It’s time for your brand to stand up and be recognized. Your brand is like your business trademark. It could be anything from your logo and web design to a specific color or fonts. But, as your business permeates the market and becomes better known, it’s important to have consistent branding. By creating a style guide, you can make sure your brand is always properly represented both internally and externally.
So, exactly what is a style guide? A style guide is a set of standards for the visuals and copy that are associated with your brand. It ensures consistency across the organization – no matter how large or small – which presents a clean, smooth image to your market. Putting together a brand guide doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 7 pro elements to think about when developing your own.
7 Elements of a Brand Style Guide
1. Business mission or essence
Your style guide should start with a description of the essence of the business. What is your business, and what does it stand for? How does it look and feel? One way to convey this is to look for a series of keywords that help convey that essence in a clear, crisp visual way. For example, you might describe your brand as “modern, friendly and a trusted advisor.” Be sure to be honest in your style guide and explain what your business is about in clear language that’s easy to understand.
Your logo design is the visual heart of your company’s brand identity. It establishes everything from your color choices to the overall feel of the brand. Your style guide should include several versions of your logo in different sizes and file formats, as well as any guidelines dictating how and where the logo may be used. For example, if you have multiple taglines for your company, the logo might only be used in combination with specific ones.
3. Logo limitations
Often, brand style guides have a number of restrictions on what can be done with the logo. Some aspects to think about include changing the color, stretching the logo, changing the size, using the logo with specific background colors, changing the edging or cropping the file. Be clear on which modifications are allowed, and which ones violate brand guidelines. This helps reinforce consistency in the way your logo is used and displayed publicly.
A brand style guide outlines which fonts and sizes are considered the company standard. Sometimes multiple options are given, and in some cases there may be a list of forbidden fonts.
For any copywriters or marketing professionals working with your brand, voice guidelines are helpful. For example, a financial institution might choose to describe its brand as “Extremely formal and conservative, with data heavy copy and an academic tone.” This would be very different from a small business that chose to describe itself as “A downhome brand that uses simple sentences, storytelling and country language to appeal to a rural lifestyle audience.” Take the time to clarify the tone and voice of your brand copy.
Brands typically have an associated color palette. These may be general, such as “our colors are green and gold” or more specific referring to standard RGB color numbers. In some instances, certain colors may not be used: “Our company never uses the color white in any of our materials, either as background, font color or imagery.”
Are there certain types of imagery that fit with your brand style? For example, you may wish to avoid stock imagery. If your business does work primarily in urban areas you might wish to limit the use of images in rural or suburban landscapes. Provide clear guidelines to simplify selecting photos for creative materials.
Developing a brand style guide is an important step to establishing consistency with your brand. Over time, this consistency both builds brand recognition among your target customers and enhances trust with the market. Once you’ve developed your brand guide, share the final version with all your employees and revisit the document annually to see if any revisions or updates are required.