Once you have an established visual brand identity created, whether you DIY-ed it or worked with a professional designer, it’s important to organize and put together some brand guidelines. Sometimes these are also referred to as a “brand guide” or “style guide.” It’s crucial to have established standards, so that your visual branding is always carried out consistently, cohesively and therefore, professionally. Whether someone experiences it online or offline, your identity should be familiar, recognizable, attractive and trustworthy to your audience.
Aspects of your brand standards can also be included “at a quick glance” via your brand board, which is more of a singular piece that ties together your logo, color and font palettes, any sub-logos and/or other graphic assets that can be applied throughout your print and digital materials — arranged in a simple format, from top to bottom, as something that encompasses and expresses the overall look, feel and vibes of your brand. It’s important to have this document handy as well, but a more developed “brand guide” will really expand on the special aspects and standards of your brand identity (that makes it unique) — just a bit more.
The final brand guide can be saved as a PDF, so that you can easily print it off or digitally send it to a printer, vendor, etc. who may be designing or producing something for you and will need to keep the visual aspects of your branding intact. Here are a few tips for including the right mix of tangibles in your guidelines…
Mission — state your mission or at least provide a quick paragraph/basic background about your business and what it does (remember the 5 “W’s’ — what, where, when, why and for whom!)
Values — to complement your brand’s mission, list a few of the values that it stands for (think: communication, trust, approachability, customer service, etc.) and/or use some keywords to describe it (what makes it special or different from other similar businesses or platforms.)
Logo — display the main/primary logo and any secondary logos that you might alternatively use for your brand. Explain what it represents/stands for, how it should be displayed/appear in color, black/white or in reverse white against a color background. Be sure to list any restrictions around how you want it to be used AND not used (such as: switching out colors, formatting it smaller than a certain size, leaving a certain amount of “dead space” around it, etc.)
Color Palette — display a block of each color of your palette and list out the codes for each (CMYK for printing, RGB for digital, Pantone and/or at least a Hex code, such as: #xxxxxx also for digital/website/social media purposes.) This way, the correct swatches are always used for brand consistency.
Typography — the same goes for fonts. Display at least (1) option for each of these styles: a serif, sans serif and possibly script/decorative. Again, this way, the correct fonts are always used and not a mix of different ones for different mediums and platforms. If you’re not quite sure about the differences between types of fonts, checkout this post.
Brand Assets + Graphic Treatments — take a couple of pages here to show the build-out of the rest of your brand assets, beyond just your logo and a sub-logo. Show the design of any icons, photo filters, patterns, lines, splashes, textures, gradients, etc. that you might graphically use throughout any branded materials. Also explain when/where/how to use each one, so that they are illustrated correctly and never distorted.
Photography — take some space to show the types of brand/personal and stock imagery that should be integrated within your branding and perhaps where/how to download the photos, if necessary. Photos also express your brand visually, just as a logo or any other brand asset does, so it’s important to provide some examples of what should be used.
Applications (for templates, website, social media + more) — now that you have your brand identity designed and you’ve displayed the logo, graphic assets, fonts, colors and photos, it’s important to explain and show how these visuals should be applied in real life, for printed and digital platforms. Give examples of how your identity should be translated to your website, social media, business cards, etc. Also provide some quick examples/screenshots of how your various templates and docs should look, so that again, your branding is always carried out consistently.