Important Elements of Your Branding Guidelines

“Does this fall in line with our brand image?” “Are these colors representing us correctly?” “Is this tagline consistent with our message?”

If this sounds like members of your business or team, you need a time-saving, energy-efficient, headache-reducing Brand Guide, or what is sometimes referred to as a Brand Bible.

It’s vital that your brand identity is consistent. It’s representing and reinforcing the emotions of a brand, the message portrayed by brand identity components needs to be clear, and it needs to be the same no matter where it’s displayed. To manage consistency within brand identity, organizations should create a brand management system that gives them the flexibility and the speed necessary to succeed in today’s market.

A style guide is an incredible way to do this.

What Does a Brand Guide Include?

A brand guide includes information about your brand’s design and primary audience in a way that every team member can look at it and keep within its guidelines in order to maintain style consistency on the project or brand as a whole.

The following are the top 4 keys you’ll want to make sure are within your style guide in order to maintain a strong, consistent, inviting brand:

1. Logo

Your logo is central to your brand identity design. It’s the piece of your brand identity that people will be exposed to the most. It needs to line up with all the other elements of your brand identity, as well as the broader emotional appeal of your brand.

To increase your chances of having a memorable logo that encourages a strong emotional response, go for a simple look. Take a look at the logos of two of the world’s top brands:

APPLE

It’s simple and instantly recognizable.

COCA-COLA

Just a straight line of text in a single font, with no graphical elements surrounding it.

When a logo is simple, it becomes an open canvas customers can paint with positive experiences they’ve had with the brand.

Once you’ve nailed down the logo for your brand, what are your approved versions? For a variety of usages, it’s helpful to have a full color and a one-color version, as well as a version for light backgrounds and one for dark backgrounds.

Are there certain size requirements that you want to spell out? Or is there distance your logo should have from other elements?  Is there a tagline built into all of the logo versions or rules about when to use a tagline and when not?

Having more than one version of your logo is helpful for the variety of needs that will come up. You might print a full color version for purposes like signs, but use a one-color version for screen printing, printing on promotional materials, etc.

Consider all the places your logo could possibly be displayed. A logo needs to be flexible enough to look great on a huge billboard or as a tiny social media icon.

2. Key Colors

A defined color palette can be one of the most important aspects of your style guide. Consider the arches and sunny, yellow color that represent McDonald’s, for example. Would you as clearly recognize this company if the giant M was another color? Probably not.

Often logos are one or two colors only, although some are more complex.

The style guide should outline each color and how it should be used. This includes colors that appear only in a logo to colors that are used for backgrounds, text and other design elements.

The numbers of colors in a palette should be kept to a minimum and can include fully saturated versions and tints. Make sure that when your designer gives you your logo files, you are told the logo’s Pantone colors, CMYK and RGB or web colors. Furthermore, the guide should clearly define each color by name and color value for the variety of projects you could use them on.

In addition to your logo colors, what other colors compliment them?

Group your colors into bright and bold, pastel, or cool colors. Or, gather them from a color swatch book. Many times, additional colors are what really brings together one point of contact to the next.

To ensure consistency, pick out a palette of core colors and secondary colors so that everyone who is involved in creating and maintaining your brand identity can rapidly and effortlessly make the right choices.

An excellent read on creating a compelling brand color palette for your target audience is Color Matters’ blog on Color and Branding.

3. The Tone of Your Text

Your objective with keeping a strong brand identity is to ensure everything falls in line with the brand image. This applies to everything from the headlines in your ads, to the tone of your social media, to the way blog posts are structured.

The primary thing to consider with text is the audience you are speaking to. Rather than writing from what you perceive your business to be, put yourself in the mind of your audience and write for them.

If you’re speaking to an audience of Ivy League graduates in their forties, complex and institutionalized language will be very attractive to them, but the same tone and text is an instant turnoff to a group of twenty-something millennials who reject conventionality.

Words convey feelings; if you’re speaking to a group of entrepreneurs, the word educational can have a negative association to some audiences, but the word growth can have a better association, because they value growth.

To avoid putting a bad taste in the mouth of your audience at any time, outline the type of acceptable language that will be used in your style guide. Point out any words that are never acceptable, and highlight key words that are essential to use often. 

Think of some words you want your brand to be associated with: sleek, trustworthy, hip, beautiful, efficient, top-notch, reliable, safe, rebellious. Use them as an outline for your text rules.

4. Consistent Imaging

No brand should use the same photos over and over again, but all brand imagery should have that highly-desirable look and feel of consistency.

Maybe your photos are brightly lit and the subject is looking right into the camera. Perhaps they have a subtle color palette and the people never look at the camera but are consumed in their activity. There are many different types of photos you can use, such as close-ups, soft focus, or those that are highly detailed. Maybe you don't have to stick to just photos! You can use line art, illustrations or just charts and graphs.

Whatever you choose, be consistent in all of your imagery, whether printed or online.

Creating a brand guide for your business is essential to staying anchored in who you are, who you are not and what the brand essence will look like, feel like and be associated with.  While many brands cause confusion in customers by allowing inconsistencies, your business can stand out immediately by being constant and undeviating. By so doing, you become a brand that is hard to say no to, all while lessening the stress of having to communicate the same guidelines to your team a thousand different times. A win, win? Absolutely.

Need help with your new company's branding, a brand redesign or have general design needs that you want to keep within a consistent, established set of brand guidelines? We can help! Contact 10twelve today!