Creating Your Brand Style Guide In Just 7 Simple Steps
How do we recognize a brand by a single glance? How do brands manage to make a particular colour, or a specific font, remind us of them? Especially when they have multiple departments or stakeholders producing creatives?
The secret is consistency and quality. And achieving both comes down to using a brand style guide.
What Is A Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a set of rules that provides specifications on all things related to the visual elements of a brand. This includes logos, typefaces, imagery, and colours. All these visual elements build up your brand’s visual identity; aka the way you represent your brand to the world.
Some brand style guides also include the following information to varying degrees of detail: an overview of your strategy, your brand story, your mission, and verbiage used to communicate about your brand.
When someone picks up your brand guidelines, they should be able to understand how to represent your brand. This should be true whether they are a member of your team, or someone who is encountering your brand for the first time.
Why Is A Brand Style Guide Required?
For one thing, it’ll help your bottom line. The consistency of a brand through all channels can increase the revenue by 23%. Your brand style guide sets the standards for your brand and helps you keep them in place. This ensures you build credibility and connect with your target audience. And it ensures your content is always on brand, even the unexpected happens.
From time to time you may have to switch graphic designers in the middle of a project. That can happen with your in-house designer or freelancers/agencies you hire. Having a brand style guide helps you keep rolling with the punches without a hitch. You’ll save time that would’ve been spent explaining what you need done. And your designer(s) can hit the ground running.
A few other benefits of creating a brand style guide include:
- Increased quality control, whether you use the same team or new designers for each project.
- Better brand recognition, as your target audience consistently sees your brand represented in the same way.
- Allows you to co-brand, or create sub-brands effectively without compromising your brand.
Steps To Create A Brand Style Guide
Putting together a brand style guide from scratch is not a piece of cake. The goal is to create a document that explains your brand in a simple and easy to understand way. But getting to that level of simplicity and clarity requires an investment of time. And it will be worth your while.
When you set out to create your new brand style guide, remember you’re determining how your customers will feel about your brand. Think of it as the tool kit that will allow you to paint the best image of your brand in every single piece of content.
Below you’ll find 7 simple steps to creating your very brand style guide. You can skip step 1 if you’d like to simply focus on how your brand should be visually represented.
1) Write Out Your Brand Story
This can be thought of as the foundation for your brand style guide. Your brand story explains what your brand stands for and why it exists. Be sure to include your brand’s vision, mission, values, and goals in this story.
If there’s an interesting backstory to your brand, or milestones that would be important to share, you can include those as well.
If we think of a brand as a person, a brand story represents their personality. And just as each person dresses according to their personality, each brand presents itself according to its story.
2) Include Your Logo, In All Its Variations
Your logo is the ultimate representative of your brand. And as a common element across your designs, it makes it easier for your audience to recognize you. That is if you use it consistently.
Your brand style guide should include the different versions of your logo. There should also be explanations of how to use each version of your logo (e.g. spacing, minimum or maximum sizes, other dos and don’ts). Common logo variations include your primary logo, a vertical version, a version with your logo mark and no text, and variations with colours for darker or lighter backgrounds.
In addition, you should mention any rules which apply across the board to the use of your logo. Make sure that your logos are available in different formats for print and digital designs, with a transparent background, in a shared folder.
3) Specify The Colours/Colour Palette Of Your Brand
Colour psychology plays a big role in branding. Colours evoke certain emotions and are associated with specific moods. So it’s important to make sure that you’re consistent in the use of the colours that you’ve chosen to represent your brand. They’re a combination of industry standards and customer preferences. And should be treated with the utmost importance.
To make sure that you maintain consistency with the colours being used in your designs, you need to provide colour codes. Provide hex/RGB codes for digital designs, and Pantone/CMYK numbers for print.
If you use a set of colours as your primary brand colours, be sure to indicate this. And also include the details of colours which you use as your secondary/complementary brand colours. Your secondary/complementary colours add depth to your designs, and subtly reinforce your primary brand colours.
For both sets of your brand colours you can provide more details by indicating which colour should be used more dominantly.
4) Include Details About Your Preferred Fonts
When it comes to typography, you need to provide details about the font used in your logo, as well as in headlines, sub-headlines, and paragraphs. Then you’ll need to provide the details of how each of these elements should look in relation to one another (i.e. font sizes, styles, weights).
This section of your brand style guide should also include information about where your fonts can be accessed. Providing a direct link is even better. The fewer steps required to follow your brand style guide, the more you’ll see it adhered to. And you’ll also free up your designers to think about how to create the best design, not where to search for your font.
5) Share Details About Your Brand’s Imagery
How your brand is represented through designs, includes a lot more than just your logo, fonts, and colours. Depending on the type of design you need you may be including photos, illustrations, icons, decorative elements and shapes, backgrounds, and/or textures.
Be sure to include guidelines and specifications for each in your brand style guide. Your guide should answer all the questions your designers will face when designing your content.
When you make choices regarding the visuals for your brand, make sure they are compatible with the brand identity you are trying to promote. And include details about style, concept, light, subject matter, and composition. And lastly include a link to a database that has examples of each, organized according to its particular heading.
6) Explain Your Brand’s Voice
Your brand’s voice refers to the tone of the messaging you use in your content. In other words, it is how you interact and connect with your audience. Is it upbeat and friendly? Is it solemn and professional? Provide as much detail, and examples as you can, so that it’s clear how your brand should be represented in different contexts.
The voice you give your brand injects a more “human feeling” into it, and makes it more relatable for your prospective customers. This is why it’s an important element of your brand to include in your style guide.
Be sure to include dos and don’ts so that there are clear examples of how your brand should be represented versus how it shouldn’t.
7) Constantly Update Your Guide
Despite the amount of effort you’ll put into creating your new brand style guide, nothing stays the same forever. As your product or service evolves, so will your brand. You’ll want to bend your own rules so that you can adapt better.
And you’ll want to include or remove elements in your brand style guide. Be sure to include a note in your guide regarding this (i.e. Version 1 of X, updated on Date, Month, Year). This will help ensure that your team is using the right set of guidelines to create your content.
With each version of your guide be sure to keep it simple (no more information than is required for your designs) and include reference to any tools or resources that will help. You might also want to use checklists to help ensure that everything is covered as it should be.
Last but not least, make sure your brand guidelines are easy to access. This way everyone working on your content can quickly and easily access them. And you can shift your focus to other aspects of your business. 🙂