Guide to creating successful brand guidelines for your business
Let’s get two things straight:
One: Brand guidelines are not just for big, multinational brands. They are for any organisation that needs to build a brand identity and consistently communicate its values through every interaction.
Two: Brand guidelines are not something to be afraid of. They are there to help. A brand guideline is your toolkit of handy information to ensure your message is strong and consistent in every aspect of your work.
Understanding how to use a brand effectively
If you are setting up a new venture, it’s crucial that a strong, clearly defined brand is established early on. This is your opportunity for a good first impression and it’s what people will use to recognise you. Organisations will need to use their brands in a myriad of different ways, so having a guideline will ensure that messaging is consistent however the logo is applied and whoever is in charge of the application. It’s likely that at times different designers and outside contractors will need to interact with the brand. Brand guidelines will ensure that they have all the colours, fonts and information to create an on-brand piece of work.
What should be in a brand guideline?
Not all brand guidelines are created equal. Some cover the minimum but are still perfectly functional. Others can go on for pages and pages, providing a detailed look into every dimension of the brand.
Here we have summarised the important bits and pieces required to create the perfect brand guideline.
Logo spec and application
Absolutely crucial. If nothing else, your brand guideline must detail how the logo is displayed. This will include:
- All versions of the logo
- Details of a tagline if used
- Logo colourways and mono version
- Placement of logo on the page
- Amount of white space around logo
A brand will usually have a selection of colours to accompany the logo. These colours can be used everywhere from product packaging to staff uniforms to web design elements. Colour really helps to reinforce the brand’s image and keep consistency.
Points to consider:
- CMYK, Pantone and RGB values to cater for both print and web
- Details of the primary palette and secondary palette if required
- Details of any seasonal colours or specific combinations for different purposes
- Information on tints vs. saturates
As well as a colour palette, you brand guideline will need to detail how fonts are used to support the brand. This should be a limited palette - usually no more than five acceptable fonts.
You’ll need to establish:
- Definition of the font sizes, line height, spacing and colours
- Fonts for headlines and body text
- Web and non-web alternatives for each kind of font
Strategic brand overview
If you’re including this, it only needs to be short and sweet.
Things to feature:
- Brief summary of the company history
- The vision and ethos that drives the company
- Supporting keywords and concepts to describe who you are
Tone of voice
Although not essential, establishing a consistent tone of voice for the brand is really helpful especially if the organisation is writing content, adverts or literature.
Have a think about:
- Specific phrases and words you’d like to be associated with
- Whether specialised language or plain speaking is more suitable
- The voice of your audience - are they formal or chatty?
- The nature of your service - for example is it serious, fun, supportive, disruptive?
It might be that a particular style of imagery is intrinsic to your brand. If this is the case, it’s important for this to be outlined in your brand guideline.
Include information on:
- Photos vs. illustrations
- Subject matter
- Colour vs. black and white
- Diversity and representation
Brand guideline best practises
To get the most from your brand guidelines it’s important to use them to their fullest potential. It’s no good sitting on them idly. The information should be shared with anyone in your organisation who interacts with the brand, especially marketing and sales staff as these are the people usually responsible for promoting the brand.
Outside contractors such as graphic designers, marketing agencies and PR consultants will also need to use the brand guidelines to ensure their work gels with the established image. Don’t wait for them to ask, be proactive and ensure everyone has the key information from day one.
The document is usually supplied in the form of an an easy-to-follow PDF created to be emailed around and printed if needs be. It can be helpful to include contact details on the back sheet to allow people to get in touch for support if needs be.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is that our business landscape is always changing so brands too will naturally change as a result. As your organisation evolves over time, check in with your guideline and see if it is still relevant. A healthy once or twice a year review is plenty to ensure your messaging is up to date and working to its full potential.
Time for an update? Talk to us…
We’ll show you why developing guidelines is not something to be afraid of but an essential part of any brand strategy