Brand Style Guides and Why Every Company Should Have One

Branding

A few months ago, I discussed a logo is not a five pound bag for your organization’s ten pounds of “^@%#”. We established that it is only a supporting element of your company’s overall brand identity. So where do those ten pounds actually go? They belong in a well-planned brand style guide.

What is a brand style guide?


A brand style guide is the road map and rule book for your brand. It contains how everything that represents your company should look, feel, and sound. It is the reference tool for any person working on anything that contains your brand, whether that be marketing, sales or customer service.

Why do you need a brand style guide?


Apple and Nike didn’t get to be brand giants by mistake. They delivered a consistent image and message with everything they created. Consistency is one of the key elements that makes a brand strong. It creates dependability and safety in the minds of the customer. A brand style guide, when followed properly, ensures the consistent treatment of an organization’s brand.

Are you ready for a brand style guide?


If your organization is already established, you probably have your vision, mission, values, brand promise and target audience defined. These are essential to clarify because everything in the brand guide will support them in some capacity. Every successful company starts here as these define what you do, why you do it, and where you want to be.

What goes into a brand style guide?


There are seven sections to a style guide. All are instrumental in communicating aspects of your brand in some way.

VERBAL IDENTITY

This contains the mission, vision, brand promise, audience, and voice of your organization. Verbal identity sets the stage of who you are and is the heart of all of the other sections of the style guide.

LOGO

Your organization’s logo should be treated with care and consistency. This section outlines size requirements, proportions and proper colors across platforms. Every version of the logo is listed here, including color, color reversed, grayscale, black and white and one-color options. Some logos also include versions of horizontal, stacked, and options with a tagline. Equally as important, a section of how NOT to use the logo is included.

COLOR PALETTE

A set color palette includes the colors used in an organization’s logo, but also allows for a few others to be used as well. The colors have a cohesive look and visually communicate the verbal identity. In most cases, the color palette contains both light, medium and dark colors to give flexibility to the design. The Pantone® name, HEX code, CMYK and RGB breakdowns of each color establishes consistency across print and digital conversions.

TYPOGRAPHY

Fonts are just as important in communicating your brand. The shape and weight of a font are the “visual voice” of your organization. This section defines which fonts can be used and how they are used. It is usually limited to about three font families. Headline, sub-headline, body copy, and captions are designated a certain font, again to keep design consistent. Alignment and spacing are also specified here.

GRAPHIC STYLE

Design elements are presented in this section and can include lines, shapes, use of white-space, texture, layout proportion, or anything that is used other than the designated colors and fonts. Every element communicates and/or supports the verbal identity. Requirements and restrictions of each element are listed to keep consistency to each design.

PHOTOGRAPHY/ILLUSTRATION STYLE

Many organizations use photography or illustrations to support their brand. This section shows examples of the types that can be used. Whether it is a muted, high-contrast photography style, or bright and playful illustrations, the style should point back to the verbal identity and communicate the feel of the brand.

DESIGN VARIATIONS

This is where all the elements come together. Samples of various pieces are shown here to provide a visual example of how all of the elements work together while staying in the provided guidelines. Examples include print and digital pieces to show how the elements work across platforms.

Organizations can have one to 100 people working on some aspect of a brand. A brand style guide is the key to build and maintain and safeguard a strong brand. Brands also need to change over time to stay current. Having a style guide is an easy reference tool to update periodically to refresh your brand.

Are you ready for a brand style guide?

Ready to gain traction?

Take the Next Step