists and system requirements
  • Licensing information
  • Billing emails and messaging
  • Action confirmations
  • Dialog headers/instructions

Audience state of mind: neutral, busy, preoccupied

Audience goal: quickly understand what’s needed or what’s happening and move on with the least amount of effort

Autodesk goal: convey the important information, then get out of the way

General writing guidelines

  • Be concise and direct.
  • Avoid being too friendly or casual.
  • Don’t upsell, push, or exaggerate.

Helpful

Explanatory, describing why something happens or didn’t happen

Sample context:

  • Disabled action/button message
  • Troubleshooting articles
  • Confirmations and warnings
  • Learning and help articles
  • Simple error messages

Audience state of mind: curious, unsure, impatient

Audience goal: to learn more about how something works, what they can do or what happened so they can keep working

Autodesk goal: help people understand how something works or what to do next, then let them get back to work

General writing guidelines

  • Talk to the audience, not about them. Use “you” and “your” to keep it friendly.
  • Explain things in a friendly, conversational tone, using plain language.
  • Avoid jargon, technical terms, or legal buzzwords–unless that’s what your audience specifically expects.

Supportive

Responsive, reassuring, encouraging people who may be confused or frustrated. May be person-to-person interaction

Context:

  • Error messages
  • Failure states
  • Support and forum responses
  • Describing bug fixes

Audience state of mind: frustrated, anxious, possibly annoyed

Audience goal: understand what’s happening so they can get back to work; get unstuck when they can’t find an answer

Autodesk goal: improve a potentially negative experience; help people get back to work quickly

General writing guidelines

  • Don’t just describe the situation. Help people understand why something happened and how to resolve it.
  • Clearly explain steps, context, or actions.
  • Use “we” when speaking about Autodesk’s role or actions. If you’re writing or responding as yourself, use “I” to make a personal connection.

Compassionate

Expressing sincere sympathy or apology for a difficult situation. Helping people understand what happened and why. Making a personal connection.

Context:

  • System errors
  • Asking customers to take actions that are difficult or time-consuming
  • Messaging about crashes or software malfunctions
  • Messaging about data loss or loss of work

Audience state of mind: upset, concerned, annoyed

Audience goal: understand what happened and how it affects them, their work or their company; find out what to do/what happens next

Autodesk goal: show empathy, apologize and improve a negative experience

General writing guidelines

  • Show empathy. Be open and human.
  • Explain what happened or what’s happening.
  • Be clear about solutions or next steps.

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