A brand style guide lays out how your brand should be presented to the world, thus ensuring that everyone on your team is on the same page from the get-go. Brand guidelines help you ensure that all of your design elements and touchpoints are consistent and cohesive.
It also lets you make sure that they’re uniquely representative of your brand. It can even help distinguish your brand from the competition. Just as a voice and tone guide helps keep your brand’s content on point, a brand style guide keeps your design uniform, inspired, and leading the pack.
“A great brand is the result of a ton of people working together with a shared mission,” Mailchimp Director of Brand Marketing Michael Mitchell says. “When the end user can feel that—from product to design, from comms to customer support and corporate citizenship—that unified, end-to-end experience evokes feelings that elevate one brand above another.”
The best brands use style guides to help their business run more smoothly. But that can be especially tricky if you’re working with freelancers or asynchronous teams in different locations. In that case, a brand style guide serves as a translator of sorts.
“It’s really great for making you sit down and put into words more organized thoughts on the different elements of your brand,” Joe says. “This becomes especially useful if you’re working with others to bring your brand to life as it codifies lots of nuance and detail that may have, until now, only lived inside your head.”
How to create a brand style guide
So, how do you tackle this project? Start by thinking about a few key things:
- Your brand vision: A short description of your company’s goals for the future.
- Your target audience: The consumers who are most interested in your products.
- The personality you want to convey: Be it serious, lighthearted, or somewhere in between.
- Your brand values: Mailchimp’s are creativity, humility, and independence.
“I find it’s good to start broad with the core philosophical tenets of your brand and then narrow in to the more nitty gritty elements,” Joe says. “Starting with the big ideas up front helps lay the groundwork early so that all the more technical stuff like typography and imagery principles later on make more sense as a unified system.”
Start by telling your brand story. Here’s who you are and what you do. From there, try thinking about your logo usage. How should it be used? How should it not be used?
Highlight the color and fonts you use, including all the pertinent details. Include illustration and photography if it makes sense for your brand. Be sure to also include product packaging, your website, social media, and other marketing channels, workshops, events—all the places your brand shows up.
If your business is in space, chances are you’re going to need some rules about how it’s represented in that space.
What should be included in a brand style guide?
Feeling stuck? Totally understandable. It can be daunting to figure out where to start when setting up brand guidelines. One starting point might include taking an audit of the content you produce, the product you make and sell, and the people who buy it.
Maybe you have an About page on your website or various social channels on which you frequently publish. Marketing emails are another good element to analyze.
What about your company culture makes your business special? And how do you want to convey that to those customers?
Again, this is helpful from an organizational perspective. But strengthening and codifying your brand can also make you money.