A brand style guide serves as a beacon for your business. It is the shining light for your brand identity that showcases the mission, core values, and vision for customers and the world at large. Providing guidance across visual and written content, advertising/marketing, and more — a brand style guide not only keeps your branding on target, but it also propels profits and business growth.
Its purpose is to maintain consistency, relevance, and authenticity across websites, social media, and print. An effective brand style guide yields stability and makes your followers and customers feel comfortable. Just like a friendship, people want to know they can rely on you — being you — 24/7. Whenever they want or need you, you’ll be there.
What Exactly is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a document that defines the presentation of your company to the world. It goes into detail about what a brand looks, sounds, and feels like. It is a critical reference point for team members across customer service, marketing, sales, and design to maintain relevancy and a stable brand identity.
Creating Your Brand Style Guide: Critical Components to Consider
Before you launch into the details of the guide, you need to get real clarity on who you are and what you want your brand to represent. The five critical components of a brand style guide are:
- Core values
- Brand personality
- Target audience
The combination of these components tells your audience what you stand for each day. Are you a player in the eco-friendly construction business? Are you an innovator in biotechnology to advance public health?
Having a deep understanding of these five components before the composition of a brand style guide will drive effectiveness, authenticity, and connection for the long haul.
6 Elements of a Brand Style Guide
After you tackle what your company stands for and who the target audience will be, it’s time to build your brand style guide. There are six major elements to the guide:
- Brand Story
- Color Palette
Let’s break each of these down:
The brand story conveys the heart and soul of your company. You can use all of the critical components above if you so desire. You don’t have to include it all in the public sphere, but enough information should be within your company brand style guide for all who will use it as a material reference point.
As an example, the eco-friendly clothing brand, Alternative Apparel, showcases its social responsibility:
“Our commitment to sustainability is defined by creating products responsibly. We make over 80% of our garments with sustainable materials and processes… Working on a global scale, we respect and value the rights of workers in all countries and believe in the right to fair and safe workplace conditions. Our factories shown here are in accordance with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Workplace Code of Conduct.”
The appearance of your logo across content, social media platforms, and print is crucial. Without a guide, it could get distorted and look weird due to stretching, condensing, altering, or realigning - a big no-no for brand identity. Can you imagine if the Nike swoosh got smooshed?
Make sure to include all of the approved versions of your logo and define which one gets used where. Incorporate visual examples of each so it is abundantly clear to all users of the brand style guide. Include the following details:
- Size — Specific proportions and minimum size of logo
- Colors — Display variations and when to use them ( including color(s), reversed, and in B&W)
- Space — Give direct instruction if the logo needs a certain amount of white space around it
You can also include visuals of specific ways/formats, etc. that you don’t want the logo to be shown for thoroughness and the reduction of the possibility of mistakes.
Simplicity and authenticity should be the primary focus when it comes to choosing your color palette. Most brands will select four or fewer main colors, and it is important not to stray far with the hues. Keeping your color palette consistent goes a long way in defining your brand identity. Consider these tips:
- Backgrounds — lighter color
- Text —darker color
- Highlights, accents and CTAs - contrasting colors; using a strong color to highlight CTAs
Showcase swatches of your colors and include detailed information on what it takes to reproduce the colors across the web, social media, and print.
- Color Match: PANTONE name and number
- Digital Color: RGB and HEX codes
- Print: CMYK
Be very mindful of your color choices and stay true to your mission and values. Colors play a significant role in branding and purchasing.
A brand style guide should also contain a directive about imagery. What types of images are the right fit for your brand? Trustworthy? Innovative? Valiant? Make sure that the pictures are in tune with how you want to communicate with your audience. It might take some industry research if you don’t already have images that have performed well. Who are the major players in your industry and how do they visually project their brand? From Instagram accounts to company websites, you can find valuable ideas to help configure your image portfolio.
Consider the emotions you want your audience to feel when you post an image on social media or use it on your site. With these types of samples in the brand style guide, your team can stay in alignment with brand identity.
Fonts play a vital role in the story of your business. With the plethora of choices available when it comes to typography for your branding, choose carefully and strategically. Do you want to be bold, playful, future-forward? Whether you decide on one typeface family or a multiple of fonts throughout the vast uses of your text, it is valuable to choose something that contrasts with your logo. Doing so will make the logo stand out even more and allow your text to serve as a complement to your brand identity.
When you are composing your brand style guide, detail which typefaces you will use and where — headlines, subheadings, captions, etc.) Give the “whys” of your choices for clarity and consistency. Think about the alignment of your text and decide on how you would like it to be presented — left, right, center? Also, make sure to discuss spacing issues. Insert tracking and kerning ratios in this section of the brand style guide for uniformity when the size of the font changes across presentations and platforms.
Authenticity is incredibly important when it comes to the language you use in your marketing communications. It tells your audience who you are — building connections and making people feel different emotions. (Hopefully good ones!) Dig deep in this section and the ultimate vocabulary of your organization will rise to the top.
List specific adjectives that represent your products and services genuinely and dynamically. Bring your brand messaging to the forefront in this section and make a list of words you don’t like too. Taking the time and effort to deconstruct the language related to your brand pays off in a big way — building stronger relationships and creating loyalty with each social media post, corporate blog, advertisement, and more.
Building Your Brand to Grow Your Business
With a comprehensive brand style guide, you and your team will have a strong reference point to represent your brand — and grow your business. From colors to fonts, language and more, brand guidelines keep team members on track over time to stay true to your mission, values, and company goals.
Revisit your brand style guide on a regular basis as your company flourishes and evolves, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of expert resources for brand identity services. Speaking to your ideal audience with strength, creativity, and authenticity is critical to business success.