Why should your company have brand guidelines, including a style guide?
Let’s answer that with a quick exercise. Have you ever seen a blue McDonald’s arch? How about the Target bullseye: is it ever green instead of red? Or the Starbucks logo: is the mermaid sometimes green, sometimes yellow, and sometimes purple?
Of course not. That’s because the biggest names in town know how important it is to maintain their brand.
Why is maintaining your brand so important? In a nutshell, it’s because people personify companies (aka, they think of brands as people with distinct personalities). It’s why customers become loyal to one brand over another, even when the product sold by both brands is much the same: one brand resonates more with a particular audience. Having a consistent brand helps to build customer loyalty and trust, since consistency is closely linked with trustworthiness.
To ensure your brand stays consistent, it helps to have a brand style guide. This rulebook gives anyone working on your brand—from your in-house creative team to any outside vendors—clear guidelines for how your brand looks and feels.
Let’s dig into brand style guides: here’s what you need to include to maintain your brand.
Your Brand’s Verbal Identity
Before we talk about logos, fonts, and all of the other visual markers of a brand, we have to talk about your overall brand identity.
What’s your mission statement? What are your brand’s core values? How is your brand different from the competitors in your space? Who are your intended customers?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you tell the story of your business to your potential customers.
Now imagine your brand as a person. (Remember, that’s what your customers are going to do.) How would that person, as your brand, talk? Would they be serious, or silly, or tell-it-like-it-is? Would your brand refer to itself in the first person (“we”) or third person? Or would your brand’s voice be more conversational? Educational? Persuasive and urgent?
A law firm, for example, will likely have a brand voice that is more serious than the brand voice of a neighborhood ice cream shop. A serious tone not only suits the message of the firm, but it also comes across better to the intended audience. After all, someone facing an urgent legal issue probably won’t take kindly to jokey and silly messaging: they might wonder if a law firm with that tone would take their case seriously.
Similarly, your brand’s voice and message should make sense to your intended audience and be consistent throughout your communications.
Your brand style guide should give anyone working on your brand a clear understanding of your brand’s message and voice. Make sure to drill down: include do’s and don’ts for grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, naming, and tone.
Your Brand’s Visual Identity
The visuals of your brand are the first thing people notice. Your brand guidelines should be clear on the use of your logo, colors, typography, illustration style, icons, and more.
Your brand guidelines need to include your logo, of course, but that’s not all. In addition to the full-size logo (the logo plus the company name), you should include a secondary logo option to use when the full-size logo won’t fit.
Your logo guidelines should also include the proportions and alignment of the logo and any text elements. This helps avoid accidental stretching/condensing or altering of the logo.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to include design do’s and don’ts. This includes things like the minimum size for the logo and the amount of white space needed surrounding the logo.
What colors does your brand use? Include the whole color palette for your brand, from your logo’s colors to the signature colors you use on your website and in advertising.
Make sure to specify the hex code, CMYK, and PANTONE name/number for each color that you include. This ensures your colors are never off, no matter the medium.
If you have different versions of your logo—a color version and grayscale version, or a light and dark version—make sure to specify those colors as well.
What are your brand’s primary and secondary fonts? Perhaps you use one typeface for your logo and a different typeface for your other communications. Maybe you use different fonts within the same typeface.
Whatever you use, make sure it’s defined in your brand guidelines. You should include what typefaces you use and when you use them. Include information like the size, leading, tracking, kerning, and weight of each font.
Illustration Style & Icons
Just like your logo and typography, any illustrations or icons you use should be defined in your brand guide.
Define and describe your illustration style. It could be abstract or realistic, flat or multidimensional, black-and-white or colorful. Also define your iconography.
Your illustration style and icons should work together with your logo to create a cohesive look, mood, and message across all of your brand’s communications.
Your Brand’s Application Guidelines
Often, the quickest and most helpful way to demonstrate how your brand should be applied is through example.
Your brand style guide should include samples for various communications. Consider including samples for the following:
- Marketing emails
- Social media communications
- Print advertisements
- Press releases
- Product descriptions
- Website pages
- App pages and design
Your brand guidelines should help your creative team maintain your brand across all platforms, mediums, and communications.
Finally, remember to make your brand style guide easily accessible! This is a reference tool that will be used again and again. What’s more, it’s likely going to change over the years. Consider keeping both a printed version and a digital version on a company server (or wherever it’s easy to access).
If you need additional help creating your brand style guide, St. Gregory can help. Our creative team knows all things design and branding, and you can trust our team to create for any channel. Contact us today for a free consultation.