Brand guidelines, sometimes referred to as a style guide or brand book, translate your organization’s mission, vision, and values into visual design. A comprehensive set of brand guidelines ensures that your brand is consistently represented across channels and platforms from print or online ads to emails to social media and so on. Such guidelines also help increase brand recognition and, on the other side of things, it helps everyone inside the organization understand how to communicate your brand. There is no standard set of components to include in your brand guidelines as they vary across industries and from business to business.
WHY BRAND GUIDELINES?
Consistency is achieved when you create a set of standards and rules to communicate your brand identity. As your company grows, you’ll add staff or you’ll have employees rotate in and out of your brand family. An established set of brand guidelines is an integral resource for use during the onboarding process so everyone understands from Day 1 how to represent the brand.
Recognition of your brand will increase with the consistency of presentation. It takes time to build a recognizable brand. Using one set of colors and logo in your digital material and a different set in your print material will hamper your efforts. A unified presentation of your brand will allow it to be more immediately recognizable.
The perceived value of your brand increases when your brand identity is presented in a unified manner every time. Your organization will appear more professional and reliable when an established set of brand guidelines are followed without exception. It will also help you maintain the reliability and quality of your brand image.
BEFORE YOU ESTABLISH GUIDELINES
Your organization should establish or review some key elements prior to undertaking the task of creating brand guidelines.
Target Audience – understand fully the particulars of your ideal customers and which of their life needs and challenges your products or services can help with.
Brand Personality – are you goofy, loud, and informal? Are you sophisticated and calm? Identify 3-5 words that describe your brand and let these terms guide your marketing content. If you can’t find the right word to describe what you ARE, perhaps your team can phrase the idea with what you are NOT.
Mission and Vision – why was your organization created and where are you going?
Brand Values – what guiding principles are used to make decisions within your organization?
WHAT MIGHT BE INCLUDED?
Provide a concise summary of your brand to help the reader comprehend how to accurately represent the brand. Share your mission and value statements as well as any other important components of the brand. Share each of the values that provide a foundation for your organization and how those values are to be communicated in elements of your brand.
Brand colors help create the consistency you need to project across all branded pieces regardless of whether they are digital or print. Most brands use one to three main colors and then designate secondary or accent colors. Your brand guidelines should provide color swatches. To ensure consistency, include the Pantone name and number (print, fabrics, plastic), CMYK code (print), and RGB code (online, digital media).
What are your company colors? Is there a specific color that you use for backgrounds? Is there a specific color that you use for text? Pick colors for a variety of uses and then stick to using those on all of your websites, brochures and more so that everything stays consistent. Be specific about when each color is to be used.
Typography and Fonts
Fonts should be used purposefully and designated for specific use. You may have one font for your logo and a second font family for your printed and digital material. Consider choosing web safe fonts to ensure your content will always present as you intend it to. Also, be sure your brand typefaces are available on all desktops and laptops that might be used to create documents and, of course, double check the availability of Mac and PC versions if you have a blended office.
Limit the number of fonts you use to ensure your material is easily recognizable as your own. Within your chosen font you may determine you want to use bold lettering for headlines, a 14pt font for titles, and so on. Just be sure to outline the expectations for each and every time there will be lettering on your website, business cards, other print material, social media, etc.
Whether your brand has a logo (graphic symbol) or a wordmark/logotype (just words), it is the foundation of your brand’s identity. Consistency is important but there will be occasions where you need variations of your logo or logotype. They should all contain the same fundamental qualities but you may need a horizontal version to go on pens, a perfectly square version to work on social media platforms, a black and white version for print purposes, or a shortened version for use on brand apparel.
Your brand guidelines should describe when and where the different logo versions should be used. Be specific. Tell how large the logo should be in each situation to include proper proportions. Stipulate the amount of white space, if any, that should appear around your logo or logotype. Provide visual examples and include any absolute “no-nos” of logo usage.
The website platform, Squarespace, has multiple versions of its logo. Below are just some of the versions used by the organization. The company also makes available on its website logo guidelines to make sure external as well as internal use of its logo complies with Squarespace brand guidelines.
Your brand guidelines should indicate the voice to be used in all of your content. Is your brand sassy? Is your target audience sophisticated and high-end? The language you use should match your brand’s identity and speak to the consumers you desire to acquire and retain as customers. Create sections in your guidelines to specify words that should be used, whether or not to use contractions, and words that should not be used.
Visual content is important as it is more engaging than simple text. Images used in brand content should be relevant to the message and have a consistent look and feel throughout printed and online materials. Brand guidelines should indicate whether images should be color or black and white, if the preference is for people’s faces to be included or if more abstract content is desired. Should details be crisp or backgrounds have a softer focus? The imagery presented in your materials should complement your brand’s personality as well as the personality of your target audience.
The guidelines for Strategy Driven Marketing’s social media content can be seen in use here. Posts feature a black and white color scheme with a specific gold used to make either part of an image or text stand out from the rest of the content. Notice, too, the consistent use of the brand’s logo in each post.
Digital and Print
Brand guidelines should cover the expectations for all digital content such as email signatures, website design (if staff have individual pages), social media posts, and so on. Indicate when you expect the company logo to be included, i.e. in all email signatures or on all social posts. Delineate any expectations for the format of social posts whether it be color combinations, salutations, hashtag inclusion, etc.
If you regularly make presentations, there should be guidelines for slide design, whether or not the logo is included on each slide, fonts used, and color combinations. Projected and printed versions of your brand’s presentations should be readily recognizable as yours. The same sort of information should be outlined in regards to guidelines for printed materials like letterhead, business cards, brochures, etc.
Brand guidelines help your organization present a consistent identity regardless of the media type being used. They also safeguard the uniqueness of your brand and discourage any deviation from established expectations. Positive audience perception is key to your organization’s success. When your brand is consistently recognizable and maintains a high-quality style, you build consumer trust which translates into loyal customers.
Know that brand guidelines are living, breathing documents. While they should be fastidiously followed, they will also grow over time as you encounter new situations or engage in different sorts of content. The design experts at Strategy Driven Marketing understand the importance of communicating a strong and consistent brand identity. Whether you need brand guidelines, a website makeover, or a custom marketing plan, we’d like to help. Contact us today to get started!