Brand guidelines are the key to cohesive brand design and messaging. Your public persona should be seamless and brand guidelines set the standard for how your company faces the world. Brand guidelines establish what your brand stands for and provides specific guidance on how to execute design elements. Let’s face it, if your favorite brand suddenly switched up their vibe it could leave you feeling disconnected and confused.
If your business doesn’t have brand guidelines, seemingly it’s missing its heart and soul. Brand guidelines are where your values, mission, and message meet design. This document is not only your rulebook but your playbook. If you aren’t sure where to start, begin by writing down your mission, your company values, your vision, getting clear on your target audience, and brand personality. Another great place to begin is by creating your ideal client avatar (this is a vital part of VIVID Collective process). Write your ideal client’s story in great detail. This starting point will give you direction no matter if you are starting from scratch or if you are working on business development for future growth.
Design elements are critical to the process as well and should be included in your brand guidelines. When guidelines are set forth from the get go, there are less questions when considering the placement of logos, fonts, and colors. While your brand guidelines will likely grow and change, having a strong foundation sets the tone for your brand’s direction.
Your mission and core values are reinforced by your brand guidelines and their application. These guidelines are especially important if you have a team executing marketing collateral of any sort.
What to include in brand guidelines:
- Color Palettes
- You may have one main color palette, but it’s not unusual to have a sub color palette as well. When creating your brand guidelines you should include CMYK codes, RGB codes, HEX codes, and color swatches. You should outline what colors are to be used for backgrounds, what colors and patterns will serve as padding behind images, and what colors to use for headings, subheadings, and body text.
- Primary Logo and Logo Variations
- Your logo will serve as one of the many ways clients become familiar with your brand. Set forth standards for how to use your logo on a dark and light background. Do you need a black and white variation of your logo? Should your logo always be placed as a PNG, or should it always be padded by a background. The placement of your logo should always be consistent. If you have a tagline, perhaps it is necessary to have a variation of your logo that includes your tagline? Where and when do you use this version? Does your logo include text and graphics, if so can they be used separately as an abbreviated version of your logo? It’s also critical to have high quality versions of your logo as low resolution versions will become pixelated when enlarged.
- Have you had professional pictures taken that cover all of the bases? If so, way to go! If you haven’t, find imagery that inspires you and begin creating around that inspiration. Think moodboard here. These images can be placed in your brand guide to inspire and lead others in the right direction.
- Building a font package includes choosing a heading font, subheading font, body text font, and accent font if you choose to use one. Include size, color, alignment and spacing requirements so that all team members are clear on how and when each font should be used.
- This is where your brand’s personality shines. Are you edgy? Cheeky? Elegant? Sophisticated? Playful? Create a list of words to use in copy as well as a collection of words that describe your company. Many times these words are interchangeable.
- Copywriting Guidelines
- Copywriting guidelines can be as in depth as you’d like. You might consider where punctuation should be used in social media content, and if your copywriters are allowed to incorporate emojis.
- Will you need a letterhead? Business cards? Brochures? Which version of your logo should be used, and how will color guidelines be applied here?
- Every brand should have don’ts. Don’ts solidify what your brand is NOT. This helps to bring it home with your customer base as well as your design and copywriting team.
Your brand guidelines should be a reference tool for you and your team. There will be no questions on how to properly design websites, email signatures, signage, promotional collateral, print items, swag, social media images, and copy.
Again, these guidelines will continuously grow and change as your business grows and transforms, but this singular point of reference is going to change the game, and of course, have your business consistently looking its best.