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.
Brand guidelines and why you need them
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.