color swatches brand style guide

I say the word Starbucks and what color comes to mind? I say FedEx, can you see their logo in your mind’s eye? I ask you for Nike’s tagline and I know you’ll be able to say it with ease. These are recognizable brands and they don’t get that way on accident. Each of these very successful internationally known businesses has a brand style guide and you need to one too.

What is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide is a handbook for everything you create on behalf of the brand to ensure consistent brand identity. It includes grammar, tone, logo usage, visual style, point of view, and more. woman in hat with fold out book over her faceWhether you’re creating a business card, a website, a social media post, an ad campaign or trade show booth, your style guide helps your team remain consistent.

Learn more about Content Creation.

Why is it Important?

A 2005 study by global brand consultants Wolff Olins found that “brand-guided companies surveyed achieve a return on equity of 19% against 8% for remaining players.” What that means is those with consistent branding outperform their competitors. Their survey showed that those companies had “profitability margins nearly twice the industry standard.”

Displaying brand uniformity is important so that your customers and audience can form a personal connection and history with your brand. They need to recognize us amongst the competition and know what the brand stands for. We want them to know us from a color, a logo, or a tagline with ease. Again, this doesn’t happen by accident. The brand style guide is the essential tool to ensure a consistent and unified brand especially when working with outside vendors such as marketing agencies and freelancers.

Bottom line is it’s important to your bottom line.

Great Examples: Starbucks, Glossier & Later

What to Include

  • Keep it short, around 4-5 pages. Any more is too much.
  • Use a Table of Contents so users can jump to what they need quickly

Brand Style GuideVisual Section

  • Logo – how to use and not use, sizes and all the acceptable variations
  • Colors – primary colors and accents, color codes RGB, hex, CMYK and Pantone
  • Typography – brand fonts, sizing, and how to use them
  • Design Elements – illustration styles and other elements representing your brand
  • Photography & Video – style, what to include or not include, where to source whether it’s stock or professional

Writing Section

  • Who You Are – mission statement, values, and an “about us” to keep it front and center
  • Style – Do you use AP Style? Oxford commas? No emojis? Here’s where to spell out how you communicate.
  • Voice and Tone – words and phrases that are in and out of your brand’s vocabulary, emotional tone (friendly, fun, professional, quirky)
  • Messaging – specific messages, taglines, campaigns, etc. that are important

How Can You Build Your Own?

There are graphic design tools with easy-to-use templates such as Canva or you can use more advanced programs like Creative Cloud by Adobe (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator). Dissect what well-branded organizations are using such as their fonts (5 tools to identify a font) or colors to give yourself specific elements to work with.

Unless you’re a graphic designer or marketer, your lack of professional training will become obvious quickly. Sometimes we have to admit that we don’t really know what we’re doing. If you’re worried you might be bad at this, show your completed DIY brand guide to others you respect in the business world to get their feedback.

And maybe you’re terrible at this. That’s okay, you’re not supposed to be able to do everything well! This is when I’d recommend hiring a professional marketing or branding firm. They can take your preexisting assets (your logo, the colors and fonts you use, etc.) and do a deeper dive to develop a branding solution for you that is more robust and will make you feel like a million bucks. You get what you pay for so be honest with yourself about your budget and use the solution that’s right for your organization.

When you’re a startup or sole proprietorship and have a limited budget, a DIY approach to branding will work at the beginning. If you’re looking for funding or have a high-price point, get professional branding from day 1. As each organization grows there will come a time that you need to invest in a polished brand so just know that DIYing it only works for a limited time. Stepping up your game means getting expert assistance.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Creating your brand style guide ensures you have all the information you and your team members need to look your very best out in the wide competitive world. Show us your unique style!

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