So you’re here because you’re asking if you really need a brand style guide? Perhaps you’re talking to some logo and brand designers or firms, or maybe you’re wondering if that corporate identity style guide they make you follow at the office is really necessary. Well, the short answer is yes. Every brand needs a style guide to make the branding process easier and far more likely to be successful. So, there’s the answer to “do we need a brand guide?”, but for those who are curious, here are the reasons why, and how beneficial a style guide should be for your brand.
What is a Brand Style Guide For?
The short answer is: everything visual. A style guide (or brand guidelines/corporate identity) will help guide the visual communication style for a brand to follow and remain consistent. This will include details on the fonts to use, colors, layout, photography, and how to use them. It’ll include carefully crafted rules for using and applying the brand logo, alternative brand marks or logos, and even things like guidance to maintain brand tone, personality, and social media presence, just to name a few.
A brand style guide is a living, breathing document. One that grows with the brand and business. As a brand grows, new elements or areas of the brand will form. As such, they’ll need to be maintained with some form of consistency, to not confuse the target audience. So they’d be added to a brand’s style guide over time.
What Should Be In a Brand Style Guide?
As much as possible. When working with a brand designer or branding firm – they should be asking questions to help form brand strategy. That brand strategy may be completely visual, or they may detail the strategy in a written format. Either way, your brand’s visual identity should target specific goals, and include as much clarification as possible with visual examples and written explanation. At minimum, a style guide should include:
- Logo use/misuse guidance: how and how not to use your logo effectively and correctly
- Typography/fonts: type hierarchy, brand fonts, font sizes or scaling for headlines, copy, etc…
- Brand colors: detailed professional color formats for print and digital use
- Brand personality: the tone of voice, verbiage, communication style, etc…
Remember, these are the minimum and should serve as a starting point that a designer should expand upon and clarify. However, if you’re just now having a style guide created, or you just received them – these are the absolute basics. Any less and you won’t typically have a solid basis to start building a brand. You may think that a brand identity design is just an upsell from a creative firm or designer, but that’s rarely ever the case. It’s a far better situation for a brand to have guidance than just be shooting in the dark when it comes to visual communications. When you have solid strategy based design, derived from clear goals, you have a major advantage over competition who may even have better visuals but no visual consistency. Your style guide will serve as a reference to maintain that visual design and strategy.
How to Use a Brand Style Guide
When you receive a style guide, it should read like a book with chapters. There may be an introduction page so that those less familiar are introduced to your brand. It should include an easy-to-use contents page, and simple instructions for each section. Often it will explain what the section is and why it’s used in a particular way. So be sure to read and follow the examples outlines within your brand style guide. The best way to utilize your style guide is often to follow the examples and not deviate from, or create your own rules. If in doubt, ask your creative team if you have one. Failing that, it may make sense to contact the original firm or designer and have some clarification added. Again, a style guide is a living document – it will require additions as the company grows.