Does your business have brand guidelines or a brand style guide? Perhaps you’re not clear exactly what brand guidelines are or why you would need them. If this sounds familiar, this blog is for you. Brand guidelines provide the framework to express the core identity of a business using consistent design elements and sets out how these design elements should be used when the business communicates to its audience, whether through sales, marketing, or customer service.
With all the demands of running a small business, brand guidelines are something that can often be overlooked. This blog will help you to understand the importance of brand guidelines and how they can guide you in developing a strong and memorable brand. If you sign up for our mailing list, you will receive our FREE brand guidelines template.
What are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines are the key to communicating your brand effectively and are the foundation to keeping your brand consistent in all settings. Your brand guidelines should act as a guide to show you how to implement designs, communicate with your audience and clarify your visions and values. A brand guide should include the most important aspects of your brand, the more detailed the better. It illustrates to others who are not familiar with your brand how to present and express your brand correctly and consistently. The more you build your brand the more your guidelines will develop and evolve. You can start with the essentials and keep adding to it.
Essential Elements of Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines typically include your company logo, fonts, colour palette, and a series of specific and consistent design styles for digital and print media. It may also include a summary of your mission, why your company exists and where it wants to go, and your visions and values, as important reference points for developing the desired tone. If your logo has different alternatives, whether black, landscape, stacked, or with or without icon, then here is the best place to include them, along with guidelines for when each version of the logo should be used and why.
Follow the same process for your fonts and colours. The font used in your logo should act as your primary font. A list of colour values for both print and digital is essential. You can refine your brand guide further, adding more details as you develop your brand’s identity. Here are some of the main elements to think about:
(Colour, B&W, Landscape, Icon or no icon, social media profile logo.)
Present the different versions of your logo, showing how it will look in different environments, and include explanations for when the different versions should be used. This ensures the logo will be used as intended. For example, you may decide to feature your logo icon only on social media.
(Primary and secondary fonts. Fonts for internal and external use.)
Typography and font selection provide another opportunity to refine your brand. Depending on what font you choose for your logo, you should aim to use this as your primary font on all external marketing from print to digital. Alternatively, you may wish to develop multiple complimentary brand fonts. It is also important to layout the text hierarchy and spacing guidelines, and decide what font weights will be used for headings and body text. This ensures your marketing materials maintain a consistent, distinctive look. There are many free fonts available from Google Fonts that you can choose for your internal documents and any staff documents. This secondary font will only be used by members of the team, not for marketing purposes.
(Colour values for online (RGB) (Hex number) and Print (CMYK) (Pantone))
Defining a colour palette is an important element in creating a consistent look and feel for your brand. Most brands limit their colour palette to a maximum of four main colours. Collect the colours you use for your brand and remember to include the correct colour values for both print (CMYK or Pantone) and online (RGB or HEX). Colours appear differently on screen and in print, so you need to be able to identify which colour values are appropriate depending on how they will be used.
(Language and tone, how you communicate with your audience.)
The language and tone you use communicating with customers can have a big effect on how they feel about your business. The industry your business is in will also influence the appropriate tone of voice. You can approach this by creating a list of best practices by outlining examples of the tone you want to get across. Do you want your brand to appear friendly and fun, or professional or quirky? It’s a good idea to list some ‘do’s and don’ts’ when communicating with your audience to clarify the brand voice further. For example: DO – Keep language positive, simple and easy to understand. DON’T – Use jargon that customers may be unfamiliar with.
(Visions, Missions and Values.)
Your vision, mission and values help you to dig down into the core of your brand and what it represents. These short statements outline your company mission and vision, helping to clarify in a nutshell what your business is and where it wants to go. It also presents an opportunity to communicate your values and visions to your team and to customers.
Your marketing collateral guidelines should include examples of flyers, posters, images, graphics, and any other marketing materials you use, to illustrate how they should look and show examples of the messaging that should be used. The brand guidelines should include this information for all additional marketing elements that your brand will use, in digital and printed formats.
Why are Brand Guidelines Important?
One of the main aspects to building a strong brand is consistency. Brand consistency communicates trust to your customers. Your brand needs to look, act and behave consistently with its principles and this includes the brand visuals and marketing collateral. All flyers, posters, social media posts, and all other media, should always use the same brand style and guidelines.
Communicating to your customers effectively is important. Your brand guidelines are also important for communicating your brand to contractors such as graphic designers, marketing agencies, print companies, and your employees. Your employees are brand ambassadors and need to fully understand your brand, your visions, values and principles. Your brand guidelines offer an excellent guide to your employees and new employees joining the business that can be used to help them understand what your brand is and how to communicate appropriately when representing the business.
What if I Don't Have Brand Guidelines?
Don’t worry. You may not have a set of your own brand guidelines, but you can start developing them today. You can start by reviewing what I have advised above and making a list of the items you already have and information you need to gather. For example, you may know your colour values but might be unsure about your brand font. If you don’t know what your font is, you can use MyFonts and upload your logo to help you identify what font is being used in your logo. You can also identify your logo’s colour values by uploading your logo to Ginifab.
Download a Brand Guidelines Template
We have created a brand guideline template that we’re sure you will find helpful. Sign up to our mailing list and you will receive our brand guidelines template for free.
If you would like to hire a design team to create brand guidelines for your business, get in touch today.