Branding. When most people hear this word, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a logo. While it’s true that a well-designed logo is an integral part of a strong brand, there are many more elements that make up a brand’s visual identity. Take a step back to see the bigger picture. What are the colors that are being used? The typography? How do the icons relate to the content? These are all things to consider when branding your business. A style guide incorporates all of those elements into a set of standards for writers, designers, and other employees to reference and ensures consistency throughout all materials produced by your business.
For a visual style guide, consider including the following items:
Logo (And Variations)
If your brand’s logo has multiple variations (of colors, words, orientation etc.) be sure to include the proper usage of each. A version on both a light and dark background is standard to ensure that your logo is always distinguishable. Simplified variations or logo marks are often used in lieu of the full logo when used in small sizes like social media profiles.
Icons are an effective way to communicate complicated ideas through simple and easy to understand visuals. They can be used throughout the website, informational resources, and other marketing materials. But before you go on a wild Shutterstock shopping spree, be sure that the icons you use all feel as if they are part of the same “family.” This is distinguished by the fill/outline styles and how simple or detailed they are. Stock icons are commonly sold in sets, so consider choosing one large set.
Including your brand’s color palette into a style guide is a fool-proof way to ensure that the colors used in your branded materials will always be consistent. For a primary color palette, consider choosing colors that are harmonious with one another, as well as a contrasting color that can be used to highlight important information such as buttons on a website or a call to action. Be sure to include both the Hex value (#FFFFF) for web-based content and CMYK for printed materials.
In order to convey a specific mood, pay close attention the style of photography that is used throughout your brand’s content. Wide shot photos that capture an entire environment will convey a different mood than those that are closely cropped on a particular subject. If the photos are treated with textures or overlays, all photos should follow suit. Establishing these treatments in a style guide will take the guesswork out of styling the photos and ensure that the photography used in your brand is consistent throughout.
For those who are non-designers, the most overlooked detail of a brand is often the typography. Although a small factor in the grand scheme of a brand, using a consistent typeface throughout all materials show both professionalism and attention to detail. It will also serve as a way to create hierarchy in the content. Distinguishing the style that is used for headings and body copy will take plain text and turn it into something that is recognizable as your brand without writing your name all over it. To avoid becoming too complicated, choose no more than 2 different styles for any copy on your materials.
With the help of a brand style guide, every piece of content you produce is sure to be consistent and easily recognizable as your brand. Not only are they a great resource for graphic designers, but also for new employees who are unfamiliar with the standards established by your brand. So before you tap into your inner designer and create a branded flyer or a PowerPoint presentation, be sure to reference your brand’s style guide for the proper usage of these 5 elements.
Looking for some inspiration? Here is a style guide we created during the branding process of a new client, RapidPRA.