You just designed a fantastic-looking logo, and that new company website looks fantastic! Well, congratulations! But, before you go ahead, have you considered putting all your brand elements together in the form of a brand style guide? If you have not, you must invest your time in creating one!
But, what is a brand style guide? Do I seriously need one? Can I do without it? Well, I am sure these are the questions “doing the rounds” in your head. I will answer all your questions about creating an effective brand style guide. Plus, share some pro tips with you in the bonus section of this article.
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is the sum total of your company’s mission, vision, and values converted in the form of designs. From your company logo to billboards to brand positioning, a brand style guide contains the specifics of everything that makes your brand unique.
In simple words, your brand style guide is the rule book that contains information on how to present your brand to the world. The style guide generally contains the details of logo designs, typography, color palette, images, and much more. In other words, the brand style guide is the reference book that helps your brand appear consistent in every aspect.
Why are brand style guides important?
Brand style guides are so important that they are also referred to as brand bibles. Brand style guide works in two ways: internally and externally. Internally, brand style guides work as a rule book for various teams within your organization. Designers can refer to the style guide while using elements such as logos and fonts. Marketers can create better print and digital messages with the help of the brand style guide.
Externally, the style guide communicates important information to affiliates, clients, partners, investors, and customers.
The following reasons make the brand style guide important:
A brand style guide brings consistency to how people, in general, perceive your brand. When clients and customers visit your website or consume your content, they take a piece of your brand with them. A brand that does not have set standards can confuse the customers about what your business stands for. A brand that has proper rules and instructions in place looks professional. Apart from promoting consistency, a brand style guide makes you look reliable.
Building a recognizable brand takes time, which is why you must promote and advocate the use of brand style guides within your company. When you consistently follow the style guide for any decision relating to the brand, you ensure that the process of making your brand recognizable is accelerated. With consistency and discipline, you can make your brand stand out from the crowd in no time.
Makes you focused
Chances of you getting diverted from your purpose remain slim when you have rules and guidelines in place. You can get stretched too thin when launching new products or services in the market, but having a brand style guide can help you maintain your focus and consistency.
One of the advantages of creating a brand style guide is that it increases the perceived value of your brand. Big brands understand the importance of being consistent, which is why they put a lot of effort into creating a style guide. A brand style guide helps maintain the integrity of your brand’s image.
Do you really need a brand style guide?
An article published on Forbes mentions that a brand style guide is crucial in maintaining and “establishing brand identity.”
From writers to designers to developers, everyone within an organization can refer to this document to gauge the “expected standards” of the brand, the article further states.
Whatever the size of your business, an effective brand style guide can make your life that much easier. If you are under the impression that brand style guides were only for large-scale businesses, then think again—brand style guides are as important for start-ups and small businesses with limited funds as they are for big brands.
Key elements of brand identity
Before we get into creating an effective brand style guide, we must understand the important components of brand identity. The various elements of brand identity will help you identify what goes into making a brand style guide.
The five key components of a brand, namely mission, vision, core values, brand personality, and target audience, help shape any brand. Let us briefly explore each one.
Every brand has a reason for its existence. A brand clearly expresses its reasons for existence through its mission statement. Apart from suggesting how it intends to serve its audience, a brand expresses its objectives through its mission statement.
So, if you want to create a mission statement for your brand, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the reason for my existence?
- Is my brand solving a problem?
- What gaps will my brand create if it ceases to exist tomorrow?
The answers to the above questions will help you formulate your mission, and the audience will get an idea of what your brand does.
Your brand’s mission is all about the present moment, whereas the vision statement expresses the future. Your brand vision briefly describes where you want to see your brand in the future and how you hope to get there.
A brand’s vision statement briefly describes its long-term goals for the future.
While the mission of your brand may change over time, the vision remains the same. The vision statement ensures that everyone within the company works in tandem to achieve the objectives set by the brand.
Values are a set of principles or philosophies that shape every aspect of your brand. Values lie at the heart of your brand, which help shape brand identity and personality. You can refer to your brand’s core values while setting the mission and vision statements. Every action you take is directed by your core values. They are also responsible for customers and potential buyers choosing you over your competitors.
The following are some of the benefits of core values:
- Establish brand identity: A company firmly rooted in its core values can easily separate itself from the crowd.
- Influence behavior: When a company defines its core values well, it influences and inspires everyone involved with the brand.
- Contributes to success: When a company holds on to its core values even in difficult situations, it paves the path to its success.
Identifying the target audience is the key to your success and longevity. Any brand that wishes to establish itself firmly in the market must identify its customers and potential buyers. This crucial component of brand identity goes a long way in creating an effective brand style guide.
The following tips can help you identify your target audience:
- Identify patterns: The first step towards building your customer base is to identify your best products and who benefits from them. The process will enable you to recognize and design marketing strategies based on your research.
- Collect data: collecting information about your customers such as location, age, language, and interests can enable you to attract a similar audience.
- Use social media: You can always count on the power of social media, especially when it is about defining your audience.
The brand personality is simply the set of human characteristics it displays. Just like humans, every brand is different and exhibits various attributes. When a company accurately defines its personality, the right group of audience is attracted.
