Brand guidelines & why you NEED them

Brand guide­lines serve as a pow­er­ful tool for your busi­ness to help you estab­lish brand con­ti­nu­ity. They help you estab­lish your voice, per­son­al­i­ty and visu­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion struc­ture. You sim­ply can’t main­tain a brand with con­sis­ten­cy with­out these. It’s like walk­ing in a dark cave with­out a flash­light!

Peo­ple buy because they feel con­nect­ed to WHY you do things, even more than price, sales, or mar­ket­ing tac­tics. So brand guide­lines aren’t just an out­line you throw together—they have a strat­e­gy behind them: every com­po­nent should support/communicate your “WHY you do what you do”.

Icon­ic brands like Apple, Tar­get, Coca Cola, Pep­si and Nike, to name a few, have devel­oped strict guide­lines that helped them achieve a rec­og­niz­able brand. They have imple­ment­ed a clear vision with their brand’s con­ti­nu­ity — visu­al iden­ti­ty, dig­i­tal pres­ence and mar­ket­ing con­sis­ten­cy — and how each com­po­nent rep­re­sents their WHY.

Your brand guide­lines serve as road map to achieve and main­tain con­sis­ten­cy as your com­pa­ny grows. Now sure what to include? Below are 5 of the most impor­tant ele­ments you need. To help you visu­al­ize, we’ve includ­ed exam­ples from the brand guide­lines Nicte cre­at­ed for Dogs on Deploy­ment.

5 important elements to brand guidelines

1. Brand archetype:

What is your brand’s per­son­al­i­ty? How will your brand show up in the world?

This needs to be reflect­ed across all your branding—from visu­al to ver­bal.

2. Brand voice:

The tone and choice of words to con­vey your cho­sen image. Some are fun, some hip, patri­ot­ic — what voice are you using?
Are there com­mon phrases/words you need to use?

Know­ing what your brand voice is will help you main­tain con­sis­ten­cy and stay true to who you are. It’s far eas­i­er to be your­self than to read prompts or sound like a robot.

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Dogs on Deploy­ment brand guide­lines exam­ple. (Devel­oped by Nicte Cre­ative Design).

3. Brandmark (Logo) guidelines:

How small can you make the logo before it presents leg­i­bil­i­ty issues?
How much sur­round­ing space from the logo to con­tent do you need?
What back­grounds or col­or over­lays cre­ate eye­strain with your logo?
What are the approved col­ors you can use on your logo?

These ques­tions are essen­tial to main­tain­ing con­sis­ten­cy for your brand. Not know­ing the opti­mal size for your logo can be detrimental—especially if you have peo­ple in your team man­ag­ing your brand. Social media posts are one of the most com­mon areas where you can see lack of con­sis­ten­cy. A brandmark/logo may be placed in dif­fer­ent sizes, areas, and even use a bunch of dif­fer­ent col­ors. This actu­al­ly harms your brand and the abil­i­ty to forge brand recog­ni­tion. So make sure you define the lim­i­ta­tions for these ele­ments.

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Dogs on Deploy­ment brand guide­lines exam­ple. (Devel­oped by Nicte Cre­ative Design).

4. Color and typography:

What spe­cif­ic type­face, or font are you only allowed to use?
What, if any, are the font vari­a­tions you can use, and for what types of products/projects?
What are the approved col­or val­ues (RGB, CMYK, and PMS) for your brand?

This is incred­i­bly impor­tant to under­stand. Espe­cial­ly in cre­at­ing hier­ar­chy with your con­tent. Make sure you cre­ate a struc­ture with your typog­ra­phy from head­lines to para­graph type. If you want to learn more about this, be sure to check out our Build a Brand You Love course.

DoD_NicteCreativeDesign_example3

Dogs on Deploy­ment brand guide­lines exam­ple. (Devel­oped by Nicte Cre­ative Design).

5. Approved visual elements:

What para­me­ters have you set — or do you want to set — on use of pat­terns, addi­tion­al design ele­ments, pho­tog­ra­phy and video style?
And what tem­plates must be used for par­tic­u­lar cam­paigns or dig­i­tal media?

Hav­ing set these para­me­ters will allow you to cre­ate con­sis­ten­cy, yet devel­op unique aspects to your brand. In the exam­ples below, you can see how each design remains part of the sys­tem, yet it’s unique in its own way.

Dogs on Deployment brand guidelines developed by Nicte Creative Design

Dogs on Deploy­ment brand guide­lines exam­ple. (Devel­oped by Nicte Cre­ative Design).

No mat­ter the size of your com­pa­ny, brand guide­lines are essen­tial to estab­lish­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty & recog­ni­tion. If you use a rain­bow of fonts, buck­ets of col­or or fan­cy lin­go with­out a clear inten­tion, no one will remem­ber your brand, prod­uct or ser­vice! This con­fu­sion waters down your voice, per­son­al­i­ty and visu­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Remem­ber: hav­ing an inten­tion and strat­e­gy is essen­tial for suc­cess.

Nicte Creative Design
Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design, empowers mission-driven businesses through strategic design & branding. Nicte has applied this when working with Adobe Spark and Twitter Business, LinkedIn Learning, Dogs on Deployment and Purina, Girl Scouts, The Houston Zoo and The Contemporary Arts Museum. Her excellence in communication design & marketing has been recognized by multiple national / international awards, including a coveted feature in Graphic Design USA's People to Watch.

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