If you’re not an enormous global brand with hundreds of employees, you may wonder why a brand style guide’s important for business. The fact is, no matter what your business’ size, a brand style guide’s an easy but important way to add consistency, build customer trust, and save you and those you work with time.
A big part of building a great brand is making sure there’s an automatic association between everything you produce and your business or product. Think of some of the world’s biggest brands; from print to online, they’re immediately recognizable. By outlining what defines your brand’s style, you can ensure that your product has the same effect and improve the likelihood of people making an immediate association between your brand and your business.
A consistent brand isn’t just about product recall; it’s about building trust with your customers. If your customers are confused about who you actually are, or whether something even legitimately represents your brand, they’re less likely to trust the reliability of your business. A strong brand suggests longevity and consistency, saying that you’ll be around for your customers and giving them clear markers to distinguish the genuine article from other less reputable businesses or products.
Every business owner wants to make things as efficient as possible, and this is a simple way to save a huge amount of time. A brand style guide means that you have everything you need at your disposal when you’re creating marketing assets for your business. You may not even realize how much there is to remember until you start doing the work. The time involved in going back through previous examples to bring together these small pieces of information can stack up, and take away from doing more valuable things. A brand style guide means all of this information is easily accessible and ready to go whenever you need it.
Making it easier for people working with you
Unless you’re seriously multi-talented, from time to time you’ll need to hire other people to produce work for your brand. Being able to provide freelancers with a clearly outlined brand style guide means that not only do you spend less time going over the basics of what’s required for your brand, but leaves less room for style errors or miscommunications.
Your style guide may be a simple page outlining basic requirements, or a 324 page beast like Coca Cola’s (although maybe try to get it below 300 pages). Whatever level of detail you choose to include, there are some basic things every brand guide should include.
You’ve gone to the trouble of creating the perfect logo for your business, so you’re going to want people to use it correctly. Your style guide’s the perfect place to lay out how people should (and shouldn’t) use your logo.
Take Tumblr’s logo guidelines as an example. It provides a number of logo options for different uses upfront, and clearly outlines the correct and incorrect ways to use them. You want to keep this simple; give designers creativity to work with your logo, while still makeing sure it’s always clearly identifiable as your official brand.
Is the official font for everything you produce Comic Sans? Well, first, you might want to get a few hints on picking a better font to use. Second, you want to make sure people are using the correct fonts in the right way for all your branded content. This is the perfect place to outline not just which fonts people should use, but how to use them. Do you have specific guidelines for sizing of the font, the kerning (the space between the letters), or even whether it should bold or italicized?
So what do you include in your font guidelines? UCLA’s typography guidelines are a good example of being clear & concise with clear examples of different usage in a variety of contexts. You may only have one font for your brand, but think about how people want to use it; whether it’s for web or print, the differences when used in headings versus body, and any common variations you want to highlight.
Some colors are iconically linked to a brands, colors like Cadbury’s purple, the red and yellow of McDonalds, or the blue, green, yellow, and red we all know from Google. Each of these have a limited but immediately recognizable color palette, and you should aim for similar simplicity when creating your brand’s color guide. Pick two to four colors (preferably with reference to the main color of your logo) and give clear instructions on how to replicate those colors, including the color codes from print (CYMK) and online (RGB and HEX).
How does your brand sound to others? Do you channel Buzzfeed, referring to things as lit, woke, and being EVERYTHING; or are you a little more traditional, favoring a more formal and business-like tone? Whatever you choose, it’s important to give a quick summary of what defines it for others who write content for you. Think of a few key words that describe your style (friendly, professional, young, etc.), and where possible, include examples of your business’ voice being used well from your own work. This doesn’t need to be an essay, just a simple paragraph or two that gives others clear reference points to write in a way that represents your brand’s identity accurately.
These few simple things will help you ensure that your brand always looks and sounds the way you want it to, and make your brand more recognizable and memorable, and as your business grows, you’ll have a solid foundation to build and evolve your brand identity into a something truly iconic.