An article published on Investopedia mentions that customers are attracted and are “more likely to purchase from a brand if its personality is similar to their own.”
If you are unsure about your brand personality, you can follow the simple steps to find out:
- Step 1: Choose 3-5 words that best describe your brand, such as kind, athletic, elegant, and so on.
- Step 2: From writers to designers, ask everyone in your team to share their perspectives.
- Step 3: In the final step, select a list of adjectives that your brand is not.
The above exercise will help you discover your brand personality.
Create a brand style guide in 4 easy steps
Now that you know the five important components of brand identity, it is time for you to create your brand style guide. The following 4 steps will enable you to create a style guide that is both relevant and effective:
The first step in creating an effective brand style guide is to find the right inspiration. From examining rebranding strategies to revisiting the company’s core values, you can find the right inspiration by studying and gathering insights from your brand’s history.
If you are a new brand, you can find inspiration from your team. With your team by your side, you can achieve unimaginable things.
The following points may provide you with the inspiration to create your first brand style guide:
- Explore what worked for you in the past. Things like email marketing, ads, and rebranding strategies could provide you with valuable insights.
- Are there any recurring feedbacks? You can translate the feedback positively and make it a part of your style guide.
- What are other similar brands doing?
Put the various elements of the brand style guide together
The second step in creating an effective brand style guide is to put the different components of the brand style guide together. You can then pick a freelance designer or an agency that can communicate your ideas to the world.
Let’s look at the various elements of a brand style guide.
Some or all the five components of brand identity—mission, vision, values, target audience, and brand personality—can be taken into consideration while creating this section. The brand story section is where you introduce your brand to the world, which is why it must touch the very core of your brand. A designer must understand what your brand represents before she can communicate that to the world.
The logo design is an important element of brand identity. The logo section of your brand should include the correct usage of your logo under various environments with examples. The style guide should also include how your visual identity should not be used. The style guide should clearly mention the logo’s alignment and spacing.
The color palette, along with the logo and typography, forms an essential part of your brand identity. The three together grab the attention of the customers and potential buyers and communicate key information about your brand. Your brand style guide should include the color name, number, HEX, RGB, and CMYK codes.
Every element of your brand identity should be aligned with the brand’s mission, vision, and values. Fonts are the visual extension of your brand’s core components, which is why you should clearly mention the various typeface families the brand uses. The brand style guide should introduce the various typefaces followed by instructing about their alignment and spacing.
Image and photography guidelines
The imagery section of your style guide will enable everyone in the team to understand what the brand is trying to achieve through them. You can show examples of what worked well for the brand in the past. You should also instruct how the brand communicates through these images on various social networking platforms.
While logos, fonts, colors, and images visually attract the audience, it is what you write that hooks them. While it is true that the attention span of the average Joe is declining as we speak, words have a profound effect on how we perceive a brand. The best way to develop a brand voice is by exploring your brand personality. If your brand is friendly, you can use second-person pronouns like “you.” But, if you are a serious IT company, you can use third-person pronouns like him, her, or them.
Create an outline of your style guide
Creating an outline of the style guide of your brand keeps things neat. Mixing the various elements of brand identity with specific business needs can help you create the outline of the brand style guide.
- Hello, we are company XYZ, and this is what we do.
- Here are our mission, vision, and core values.
- This is our emblem and here’s what it means.
- Correct logo usage
- Incorrect usage
- HEX code
- These are our primary typeface family.
- These are our secondary fonts.
- Here’s why we use them.
- These types of images best suit our brand.
- How to use them
- This is how we conduct photo shoots.
- This is the tone of our voice.
- This is how we don’t speak.
Review your brand evolution
The brand style guide is a document that contains information regarding various elements of brand identity and all the changes you made in the past. Reviewing your brand style guide time and again helps you understand how the various elements of your brand identity evolved.
New ideas may come to you any time, which is why it makes sense to create a separate place to store all your ideas, examples, stories, images, and strategies in one place. You can retrieve all this information when it is time to review the brand style guide.
Pro tip: Set a time to revisit and review your style guide monthly or quarterly.
Bonus: Pro tips for creating your brand style guide
Now that you know how to create an effective brand style guide, here are some pro tips on making it more compelling.
Create a great brand story
While it is true that your brand style guide is not a book that shares in-depth stories of your brand, the brand story that you create should be compelling enough for your team and your customers and clients.
Be consistent with your logo guidelines
Your company logo is one of the most important parts of your brand, which is why you must be careful while laying the guidelines. You should carefully mark where and how your logos should be used.
Tip: You should always mention the minimum logo size in your style guide.
Never send mixed messages
Sending mixed messages about your brand may turn out to be a costly affair, which is why you must always strive for consistency. Consistency not only makes your brand look professional, but it also makes you more reliable. Brand style guides bring that much-desired consistency.
You can take inspiration from top brands to create your own brand style guide.
The bottom line
Building a brand is one thing, and keeping it consistent is quite another. You may have created a great brand with equally amazing products and services, but if you are not consistent with your brand identity, everything begins to crumble. A brand style guide is your best friend since it helps you be consistent and dependable.
Businesses accross the world have consulted DesignBro to build their brand with logo, website, packaging design and much more.
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Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.