A Guide To Brand Guidelines

Brand guidelines are a tool used to set in place some rules and standards by which your brand communicates, both visually and verbally. They are the bible for how the world should see your brand. They can also be called style guides, brand books, or even brand standards… they’re all essentially the same thing.

Brand guidelines can come in many different forms, from physical books to entire websites, but the aim of them is always the same – ensure consistency for the brand and to help make the most of all its elements.

 

Why are they important?

Brand guidelines are the point of reference for all things creative that utilise your brand. For example; your marketing collateral, website, and social media. If you had no brand guidelines, those examples would all end up looking different. Although the website, flyers, business cards, etc may end up looking okay individually, collectively they will seem like they belong to different companies.

This leaves customers and potential customers unable to build a link between a visual/verbal style and a company. Imagine your brand is a person – if it had a different dress sense, different accent, and different hair every time you met, I’m sure you’d be left not knowing what to make of them.

 

What should they contain?

Brand guidelines will differ depending on the type and size of the company, but most of them all contain roughly the same as listed below.

 

Brand Overview

It’s important to remember that brand guidelines are often given to external people. This means a lot of the time, they won’t know much about the brand. Give them a brief overview of the company, its history, values, and so on.

Brand Guidelines

It should go without saying that this is a very important element of your brand. Brand guidelines typically contain the following when it comes to the logo

  • The logo and all its variants
  • When / how to use them
  • What not to do with them
  • Minimum sizes and clearspace (also called exclusion zone)

 

Colours

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Colours need to be consistent throughout the brand so people can begin to associate the two. Think of coca-cola and red or the yellow pages and yellow. At a minimum, you should include the following though

  • All the colours in a variety of formats, e.g. Hex, RGB, CYMK and Pantone (the more the merrier)
  • How much each should be used, e.g. which are the main colours, which are complimentary, alternatives for certain applications, etc.
  • What not to do with them e.g. use x with y colour 
Colours Brand Guidelines
Typography Brand Guidelines

Typography

Is all about fonts, this should include which fonts are supposed to be used, where they’re supposed to be used and, where to get them.

Tone of Voice Brand Guidelines

Brand Voice

This can be called a variety of different names but in essence, it’s supposed to cover what your brand says and how it says it. Think of it like your brand’s personality, is it bold and braggadocious or professional and safe. This will often have to bend according to the context but the guidelines should still hold everything intact.

 

Other Brand Elements

This is by far the most diverse and difficult section of brand guidelines, but it’s all the other elements that make up your brand’s identity. Not the logo or colours, but instead any and all other assets or themes that should be used consistently. Some examples of what is typically considered under this section are as follows

  • Patterns
  • Layouts
  • Iconography
  • Mascots 
  • Specific Shapes
  • Specific Words

Patterns brand guidelines

 

Photography

This isn’t always included but when it is, it will typically include a lot of stylistic decisions such as

  • Framing of subjects
  • The actual content of the photo
  • The colours / atmosphere
  • The lightning

 

Examples and Applications

This is where everything should come together, with examples of how all the elements work collectively to radiate a certain feeling. A good mixture of contexts and applications is always useful and serves as inspiration for anyone outside the brand doing work on it.

 

Contact and Support

It’s always nice to include how to contact the right people in case there are any concerns. Make it as easy as possible and you could reduce the number of issues down the line.

 

When should you create Brand Guidelines?

You should get brand guidelines made as soon you have a good idea about what you want your brand to feel like. This might be very early in a business’s life, or after a few years once you’ve really settled on a niche. 

The important thing to remember is that brand guidelines shouldn’t be treated as a static document. Yes, good identities and guidelines should stand the test of time, but ultimately if the business, product, or audience is evolving – the guidelines should too.

In the long run, having brand guidelines will drastically save any “this looks out of place” scenarios or revision #27 on creative works because they’re just not hitting the mark. They also work as a good point of reflection, encouraging you to really think about what you want your business to be perceived as, enabling you to set up all the strategies and tactics that will make that image reality.

 

Interested in knowing more?

You can see our most recent branding case study here or download this handy checklist.
Any more questions? Feel free to get in touch via our Contact page with any specific questions you may have on your branding.