What Is A Brand Style Guide And Why Do You Need One?
When we think of branding, we probably think of the biggest, most recognizable companies in the world – brands like Nike, Facebook, Coca-Cola, Apple, etc. All of these brands are instantly recognizable through iconic and decades-long branding campaigns. We can probably immediately call to mind the colors, symbols, fonts, and even sounds of these brands through our experiences with them over the years.
But branding isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Even a small business should work to clarify its brand, especially if it has any interest in growing. Creating a brand style guide is a great way to ensure consistency and quality in everything you create – from your logo, to your letterhead, to your website, to your uniforms, to your vehicles, to the articles you write, and so much more.
At its heart, branding is about trust. And trust is something that all businesses, large and small, need to cultivate to be successful. Here are some pointers about creating a brand style guide for your business.
Creating Your Brand Style Guide
Your brand style guide can take many different forms to reflect your unique brand. The following are some elements that we find helpful from a design and development perspective. Make it your own by keeping focused on what makes your brand different.
Your Brand Story and Your Values
Fonts & Typography
Brand Voice, Approach
This is the most important part of a brand style guide. It’s where you describe your brand identity – not just from a visual perspective but from a wider idea of your unique story. What led you to go into business? What are your values and what is the value you offer to clients? What is the “feel” of your business? How do you want people to relate to you? What is the type of world that you’d like to create? Sometimes, businesses think of this as their mission statement, but the approach is as varied as the businesses themselves. These are big questions, but it’s helpful to think of your brand in these terms so that people reading the style guide understand who you are.
Arguably your most iconic brand element is your logo. Your brand style guide should have rules about how the logo is to be used. This relates to color, size, proportion, variation and contrast. Don’t have a logo? You need one. We can help.
The colors that you use on your business materials are essential to that consistency that we spoke of above. You can have a set of particular colors that you use. Or you can have palettes of color combinations. Either way, make it as easy as possible for designers to identify and use your color palette. Provide RGB, Hex, CMYK and Pantone color data. This will make it easier for designers to create strong, branded content.
What are your brand’s fonts and how do they relate to each other? Some brands use only one font for everything; others bring variation, using certain fonts for headers and certain fonts for body text. Either way, designers should have very clear instructions for how to use your fonts, where to find them (if they aren’t readily available) and what sizes and weights are preferable.
What kinds of images does your brand use? Stock photos? Images you’ve taken? Professional product photos? Illustrations? In creating content for your brand, designers will require visual pieces to illustrate your ideas and keep the attention of the viewer. It helps to take some time to think about how to bring consistency to the images that your brand uses, and to try to set some standards and about the kind of visuals you want associated with your brand.
Finally, your brand style guide shouldn’t just be about imagery and visual design – it should also be about the other content associated with your brand. What is the writing style of your brand? What is the video style of your brand? For sure, as you grow, your writing will need to accompany newsletters, product descriptions, advertisements, landing pages, articles and more. What is the approach? What register of voice do you use? Do you use slang? Is it more formal? Personable? Technical?
It’s helpful to provide examples here, and include some words and phrases that you prefer, and some that you want to avoid. This can be as simple as “DO” and “DON’T” columns on your style guide.
“One of the Best Things I’ve Done for my Business”
Years ago, when working with a small but growing business, we told them that they would be served by creating a brand style guide before beginning on a new website. After some hemming and hawing, they did it. And the very first thing they told us was the quote above – that it was one of the best exercises they had done for their business.
Creating a brand style guide helps project you into the future of your business. It gets you thinking about what makes you different, what makes your work important and valuable to your clients. It gets you thinking about how your business fits into the broader market, the bigger world, and what that looks and feels like. If you’re able to dedicate some time to it, a brand style guide is a great thing to create. It makes the people working for you better able to represent you, and it makes you more sure of your business’s impact on the world around you. Do yourself a favor and create a style guide!
As always, get in touch if you need help with your style guide, or if you’re ready to create a new website for your newly delineated brand.