A comprehensive guide to creating your brand's unique style, written by 99designs, a design hub building brilliant branding all over the world.
There are plenty of things you need to launch a brand – think a business plan, a solid product or service, and a clear idea of who your ideal audience is. But there’s one thing you need to successfully launch a brand that often gets lost in the shuffle – and that’s a brand style guide.
Think of a brand style guide as the DNA of your brand; it breaks down your brand style elements, your brand voice, and the do’s and dont’s of how to communicate with your audience. Putting together a brand style guide is the only way to ensure consistency for your audience across all brand channels, whether they’re looking at your logo design, clicking through your website, checking out your social media channels, or interacting with one of your ads.
But what, exactly, is a brand style guide? How do you make one? And what does an effective brand style guide look like? Let’s dive in.
What is a brand style guide?
First things first: let’s start out by covering what, exactly, a brand style guide is. A brand style guide is a document that incorporates all the details about how you want your brand to be communicated to the public, like style elements (such as brand color palette and fonts) and brand voice (including tone and personality).
The brand style guide is an indispensable tool for everyone from your clients to designers to developers to your marketing team to customer service; it outlines who you are as a brand and how you want to communicate that to your audience, so your entire team is on the same page – and the branding that reaches your audience is consistent.
Because your brand style guide is such an important document to your branding, it’s important that the document feels like you. If you’re a fun, laid-back brand, that should come across in your style guide (no stuffy corporate language or boring imagery!) On the flip side, if your brand identity is more corporate and serious, don’t try to too hard to be fun or irreverent – it won’t feel authentic, and it won’t stick.
How to create a brand style guide
Now that we know what a brand style guide is, let’s talk about the different parts you’ll want to include:
Who we are
The entire point of a brand style guide is to reinforce your branding, so it’s helpful to kick things off by reminding your team who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
Your brand mission and vision statements
Include a mission statement about why you started your brand and why you do the work you do. Follow it up with a vision statement that shows where your company is headed.
Your brand values
Who are you as a brand? What do you believe in? What are the things that are important to you? Your values drive how you do business – which is why it’s important to include them in your style guide.
Your ideal customer
Break down who your customers are, what they need, and why they want to work with you. The better your team knows your audience, the better they’ll be able to serve them.
Brand style guidelines
Once you’ve given an overview of who you are as a company, it’s time to start breaking down the specific style elements of your brand.
Brand color palette
Having a brand color palette is a must for ensuring a consistent brand experience for your audience. If your website is different shades of blue, your mailers are yellow and orange, and the sign for your brick and mortar shop is purple and pink, it’s going to be completely confusing and harder for your audience to form a connection to your brand.
Choose the colors that you want to represent your brand across all channels. Stick to four colors or less (a good rule of thumb is a lighter color for backgrounds, a darker for text, a neutral, and a pop of color as an accent). Include examples of each color in your style guide along with their PANTONE color match, print color, and digital color.
Next up is typography. The fonts you choose say a lot about your brand; a brand that uses Comic Sans is going to send a very different message than a brand that uses Helvetica.
Choose which fonts you want to represent your brand, and if you have more than one, make sure you outline where your team should use each font (so, for example, Font A is for headlines while Font B is for body text).
Chances are by the time you’re building your brand style guide, you already have a logo designed. But it’s important to break down the rules of how to use your logo appropriately.
In your brand style guide, you’ll want to attach all approved versions of your logo, including graphic, graphic and text, and any versions with color variations. Also include best practices for your logo, like size and proportion, how much white space to use around the logo, and any other do’s and dont’s.
The way you communicate with your audience – your brand voice – is just as important as any visual style elements. In this section, you’ll want to give a summary of your brand voice and how you want your team to communicate with your customers. Include anything that might be helpful to your team in capturing that voice, like examples of how to use your brand voice, a list of adjectives to describe your brand personality, and copy do’s and dont’s.
Brand style guide inspiration
So, now that you know how to create a brand style guide, it’s time to talk about actually designing one. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to brand style guide design; the right design is going to depend on who you are as a brand. But there’s also no need to reinvent the wheel! Let’s take a look at some different brand style guide designs for inspiration.
Simple and straightforward
Sometimes going to over-the-top with your brand style guide design can actually detract from your messaging. Using a simple and straightforward design can keep your team focused on what’s important – the information within the brand style guide – instead of getting distracted by too many design details.
Sometimes, graphics can convey your messaging even better than words – and that’s definitely true when it comes to creating a brand style guide.
On the flip side, sometimes using visually interesting typography is the key to making your brand style guidelines come to life.
Your brand style guide is a crucial part of your brand’s DNA. And now that you have everything you need to develop a dynamic brand style guide that feels uniquely you, it’s time to start designing!
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