Brand Style Guides: The Blueprint for Your Brand
Your brand is as valuable to your company’s success as your physical offices, equipment and employees. Most people have never heard of a brand identity guide unless they work in the design or marketing industries. A brand style guide (or brand identity guide) helps maintain brand consistency across all channels, throughout any content you create. The purpose of a brand style guide is to protect your brand by keeping the usage of the logo, color palette and typography consistent no matter where or who uses it.
The biggest excuse I have heard for not having a brand style guide is that it takes time to create. But doesn’t it take more time to try to explain your typeface, color palette and logo usage rules to a new designer? Or a new marketing manager? Or even a client? Ultimately, you will save time (and money!) if you have a streamlined set of guidelines to help navigate the design process. Whether you are integrating your branding into a new digital ad, website or even an internal document, a brand style guide allows your company to create whatever it needs while also staying true to the brand.
So let’s take a closer look at the common elements that make up a brand style guide:
01. Logo and Usage
The logo is the most important design element of your brand. It is the one piece of designed information that consumers will consistently use to identify your brand. Through establishing logo usage requirements, your logo will always appear consistently, whether in print or digital instances. It is also important to remember that dictating how to use the logo is just as important as showing how not to use the logo. By maintaining clear guidelines regarding the logo and its usage, you will build brand equity through brand recognition.
02. Color Palette
Color is a fundamental element of your brand identity as a whole. Therefore, maintaining color standards is of vital importance to reinforce the brand’s visibility and integrity. Color can be extremely difficult to reproduce due to differences in color systems, printers and screens. RGB and CMYK color systems can be dramatically shifted, so it is crucial to determine the exact RGB, CMYK, Pantone and Hex values for all brand colors. These color values should also be checked against each other to determine the smallest variance. Most successful brands have two primary colors and one accent color that highlights the other two.
Typography is a powerful communication tool that when used correctly and effectively, creates a strong brand tone. Viewers have certain feelings, emotions and associations when they see different fonts. Also, the typeface family styles, weights, leading (line-height) and kerning (letter spacing) are all relevant information that can vary the overall tone of a particular font. Therefore it is essential to be consistent with typography to maintain the appropriate brand personality.
04. Graphic Elements
Your brand’s graphic elements and iconology can also have an impact on the perception of your brand. These graphic elements can be used to enhance design pieces and also for subtle branding. There should be standards listed for each graphic element to ensure that a designer will apply them appropriately. Icon graphics can also be determined, along with their usage outlined, for consistent use.
05. Visual Style
The visual style of photographs or videos is also a reflection of your brand. Different visual styles can evoke different feelings and emotions, as well as suggest certain reactions. While some brands may not incorporate much visual imagery, clear guidelines for any photographers or videographers working with your brand can be a helpful creative reference tool.
06. Brand Personality
Your brand personality is just as important as the graphic elements or visual style. Your brand is not just visual – It also has a certain sound or feel. This personality will be integrated throughout all branded material so it is important that guidelines be in place to keep the brand tone and voice consistent. The brand voice should resonate best with your target audience.
You can clearly see how a style guide would be the ultimate resource to visually define and develop a personality for your brand. The guidebook will serve as a creative reference tool for all branded materials. As your brand should be constantly evolving along with cultural norms, it is important that the guide be flexible to accommodate changes.
There is no “one size fits all” for brand style guides and you may find that certain sections are not applicable to your brand. Your brand style guide should include the information that is relevant to your business and be anywhere from 100 pages to a single sheet.
You will determine what is the best fit for you and your brand because the guidelines have only ONE underlying function: to make the design process consistent and easy for everyone.
So you tell me — What guidelines do you have in place for your brand? Or what guidelines do you think would be most relevant to your brand?