So you’ve just landed a new client and a new branding project, sweet! You feel confident about the process of designing the logo, but you’re not sure how to wrap everything up or what the next steps are to take. But what is a brand guide? And why is it so important? Think of the colours red and yellow next to each other, what pops into mind? Did you think Mcdonalds? Me too. Why do we think that? Because of effective brand and marketing strategies.
A key part of the strategy is creating a brand guideline for the client’s business (A.K.A brand book, or brand bible) that brings together several key elements into a well-considered document that will inspire and instruct on how to keep the brand design and message consistent – and therefore more effective. It will be used to create a relationship between the brand and the rest of the world – without it, the brand could quickly dissolve into a mess of confusion. The guide may be used by employees of the business, marketing agencies, or perhaps other designers in the future, meaning that the guides are absolutely crucial for consistency when passed through so many hands.
Feeling the pressure yet? Do not fear! We have put together this digestible resource just for you of the best practices in creating a brand guide, and we’ve even thrown in some of our favourite brand guide inspiration and templates for you.
The Essentials of a brand guide: What should you include?
About the Brand
A good place to start is by outlining the tone of voice and brand story of the business/client. You’ll learn this by getting to know them throughout the branding process; don’t be afraid to dig deep and ask questions. You need to get inside the mind of your client and understand their vision for the business. Bare in mind you aren’t expected to suddenly become a copywriter overnight either, so work with your client and any marketers or copywriters on the project to get well-crafted content to include in the brand guide.
Elements to consider: company mission, vision, ethos, tone of voice, goals, statement, values, target audience and/or personality of the brand. How you present the information may be with text, imagery or perhaps infographics, but try to keep it concise and clear – everything must be digestible with a well-defined message.
An obvious one! Time to show off the logo in all it’s glory – and I do mean all of it. It’s best to cover all possibilities of how the logo should be used. You’ll want to outline things like; how much padding is required around the logo, if it has a primary and a secondary lockup, general do’s and don’ts etc. You are using this space to tell the world how to use the logo consistently and correctly – don’t be afraid to explain rules you think are obvious, because they might not be to someone else!
Typography & Colour
Display all fonts and colours used, including supporting and secondary ones. For typography, you can inform not just on how to use the fonts, but where someone may find them if in need to repurchase or download. For colour, you will want to clearly display RGB, CMYK and HEX codes to ensure the colours are consistent, be informative over which colours are primary and secondary.
It is important to explain how to select imagery for the brand. Guide the user into being able to select the correct image style and tone of voice. It may be that the brand is an underground streetwear company whose photography style is black and white, candid images taken with an analogue camera. Perhaps the brand is in technology and wants to portray an inspiring yet corporate tone of voice with a ‘stock image’ style: white-teeth, smiling, young professionals at work. Show examples of do’s and perhaps even don’ts and any other relevant information such as image effects, photographers or where to source imagery.
We’ve found a useful read for creating a photography guide
Show the brand being used ‘in situ’, perhaps a website mockup or brochure. Is the logo expected to sit alongside other brands or graphics regularly? If so, you may also want to include how that might look and even include spacing guidelines here too.
Icons and Misc Items
Does the brand have an icon pack? Or perhaps a set of supporting graphics? Now is the time to bring it all together and create a set of guidelines on how to use these items. If they are custom or purchased, include an instruction on how to acquire more.
For those of you who are against the clock and need a quick solution or are perhaps just in need of some further inspiration, we‘ve put together a short list of suggestions to get you off on the right track…
Jess Caddick is passionate designer and design director currently working for Rally in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jess has a broad and varied design style and when she isn't busy keeping her clients happy she also judges for the FWA.