Your brand is the identity of your company. It’s how to set yourself apart from competitors and how potential customers recognize your business.
To build a memorable brand, you need consistency within your business, from the quality of service you provide to visual aspects (e.g. packaging, merch, and more). So how do you ensure branding stays consistent between internal and external teams? You create a brand guideline.
What are brand guidelines?
Commonly referred to as a brand style guide, brand guidelines are a set of documents that govern the way a brand is presented to the world. You can think of these as the brand’s user manual—a set of instructions that can be used by anyone in the company to create consistent visuals and messaging for the brand.
Brand guidelines may be stored and shared in a variety of ways including via PDF, presentation deck, or web page.
What should be included?
Every company is going to include different elements in its brand guidelines, but here is a list of the most common components:
- Logos: Primary and secondary logo options, logo icon, and any other graphic elements unique to your brand
- Logo Treatment: Define correct and incorrect usage of the logo, minimum and maximum sizes, spacing, etc.
- Color Palette: Primary and secondary colors including both RGB, CMYK, and HEX color codes to ensure designs are consistent across all mediums (print, digital, etc.)
- Typography Palette: Font families, sizes, styles, and proper usage
- Other Design Elements: Do you have unique requirements for photo editing? Are there standard icons that should be used in design for the brand? Any additional visual elements that make your brand unique should be included.
- Voice and Tone: The overall personality of your brand, and how you communicate with your audience, such as word choice, emotional tone, etc.
What’s the best way to store and share brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines may be stored and shared in a variety of ways, and each option has its own benefits and drawbacks. Here are the most common ways to share brand guidelines within your organization:
- PDF: PDFs are a common way people create brand guidelines. You are able to create a detailed, unique guide that offers as much creative freedom as you want. Most companies opt for a multi-page “guidebook” that visually depicts the brand elements and includes supporting written documentation on how to use those elements. However, PDFs are static documents and can be difficult to edit quickly. You’ll also run the risk of outdated copies lurking on employee computers.
- Presentation Deck: If you want to easily share brand guidelines with people in person, via email, or on a video call, a presentation deck is a good option. Similar to a PDF, this medium complements the explanation of the brand’s identity with visual elements. However, through the use of cloud-based presentation tools like Google Slides, these presentations can be updated at a moment’s notice, giving everyone with access to the slide deck the most current information simultaneously.
- Web Page: Putting your brand guidelines on a web page makes them easily accessible and allows both internal and external users to access your most up-to-date guidelines at a moment’s notice This is an especially effective option for large companies who may have in-house designers who need access to brand information as well as external users (like resellers or affiliates) who need to know how your organization expects to be presented.
How are brand guidelines used day-to-day?
After you create a brand style guide, it’s time to implement it. Your primary and secondary logos should be consistent from the website to email signatures. The color palette should be implemented across all mediums, and any other colors should be replaced with those that fall within your selected palette. Anywhere you have written content should reflect your brand’s voice, including web content, blog posts, email copy, etc. These are just a few of the areas you’ll want to review to ensure compliance with your brand guidelines.
On a day-to-day basis, your brand guidelines will most often be used by graphic and web designers to create visual elements that are aligned with your brand’s aesthetic. This might include website graphics, digital advertisements, flyers, billboards, and even social media graphics. By defining these guidelines for your brand identity, you provide your designers (whether they’re in-house or contractors) with the tools they need to meet your expectations and create on-brand visuals.
The use of your brand guidelines doesn’t stop with the designers, though. If you’ve defined the voice and tone of your brand, anyone who writes for your company can ensure that they’re effectively conveying the personality of the brand through their writing.
Examples of effective brand guidelines
There are several companies that are doing a great job of implementing their brand guidelines. If you want to see excellent examples of effective branding, check out this list:
When you think of Instagram, their logo and color scheme probably immediately come to mind. Instagram has created a detailed style guide of how their brand should be represented across a variety of platforms. It includes resources on how to balance their brand with yours, how you should not use their resources, and more.
As a social media giant that works with a variety of other companies, it’s critical that Instagram communicate their expectations with those both inside and outside their organization who will be using their logo and branding in design pieces.
If you want to see an example of a brand guideline that lays out logo usage, color scheme, and tone of voice, Slack is great. They have created an online media kit that outlines how to keep their brand consistent for internal and external use.
Slack’s style guide does an excellent job of defining the company’s values and personality and carrying those through each design element (from their logo and core colors to icons, illustrations, and photography).
Starbucks is another company that clearly outlines their brand guidelines and how they should be used. They describe what their photography should look like, the right typography, and tone of voice.
With one of the most recognizable brands in the world, Starbucks has worked deliberately to incorporate their branding into every element of their company. You’d be able to know the Starbucks brand based on the baristas’ signature green aprons, the siren logo on their cups and packaging, and even the look and feel of their stores. Since Starbucks has created such a consistent experience with their brand, they have earned an incredibly loyal customer base.
Ready to define your brand’s style?
A style guide ensures branding is consistent across all platforms, making it easy for customers to recognize your company and create memorable associations with your brand. While it may seem overwhelming to create a set of brand guidelines, it doesn’t have to be. Reach out to us so we can help define your visual branding and create your style guide together.