What’s a brand style guide? A brand style guide is a document that shares a business’s expectations of how they wish to be presented in advertising, social media, public relations, and any other place the brand is shared, mentioned, or copied.
An effective brand style guide not only shares brand expectations but how to meet those expectations.
Have you ever seen a brand misused? For example, a logo that was stretched, pixelated, or fuzzy? Or colors that didn’t fit the brand and fonts that didn’t match. Unfortunately, it happens, and whether it’s in-house or outsourced, brand mistakes reflect poorly on the business.
A brand style guide should be shared with anyone who mentions your brand, it should offer guidelines, and should be highly accessible.
Steps to a Brand Style Guide
Your logo might be the most important piece of your brand. A great logo tells a story, shares a mission, introduces a vision, and the best accomplish all three! Think of Starbucks, Nike, or McDonald’s logo and you see more than a mermaid, swope, and orange arches.
“If your logo would work for any other company, then it doesn’t work for you. Your logo should fit your business and yours alone. The logo should answer what you do, who you are, and reflect your culture. A professional designer can help you understand and create a one of a kind logo.” — Why Your Small Business Needs a Professional Logo.
An outstanding logo can be ruined by poor color. For example, in large format print, it’s critical to color calibrate digital printers, if not, one batch can be a significantly different shade than another. For a fleet of vehicles that could be a problem. Digital Print Color Calibration.
Color contrast can make or break a brand. Typically, it’s best to use a light background with dark text. “When choosing colors for your vehicle graphics, it may not be what color, but how colors of both the vehicle and your graphics contrast. Using poorly contrasted colors reduces the impact of vehicle advertising. Poorly chosen hues, designs that hide the message, and colors that don’t match your brand waste your marketing dollars. — What Color Should I Wrap my Business Vehicle?
Your brand style guide should include PMS (Pantone color), CMYK for print and RGB for digital.
The best fonts are the ones that are most legible and fit your brand. It’s important to share your expectations of font, size, alignment, and white space. “The foolproof method is to outline your text (sometimes called convert to curves). When outlining your text, the software no longer associates a font with it, and the letters and words become a vector shape. It’s important for you to keep your original non-outlined file because once you outline the text, it can no longer be edited. Save a separate copy with the outlined text and send it to the printer.” — Outlining Text.
All imagery should be in tune with your brand. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by sharing examples of approved images in your brand style guide. Another critical point is to explain how images should be shared. For example, in large format print vector graphics is preferred.
TechTerms.com defines vector graphics, “Unlike JPEGs, GIFs, and BMP images, vector graphics are not made up of a grid of pixels. Instead, vector graphics are comprised of paths, which are defined by a start and end point, along with other points, curves, and angles along the way. A path can be a line, a square, a triangle, or a curvy shape. These paths can be used to create simple drawings or complex diagrams. Paths are even used to define the characters of a specific typeface.” Tech Talk Vector Graphics
A brand style guide should include expectations of copy as well as colors, fonts, and images. For example, the TKO Brandwire blog shares guest blog guidelines. Here’s one point, “We expect high quality writing, grammar, and structure in a submitted post. Two members of our team edit each post. Any revisions are sent to the author for approval before publishing.
How long should a blog post be? As long as needed, but as short as possible. Although our posts are generally 300 to 500 words, we don’t believe in putting limits on length. Having said this, we also believe a blog is not the place for long-winded adjective-filled prose.” — TKO Graphix Guest Post Guidelines.
5 Steps to a Brand Style Guide
So, after reading this post do you have everything you need to create a brand style guide? Nope, not at all. Hopefully, after reading this, you understand the importance of a brand style guide. Here’s a good example of a brand guide from The SBA (Small Business Administration.) It shares a brand guide that covers logos, color palette, texture, images, and more, SBA Brand Guide. The best way to be certain your brand style guidelines meet your needs may be to hire a professional.