Updated: Apr 2, 2018
What Are Brand Guidelines?
A brand guidelines or brand style guide translates your mission, vision and values into design. The brand guidelines are a set of rules that explain how your brand works and helps maintain a consistent brand image. It’s the first step to build brand recognition and trust with your customers.
An Outline Of Brand Guidelines
Every brand guidelines consist of several important elements, including a brand story, logo guidelines, color palette, typography samples, brand images and tone and voice of your communications. These elements work together to create a consistent brand image.
Introduction of the brand, what does the brand make or do?
Mission, Vision, and Values.
A well-designed logo.
What does the logo mean?
How to use the logo? How not to use the logo?
Variations and when to use them.
Primary and Secondary color palette.
Color name or code.
What fonts we use? Why do we use them?
Define the main typeface.
Define a secondary typeface.
Images that represent the brand.
What is the layout?
Voice and Tone
How does the brand speaks to customers?
Do’s and Don’ts.
The Brand Story
An introduction of your brand to the market. The brand story will give marketers and designers insights into your company to help them understand how best to represent your brand.
The five key components of any brand story includes the mission, vision, target audience, personality and values of the brand. All other guidelines should be aligned to these fundamental values.
A logo is the symbol of the brand and should be easily recognisable by your audience. Some of the more effective logos are often the simplest. For example the Nike Swish or the Apple logo.
When designing your logo, consider these factors:
Size: list minimum size and proper proportions
Space: amount of white spaces around the logo
Colours: variations (reversed, black, white) and when to use them
Dos and Don’ts
You should create several versions of your logo to be adapted to various contexts (e.g. email, website, brochure). It is important to define when to use each version to avoid common mistakes. For example, a white background for your website but a black background for your brochures. There are some common mistakes to avoid, such as stretching, altering, condensing, re-aligning and these can impact your brand image.
Defining a brand colour palette will help maintain consistency and elicit the right emotions from the target audience.
What does your brand colour mean? Each colour elicits a unique set of emotions from your target audience. Choose a colour that suits your brand personality.
After deciding on the main brand color(s) that represents your brand, expand it into a primary and secondary color palettes. Most brands choose four or fewer main colors for their color palette. The rule of thumb is to pick one light color for backgrounds, a darker one for text, a neutral hue and one striking color.
How to get started? The best way is to explore online tools and apps for inspiration and help on picking a color scheme. You can try using Adobe Colour CC, Pictaculous, Material Palette, Design Seeds, Hail Pixel or Coolors. Alternatively, refer to a complete list of Pantone colors for some ideas.
Include the color names and code for the different colour classification systems. Some common systems include Pantone, CMYK, RGB, HEX#, RAL. These colour codes and names will help designers create creatives and collaterals for your brand. There are online tools available to help convert from one color scheme to another. Click here for a list of all Pantone colors.
Another important factor in branding and designing an identity is font selection. Fonts can enhance the brand image and the emotions associated with the brand. Brands have to decide if one typeface is sufficient or multiple fonts are needed. A good tip is to use a contrasting font for text compared to the one used for your logo.
When choosing a font, consider the following:
1. Introduction. Why was the typeface(s) used? How does it relate to your brand? Where each typeface is used (headlines, body text, captions)?
2. Alignment. Align right, left, centred or justified
3. Spacing. A uniform adjustment to the spacing of a word or block of text affecting its density and texture.
4. Tracking and Kerning. The adjustment of the space between specific characters. For example, when “A” and “V” appear together, the diagonal strokes are kerned so that the top left of “V” sits above the bottom right of the “A”. Otherwise the spacing will look too wide.
5. Size Matters. Different typefaces have different sizes or character height. When pairing different typefaces, the rule is to choose typefaces with the same character height.
6. Hierarchy and Scale. The font size, bold, italics of headlines, sub-headlines, body text have to be clearly defined.
Popular Typefaces or Fonts
Old style – Bembo, ITC Berkeley Oldstyle, Centaur, ITC Legacy Serif
Transitional Serifs – Americana, Baskerville, Bulmer, Perpetua
Neoclassical & Didone Serifs – Bodoni Classic, ITC Fenice, Marconi, Walbaum
Slab Serifs – ITC Lubalin Graph, Rockwell, Egyptian Slate, Soho
Clarendon Serifs – Bookman, ITC Charter, Clarendon, Nimrod
Glyphic Serifs – Albertus, Cartier Book, ITC Elan, Friz Quadrata
Grotesque Sans Serif – ITC Franklin Gothic, Helvetica, News Gothic, Univers
Square Sans Serif – Cachet, Eurostile, Felbridge, Neo Sans
Geometric Sans Serif – Avenir, ITC Bauhaus, Futura, Harmonia Sans
Humanistic Sans Serif – Frutiger, Gill Sans, ITC Goudy Sans, Mentor Sans
Formal Scripts – Bickham Script, Helinda Rook, Young Baroque
Calligraphic Scripts – Belltrap, Mistral, Vivaldi, Great Vibes, Autumn in Novmeber
Blackletter & Lombardic Scripts – Agincourt, Cresci Rotunda, Goudy Text, Monmouth
Casual Scripts – Brush Script, Freestyle Script, Limehouse Script, Nadianne
Decorative Styles – ITC Aftershock, ITC Airstream, Mo Funky Fresh, WacWakOoops!
There are many websites offering free fonts for download, such as 1001freefonts, dafont, fontspace and urbanfonts. Be sure to check if the fonts are for commercial use. Some fonts have licensing fees if you use them for your marketing materials.
Selecting the perfect images and photographs that represents your brand is an art. It can be simplified by first creating a mood board. A mood board will help provide guidance to designers and marketers when creating collaterals and designing a website.
A mood board is a collection of photos and images that convey your brand message and emotions to your target audience. Sample photos can be existing photos that represents your brand or aspiration images from international brands. For brands with various channels, include a sample of images for each channel.
Getting your inspiration online is easy with numerous stock photo website sot choose from. There are also online tools that can help brands create their mood boards. For example, Pinterest, Canva, Moodboard, Gimme Bar, The Matboard, Evernote and more.
Voice & Tone
Writing style or script makes up your brand voice and affects how your audience perceives the brand. Some simple rules to follow:
Include a messaging that works well
Build on brand personality (3-5 words that describe your brand)
Do’s and don’ts. Include words that represents your brand but also words that you want to avoid.
Other Brand Elements
You are almost there! There are three additional factors that you may wish to incorporate into your brand guide.
Is your brand primarily digital? Website layouts and images.
If you sell physical products, you need packaging guidelines
Focusing on social media marketing? Setup guidelines on the imagery to use in posts.
For a consistent brand image, integrate brand elements into all channels and collaterals.
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)
Stationery (business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices)
Brochure & Sales Sheet
Create Your Brand Guidelines Today!
Your brand is more than the products and services you offer. A strong brand gives customers a higher perceived value and maximize your marketing budget. A brand guide tells your marketers and designers how to communicate to customers.
Established your brand guide with the essential elements listed in the article and start building your brand. A brand guide is a constantly evolving document. Review the brand guide periodically and include information from learnings, what works and what does not. If you are starting your own company, read our article A Startup's Guide to Branding.
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