Your brand is the one thing that will follow you through every part of you business. It is included on everything from internal documents to business cards to marketing efforts. As your company grows, you may start sponsoring events and then your brand is in programs and on booths. So how do you make sure your potential customers and partners are seeing a cohesive representation of your business?
That is where brand guidelines come in. Brand guidelines are the standards you have in place for what the different components of your brand are and when and how they should be used. They make it easier for everyone to stay consistent when representing the brand so you have a cohesive presence across all of your channels and assets. This consistency in turn will help to build both recognition and credibility.
Brand guidelines vary from company to company, but they should always cover the basics such as logo, fonts and colors as well as how they are used together and examples of what is and isn’t OK. For instance, you may have several versions of your logo for light and dark background, and you may want to make sure certain colors are used for one and not the other. You may love your logo’s font, but know it’s hard to read in a paragraph. Your brand guidelines would state that you can only use it for headers. By spelling out these rules in a single document, you can now send that to your developer, designer, or other content creators and know they will visually present your brand correctly.
As your company grows and you start hiring more people, you may find that you need to add more detail to your guidelines. This is normal. The more people working with and on a brand, the more you need to control for personal taste creeping in. This may include sharing your company’s vision and mission in the guidelines as well the voice that should be used when writing text.
There is no one right way to create brand guidelines. A lot of companies opt for creating them in something shareable, but not easily editable like a PDF or a page on their website. The important part is making sure they are accessible by those that need them and clearly laid out. Slack offers a great example of brand guidelines that are easy to follow, but comprehensive in what they cover.
Logo and Usage
Your logo is one of the most important parts of your brand. It is often the first piece of branding a company creates. Every company has different ideas of how their logo should and shouldn’t be used. In your brand guidelines, you should include your full logo, how you would like it represented on light and dark backgrounds, and what pieces are vital. Helpscout does a great job of laying out their logo usage with simple rules for how it should and shouldn’t be used.
Like this example from Asana’s brand kit, it can also be helpful to show examples of logo misuse such as sizing, color changes, or cropping.
Colors are typically broken down into two sections, primary and secondary colors. Your primary color palette should include the colors used in your logo while the secondary pallet should be colors that compliment the primary palette and can be used for backgrounds, text, headlines, etc. This should include the colors’ hex code for web, CMYK code for print, and Pantone if you have it. You can see a great example of this in the American Red Cross’ brand poster.
Font choices can go a long way in conveying the tone of your brand and should also always be included in your brand guidelines. We suggest including the font names, when each font should be used, what case should be used with the font, and the weight and sizes that should be used. Jegs does a great job of laying out how they want fonts to be used on their assets.
Optional but Helpful
While logo, colors, and fonts are a must have for brand guidelines, there are a few other things you can add to make it easier to use your guidelines. Helpscout’s full style guide is a great example of a comprehensive that includes all of the items in this section.
Company Values, Mission & Vision
By providing partners and employees with a summary of what your company does and why can be helpful when making design choices.
Imagery and Photography
If you know what you like when it comes to photography or illustrations, including some examples of what is and isn’t OK to use in your assets, can be very helpful to the designers you are working with.
Industry Specific Use Cases
If your business has car wraps, specific packaging, or other assets that don’t change a lot, it can be helpful to include those in the brand guidelines. That way, if you need to create something similar, it’s easy to make it match what you already have and like.
You want to make sure the content of your communications all stay on brand as well. Should your brand be friendly and relaxed or impersonal and formal? Include some examples of how you would like your messaging to sound.
As you can see from the examples in this article, there is no wrong way to do you brand guidelines. They will evolve over time to cover what your company needs, so don’t worry about getting them perfect from the start. If you are ready to get started on your brand or need help getting your guidelines set up, head over to our branding tools section. We offer suggestions and reviews for the tools we love best.