The Essential Elements of a Brand Style Guide Allie Wolff The bigger your business grows, the more likely you’ll have people acting and creating on behalf of it. To keep things running smoothly, it helps to have a brand style guide. A brand style guide keeps everyone inside and outside of your organization informed about what your brand means and what it looks like. It includes everything from a descriptive story of your brand’s history to detailed instructions about logo specifications. What do you need to think about before creating your style guide? Before you create a style guide, you need to deeply understand your brand to begin with. Your brand is not your website, your logo, your company photos, or your about page. All of those things are part of your brand, but they are not your brand, period. Your brand is what people think and feel about your company and what sets it apart from similar players in the field. When you outline your brand it should include: Your mission/vision statement: How do you view the purpose of your company? What does it do? What makes it different? What do you see your company accomplishing in the grand scheme of things? Your target audience: Who are you helping and what problem are you solving for these people? Your values: What words or actions are representative of your company? What isn’t? Knowing this is helpful not just for creating, but for hiring as well. What sections should you have in your style guide? Your brand style guide should be functional. This means that anyone in your organization or a third-party vendor (i.e. a graphic designer) should be able to easily navigate it and find the information they need. Generally speaking, a brand style guide includes: Table of Contents The Brand Story Logo Guide Color Guide Typeface Guide Digital Guidelines Print Guidelines Physical Guidelines Let’s take a closer look at what each of these sections includes. Table of Contents This is straightforward, but no less important. Your Table of Contents is what makes this document navigable. The Brand Story Remember when you had to think about what your brand actually is in terms of a mission statement, target audience, and values? This is where you explain what those things are, narrative-style, so the reader gets a sense of what your company’s all about. Logo Guide Here’s where things get technical. Depending on the size of your organization, employees are going to use the logo frequently whether it’s to slap it on a promotional mug or include it in a PowerPoint presentation. Avoid awkward, stretched logos by including specifications on the minimum (or maximum) size of a logo. Provide different variations of the logo (i.e. black and white versions, short form versions with just the initials of the company instead of the full name). This gives your team some flexibility without confusing the brand. Work closely with your designer to figure out just how comprehensive this section needs to be. Color Guide What are your company colors? Is there a specific color that you use for backgrounds? Is there a specific color that you use for text? Pick colors for a variety of uses and then stick to using those on all of your websites, brochures and more so that everything stays consistent. Make sure you include the color codes as well so that matching is easier later. Typeface Guide Pick a few different fonts for your brand and choose what purpose each font is for. One may be for headers while others are for the body text of sales letters. This is ultimately up to you and your designer. Digital Guidelines Don’t forget things like website layouts, email signatures, social media channels, and more. Do you want tweets to be formatted a certain way? Would you like all employees to include the company logo in their email signature when sending out emails? Indicate that in this section. Print Guidelines This is similar to the digital guidelines, but for things like physical sales letters, branded invoices, and stationery. In some cases, this section may overlap with your digital guidelines like for invoices that are sent via PDF. Physical Guidelines The brand experience isn’t limited to emails and websites. Nowadays, consumers expect a good brand experience when they receive their package from an e-commerce company. It’s not enough to wrap a product in brown paper and ship it off. Include your branding guidelines for shipped products or even promotional merchandise in this section. Remember that a brand style guide is a living document. Over time, your brand will evolve. Of course, you shouldn’t change it too often (since that defeats the purpose of a guide) but keep note of feedback from employees and ideas that pop into your head. This way when the time comes for a brand revamp, you’re off to a running start.