Your brand is one of the most important parts of your business. Brand guidelines make all of your messages and materials more consistent. These rules also save you time, provide a reference point for new employees, and improve design processes further down the road.
But, creating brand guidelines is no small task, especially for large brands with many stakeholders and touchpoints. To help you create your brand guidelines, here are the basic elements you should include:
Once you have designed your logo, test it to make sure that it looks good at any size – from a 16x16px favacon to a building-size billboard. You’ll need to define how and where the logo can be used and also how not to use it. Here are some things to cover:
Clear space – Clarify how much empty space or minimum padding needs to surround the logo in all of its use cases including: horizontal and vertical lockups, wordmark and logomark.
Backgrounds – Describe the types of backgrounds the logo can be used on. For example, explain if the logo can only be used on neutral backgrounds, as opposed to colored backgrounds. Include examples of what sort of backgrounds your logo looks good against.
Sizes – If you are a brand manager or a designer, the last thing you want to deal with are hundreds of requests for your logo in various sizes. In addition to providing your logo requirements in your brand guidelines, you’ll want to include the following in your brand management platform:
Monochromatic logotypes – Provide monochromatic or black and white versions of your logo lockups to ensure your logo look great in all situations.
Typography or fonts are a large part of a brand’s identity. Provide the main fonts your brand will use across mediums. And explain what font, weight and font size, goes where.
Your brand’s colors reflect so much of its spirit. You have to get the colors right. However, moving from one designer to the next and across programs (photoshop vs web vs powerpoint and so forth) can cause slightly different color variations. Provide the exact RGB, CMYK, hex codes (for the web), and Pantone color values (for print), and make sure they match up. Callout primary colors and secondary colors so they are being used correctly.
The tone and voice of your brand is the expression of the personality of your brand. This is what the brand will share with the world and how you want people to feel about your brand. Keep it consistent to build trust with your customers. Is it playful? Informative? Your tone should be consistent, but can be tweaked to fit certain marketing channels. Some brands prefer to use a conversational tone for social media and a more serious tone for case studies and whitepapers, so it helps to clarify the tone and voice for each communication channel.
As part of your copywriting guidelines, you’ll need to get very specific. Here is a list of basic guidelines to include: capitalization, spelling (English vs UK for example), pronoun usage, punctuation (from em-dashes, to bulleted lists and so forth), numbers (do you write 8 or eight?), abbreviations, citations and so forth.
Your brand should also clarify what your default style guide should be. While the eager-beaver, just-joined-the-workforce graduate uses MLA style, your older manager uses Chicago Manual Style. So make sure to specify which standard style guide to use going forward.
Dive deep into your brand’s vocabulary. Think about the audience you’re speaking with and keep in mind certain terms and phrases your brand should use over others. You might want to share a list of terms to avoid, such as ones your competitors frequently use.
Details of your brand including your icon set tell your brand story. Have one icon kit that houses the various icons used throughout your identity to keep them consistent with your brand voice. Store your master file in one place and label what the icons stand for, so they’re used only for that specific thing.
Icons are meant to be “iconic.” They should easily communicate what you are trying to represent while at the same time clearly fitting into your brand system. Here are some amazing examples of brand icons:
The style of images you use reflect your brand. Include styles and colors for the photos and images you use. You can even include the mood. Is it cute? Fun? Serious? You might even want to provide some of the keywords used for searching for stock images. For example, if you commonly use the word “playful” when searching for photos, this will help your marketers find similar images when searching for photos.
The style of your user interface (UI) elements should also speak to your brand. This can include elements inside of your product, on your website or even on marketing assets. Examples of these elements are: buttons, navigation bars, form fields, drop-down menus error messages and rating stars to name a few.
If you’re a large corporation with multiple brands, you might need multiple brand guidelines, especially if these brands are very different and reach different audiences. The tone and style of your brand could be very different. If that is the case, it helps to have one main guideline for your corporate brand and specific brand guidelines for your unique brands. Modern brands are starting to use multiple, web-based brand portals for each of their brands’ guidelines.
Decide if your brand guidelines should be public or internal. You could also make certain parts of your guidelines public and keep the rest between your internal team. For example, you might want to keep your list of “terms to avoid” internal, so your competitors don’t learn your secrets.
Even if you’ve created the most amazing brand guidelines, the hardest part is getting all of your employees and stakeholders to follow them. Learn how to enable them to use your brand guidelines with this new guide.