What are brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines are a set of rules that tell you how to use your brand elements. The rules describe how different elements work together to tell your brand story. More importantly, they ensure the writers, designers, and anyone else working on your marketing materials maintain a consistent brand identity.
Think of your brand guidelines as a sandbox. Within that sandbox, you can build anything you want. Roads. Tunnels. Castles. There’s plenty of room for creativity. But once you step outside that box, your creations start to fall apart.
Why do you need brand guidelines?
Create Consistency. If you want your brand to create value for your company, consistency is essential. This is especially important for larger teams or companies with locations across the globe. Brand guidelines can help you control how other people use your brand. They’re a single reference that establishes rules and provides practical examples of how to use the brand elements so your visual identity is consistent – no matter who produces your collateral.
Provide a Framework. Set rules don’t have to discourage creativity. In fact, having some constraints for a project can provide a solid framework for your creative team. When you have an open-ended creative brief, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The brand guidelines can give you a starting point for both the design and content, which can then be adapted to fit the project at hand.
Avoid Confusion. Well-written brand guidelines leave little room for confusion. This documentation is designed to answer any questions the writer or designer may have. The fewer questions your creative team has, the faster they can produce the work and move on to the next project.
What should you include in your brand guidelines?
No two brands are exactly the same. For some, a quick positioning statement with rules about brand colors, logo design, and typography may be enough. But as you have more and more people producing materials that represent your brand, you may decide to dig down into the details. Here are a few of the more common elements referenced in brand guidelines:
- Positioning describes how your brand is different from the competition. It gives an overview of who you are, what you do, the benefits of your work, and which customers you target. You may include only a few short sentences. Or your positioning statement may fill a few pages. It all depends on how much you need to communicate to your employees, vendors, and other marketing professionals about your brand.
- Voice and Tone help give life to your brand. When applied consistently, these guidelines can help create a persona for your brand. Instead of every piece of content betraying the writer behind it, each article or advertisement will fit together, as though they were all written by the same person.Think about your brand voice as a sort of figurehead who represents your brand. You want to convey their personality and how they would describe things. It gives you a framework for what you might say in a given situation.Your tone, on the other hand, changes to fit the situation. You want to consider to whom you are talking, what you are talking about, and how you feel about a particular situation. While you might use a more playful tone to promote a new product on social media, you might want a serious tone for a lead generation form on your website.
- Brand Colors can help you build a strong emotional connection with customers, but only if you choose the right colors and apply them consistently. Repetition is key here. Repeating the same colors, given enough exposure, can encourage association with your brand and strengthen awareness. Typically, a brand color scheme will have between one and four colors, but there may be exceptions if you want to include multiple accent colors for product differentiation.
- Logo Design (and usage) guidelines should be a part of every company’s brand guidelines. These rules dictate the typography, color, orientation, shape, proportion, and even how your logo looks across a variety of backgrounds.
- Typography plays a large role in your company’s identity. The right font can help convey the personality of your brand – whether you want a more buttoned-up, professional image or something more approachable and fun. Typically, you want to include a primary, secondary, and web-safe default font. The style, size, weight, and color should also be specified for both print and digital applications. You can even set rules for the alignment of the text, spacing, and capitalization conventions.
- Design Elements refer to the supporting graphics that help differentiate your brand. Whether you consistently use icons, tables, callouts, or something as simple as a brush stroke, these little details can create a consistent look and feel that customers recognize.
- Imagery can express your brand values and personality, evoking emotions that may be difficult to convey through words. When writing brand guidelines, it’s important to consider the mood and tone that you want to set for your customers. You can provide sample imagery or instructions about how to select appropriate images for each channel.
Without brand guidelines, it’s difficult to keep your brand identity consistent. Over the years, we have used these documents to guide our work for clients across a number of industries. And we’ve developed them for many companies – big and small. We can help you, too.