Your branding is the face of your business. It’s what your customers recognise and remember. But how do you ensure that every communication looks and sounds like it comes from the same source? The answer lies in a brand-style guide.
A brand style guide is an essential document that ensures a uniform look and feel of a company. This article covers the definition and contents of a brand style guide. Then it moves on to compare different formats, such as printed booklets, PDFs or online portals.
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is a set of rules that outline how a company gets presented to the outside world. It plays a role in maintaining a consistent image across all touchpoints that customers may have with the company.
By adhering to a brand style guide, all communication—from emails to ads—appears from the same source, even with multiple authors involved. This consistency is crucial for building brand recognition and trust with consumers.
The more detailed a style guide is, the more consistently the company’s communication. But a detailed brand style guide also runs the risk of the brand becoming repetitive and boring.
It’s essential for companies to continually reevaluate their style guide and ensure it remains relevant in our rapidly changing world. That way, they can keep their brand fresh and creative while maintaining a consistent image across all touchpoints.
What should a brand style guide contain?
A brand style guide can vary in scope, depending on the needs of a company. Some style guides include information about the company’s target audience, mission, values, and brand personality, as well as guidance on the tone of voice.
At a minimum, every brand style guide should include rules for all visual elements, such as:
- the logo,
- colour scheme,
- and other relevant visual elements.
When it comes to your brand’s logo, your style guide can provide answers to questions like:
- What does the logo look like? What are its specific design elements?
- In which contexts is the logo used?
- How should the logo be positioned relative to other elements?
- What backgrounds are appropriate for its use? Which should be avoided?
- Do logo variations exist, such as secondary marks or symbols? How are they used?
- Make sure to include some examples of what not to do.
When it comes to typography, your brand’s style guide should consider aspects such as:
- Which typefaces are being used across all brand communications?
- Do we use different typefaces for headlines and body text?
- Do we use different typefaces on the website?
- Are specific typefaces linked to particular functions or applications?
- Are there any rules around text sizes and proportions for different applications?
You may find my article on choosing the right typeface for your brand helpful.
Here are some questions to ask when creating your brand colour guidelines:
- What are the primary and secondary brand colours?
- Are there rules on colour combinations?
- How much of each colour gets used in different applications (proportions)?
- Are certain colours associated with specific functions or applications?
- For a consistent look, you should include a few different colour profiles in your brand style guide. These include:
- CMYK for print
- HEX for web
- RGB values for web and digital
- Pantone for print, wall colour, and other physical applications
Including all necessary colour profiles and usage guidelines in your style guide, ensures your brand’s colours remain consistent across different applications and media.
This article may help you to choose the perfect colours for your branding.
Here are some questions to consider when creating your photography guidelines:
- Does your brand imagery have a distinct style?
- What types of motifs or subject matter appear in the images?
- Are there any specific perspectives or angles?
- Does the brand use photo filters, such as black and white or duotone, associated with your brand’s visual identity?
In addition to guidelines around visual elements such as colour, typography, and photography, you can establish layout specifications in your brand style guide. Consider the following questions when creating layout guidelines:
- Do you use a grid system in your layouts? If so, what type of grid system?
- Where are certain elements, such as logos, headlines, or CTAs, placed on the page?
- How much white space gets used in order to maintain a clean and uncluttered look?
Other Visual Elements
In addition to the visual elements already discussed, your brand may have other components in its visual identity that can be included in your brand style guide. Here are some examples:
- Patterns: Does your brand use patterns in its visual communications? If so, which patterns? How are they applied to different brand applications?
- Icons: Are there specific icon sets in your brand’s communication? If so, what are the guidelines for their use, and how should they be incorporated into your designs?
- Illustrations: If your brand uses illustrations, what style should they follow? How should they be used in different contexts?
By establishing guidelines for all of the visual components of your brand’s identity, you can ensure that your communications are consistent, professional, and reflective of your brand’s values and personality.
What formats can a brand style guide have?
When creating a brand style guide, consider the format you present it in. There are different formats you may use. Each comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some popular formats for brand style guides:
- Printed Booklet
- Online Portal
- Brand toolbox
Printed booklets used to be the norm. They are easy to distribute to team members, clients, or other stakeholders, and provide a tangible reference for brand guidelines.
But, printed booklets are difficult to update, not environmentally friendly and not easily accessible from different locations.
One beautiful example of a printed brand style guide is the Erscheinungsbild Deutsche Bank from 1972.
A PDF is a popular format for a brand style guide, as it is easy to distribute and update as needed. Yet, it’s not as interactive as other digital formats.
A good example is the Slack brand style guide.
Uber and several other tech companies have set up websites for their Brand Guidelines.
An online portal, online or on the intranet, is an interactive and engaging way to present a brand style guide. It can also be easily updated and accessed from anywhere in the world.
A brand video can be dynamic and engaging. It can be easily shared and demonstrate how to use each brand element. But, it may not be as easily referenced as other formats. You can consider mixing video with other digital formats.
Larger companies benefit from a detailed brand style guide. But the effort may not always be necessary for smaller ones. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to document all brand elements and instructions on how to use them.
One practical approach for smaller companies is to create a brand toolbox containing all the essential brand elements, such as logo, typography, colour palette, and imagery, including instructions on how to use them.
Depending on your needs and preferences, there are different ways to create a brand toolbox.
One option is to create folders for each brand element and store them in a centralised location, such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Notion. This way, all team members have access from wherever they are. But you can also quickly adapt your brand elements to a changing world if needed.
In conclusion, a brand style guide helps to ensure consistency across all touchpoints and builds brand recognition and customer trust.
A brand style guide should contain rules about all visual elements, such as logo, typography, colour, photography, layout, and other elements. Many style guides also include the brand voice etc.
There are different format options for creating a brand style guide, such as printed booklets, PDFs, online portals, videos or a brand toolbox.
While a detailed style guide is essential for larger companies, a brand toolbox that contains all the brand elements and quick instructions on how to use them might be enough for smaller businesses.
Ultimately, investing time and effort in creating a brand style guide is essential to building and maintaining a strong brand identity that stays relevant in a fast-evolving world.