As every top branding agency knows, the brand style guide is a key component in a brand’s visual identity. It sets out how brand elements, including color palette, imagery, iconography, and layout should be incorporated into every piece of collateral or content that represents the brand. In essence, it’s the brand bible for every designer and marketer in the organization.
Yet, for a typical top branding agency, it’s often an afterthought. Only after the new brand elements are designed, options are provided to the client, the visual identity is applied to the website, collateral templates, and signage, and all is approved, does the team turn to the style guide. And even then, it is often lacking in the type of detail and content that will make it useful for more than a brief period. It needs to be thorough and future-proof.
Let’s face it: The brand style guide isn’t the sexy or fun part of the project. Oftentimes, it’s delivered as a thinly printed document and other times as a PDF with limited detail. We understand that digging through a lengthy document to find out precisely how to use the logo, fonts, and imagery can be frustrating. Here, then, is the Bluetext guide to a good – and useful – brand style guide.
- Make sure the style guide is comprehensive. The goal of the guide is consistency, in how the brand is represented regardless of platform, outlet or venue. It will be used by a wide variety of people, ranging from employees to partners to media. This doesn’t mean it has to cover every random or infrequent scenario, but more detail works in your company’s favor.
- Go deep in coverage. Even the term “brand guide” is sometimes misleading. While it is important to include details on the specific usage of a creative asset, such as how much white space needs to pad a logo or how a logo should play out depending on the background color, this should be only a part of the what the guide includes. Don’t neglect core brand-building guidelines, such as what the organization’s tone and voice need to be in different contexts, or how employees should use branded imagery on social media. Provide enough detail so that anyone reading the brand guide from cover to cover will feel like an expert on every aspect of the brand.
- Update the guide on a regular basis. With the prevalence of eBooks, articles, and infographics, brands are experiencing a faster rate of evolution than ever before. That means it is important to do a regular review of the guide to keep it up to date.
- Make it easy to find, share, and update. Many style guides look great in a printed, bound volume. But those are hard to find, hard to distribute, and really hard to keep updated. And if the brand guide requires time and money to update, executives will be reluctant to refresh the guide to match their evolving brand until they absolutely have to.
Our recommendations as a top branding agency: Make the style guide a dynamic window to your brand. Include intangible elements that come from the brand’s core message platform, like tone, voice and the types of language to use. Use a digital platform that is easy to share and easy to update. Make it comprehensive. And make sure you review it at least once a year.
Style Guide Examples: