Your coworker, Karen, always comes to the office looking ultra-professional, stylish, and put together. She always keeps her finger on the latest trends, and her wardrobe is enviable.
One day, someone walks by your desk, and you do a double-take. You almost didn’t recognize that person as Karen! She’s wearing sweatpants and sneakers, her hair is disheveled, and you could have sworn that was a coffee stain on the front of her T-shirt.
If this were to actually happen, you’d probably be concerned for Karen. You might think something is seriously going on with her, and you might reach out to ask if she’s ok.
The same situation can occur in the world of branding. Brands that deviate from their established brand identity, or those who have trouble establishing an identity in the first place, run the risk of confusing their followers and damaging their reputation. That’s why it’s important to have a clear protocol in place for the written and visual elements that represent your brand. Enter the brand style guide.
What Is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a document that establishes rules and best practices for the presentation of your brand in visual communication mediums. In essence, it shows how to use a brand’s logo, tag lines, typography, colors, and other related design elements in a way that is consistent with the brand’s identity.
After you’ve worked to establish a clear message, mission, and voice behind your brand, the next step is to make sure your brand communicates those elements with clarity and consistency.
Binding the Brand
Lack of a brand style guide may cause your content to be incorrect or inconsistent. Just as Karen’s unkempt appearance deviates from her usual, polished self, a mixed marketing message confuses and alienates customers and followers.
In many cases, several different entities touch your brand’s content before the public sees it. The unifying principles that exist within a brand style guide make sure each individual or department adheres to the same standards when creating or revising content. The result is a brand that looks, feels, and sounds the same all the time, regardless of who created the communications.
Your brand identity is your organization’s personality, and even the smallest branding details, like an email signature, play a part in translating it. A brand style guide brings all the details together to form one harmonious system.
Essential Elements of Every Guide
Brand style guides vary in scope and content depending on the business they represent. That being said, there are a few components that are essential for every brand to be clear on.
Your brand story is exactly what it sounds like. It is a story that introduces your brand and communicates the vision behind it to customers. This is an opportunity to give people insight into what your brand stands for. Also, a clear brand story allows people who work for you to better represent your brand when they go to work on a project.
A brand style guide will provide specifications such as size, space, and color for the use of your logo in different settings, from print to online. It should include examples of appropriate logo use in various formats with explanations of use cases for each version.
It’s also important to detail rules around the placement and appearance of taglines in relation to the logo.
You never want to leave anyone working on your brand guessing about which colors to use. As one of the most noticeable characteristics of your brand identity, color needs to be precise and consistent.
Brand style guides provide color details using PANTONE name and number for color matching, CMYK codes for print color, as well as RGB and HEX codes for digital color. It might also present recommended color combinations along with primary and secondary color palettes to differentiate between main and accent colors.
Typography is another visual element that is crucial to get right. While a typeface may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about communicating your brand’s message, it actually heavily contributes to setting the tone of a brand’s personality. Type comes into play in headings, sub-headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, citations, labels, form headers, or any other formatted text. A brand style guide creates a protocol for them all.
A comprehensive style guide brings together font families, font sizes, line spacing, kerning, and colors for different types of content. That way, no one is left to their own devices when creating any written material associated with your brand.
What types of images will you use to support your brand identity? Are the people in your images representative of your target demographic? Are they doing something your audience can identify with? Sometimes a certain style of image is preferred. For example, 2D illustrations may be preferable over realistic photography. Or, minimalism with lots of white space around simple black and white photos may be your identity.
A brand style guide includes examples of images that positively contribute to your brand’s overall aesthetic. It also provides details about how images should be edited or filtered so every image accurately represents the look and feel of your brand.
Finally, your brand needs a clearly defined voice. The style with which you communicate your brand’s message affects public perception and helps to define your brand’s personality. Your style guide might include adjectives to describe the writing style people should use when publishing content for your brand. It may also include examples of messaging that works along with others that miss the mark.
A ton of work goes into the creation of every element of your brand. A style guide acts as protection for your brand as it grows and begins to house more content.
At Deal Design, not only are we capable of helping communicate your brand’s message, but we are also able to help you set up a cohesive brand identity that will stand the test of time. We understand the difficulty of juggling all the aspects of your brand, and we’re here to help manage the details.