Creating a brand style guide is a crucial part of your business and acts as a backbone for your brand. It helps to maintain brand consistency and protect your brand from misrepresentation. It’s such a valuable tool to implement in your biz. Not only is it great for you to use it makes your life 10x easier when you begin collaborating with other people and businesses. Just like the name suggests, it is a guide to keep you on track.
There are a few main elements that go into a brand style guide. Aside from the main elements you can add in whatever you think is important to help represent your brand in it’s best light. Bigger companies can sometimes have 50+ page style guides whereas mine is only 3 pages. It really is dependent on your brand and biz and you can mold it into anything you believe it needs to be.
Here are some of the main elements essential to your brand style guide, but remember you can add in whatever you find necessary to your brand.
Primary Logo and sub logo usages:
You’ll want to include your primary logo and sub logos in your style guide as the main visual asset of your brand. Not only do you want to include them but you want you to specify how they are to be used. This includes color variation as well. Making sure that your logo is used correctly will help maintain your brand consistency and integrity. Consider listing a do’s and font’s list of how to use your logo as well as examples of wrong and right. Here are some other questions to answer in your style guide.
– When to use the primary logo or the sub logo
– When to use the black & white version
– What colors can your logo be placed over
– What directional orientation of the logo can be used (vertical or horizontal)
– Do you have a print and a web version of the logos
– Can your logo be outlined
– Can it have any additional visual effects (drop shadow, bevel and emboss, feather)
Including your color palette will ensure that only your EXACT colors are being used. This includes colors for your fonts, backgrounds, complimentary colors and colors NOT to be used. I always include the pantone and hex color for my color palette so that whether they are used print or digital they are always consistent. I also include the few colors that are NOT to be used with my brand. You don’t want your logo sitting on top of a color that clashes. Not having the colors of your brand consistent is a quick way to loose brand consistency because colors are extremely noticeable, even to the layman eye.
Fonts are a critical piece of your style guide. You’ll want between 2-3 fonts but I usually stick with 2 fonts because 3 can get messy and allow more room for error. You need a font for your headers and a body font. Your header font can be something more stylized whereas your body font should be something legible and clean. Typically I choose a body font that has several different weights to add emphasis to paragraphs and keywords without totally changing the font. Here are some “rules” you’ll want to include with your fonts.
– What is the kerning limit
– What is the leading limit
– What colors can the fonts be
– What weights can be used and how
– Do dates, bylines or footnotes have a specific weight/font
Consider including templates in your style guide. I include visual post templates for various social media platforms, print & web templates, blog post templates and email templates. Including templates is an easy way to make sure the layout system of your brand is being used correctly. Layouts can be tricky especially when dealing with different sized versions and it’s nice to have those already pre-made so that they can be used as easily as copy & paste.
Include examples of imagery that work with your brand. Make sure to be very specific about the images that can and cannot be used.
– Are your images typically full of energy or have a more laid back feeling
– Are they all flat-lay photos or lifestyle photos
– Do you show faces
– Do you require photos that follow the rules of thirds
– What is the minimum resolution to be used
– Do you have seasonal photos
Most brands have additional elements such as patterns, flourishes and accents that require guidelines. This includes dividers (lines, shapes etc..), illustrations, background patterns, or anything else. You will really want to be clear of how these are all used. Maybe you only use the background patterns with a certain color or only use square boxes for content upgrades and not body text.