Do the Work.
A well-planned corporate brand project begins with an in-depth research assignment that moves into a strategy phase and eventually flows directly into effective communications. During these phases, it is optimal to have all of the brand owners involved to bring out the best outcome, and carrying forward their interpretation of the same vision is critical. After these phases are completed, you should have a strong understanding of the brand you are creating or re-creating.
Push the Limits.
A brand style guide is the blueprint for your brand. In order to create this blueprint, there are mandatory steps you must take. The brand style guide is a very important tool for all of your communications, but in some instances it is necessary to push its boundaries. Staying too close will quickly bring a stale, ordinary and less than exciting result. By no means am I suggesting ignoring them – just simply treating them with a certain level of elasticity to keep things fresh and impactful. A brand strategy guide that was built off insightful research feeding into great strategic thinking will give the designer room to push and to not feel too restrained. You should always strive to push its boundaries but understand its purpose.
In a blog post titled “Developing Your Brand’s Style Guide in 7 Steps,” the Deluxe Corporation published the following list of elements to consider when beginning your next project.
- Business mission or essence. Your style guide should start with a description of the essence of the business. What is your business and what does it stand for? How does it look and feel? One way to convey this is to look for a series of keywords that help convey that essence in a clear, crisp visual way. For example, you might describe your brand as “modern, friendly and a trusted adviser.” Be sure to be honest in your style guide and explain what your business is about in clear language that’s easy to understand.
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- Logo. Your logo design is the visual heart of your company’s brand identity. It establishes everything from your color choices to the overall feel of the brand. Your style guide should include several versions of your logo in different sizes and file formats, as well as any guidelines dictating how and where the logo may be used.
- Logo limitations. Often, brand style guides have a number of restrictions on what can be done with the logo. Some aspects to think about include changing the color, stretching the logo, changing the size, using the logo with specific background colors, changing the edging or cropping the file. Be clear on which modifications are allowed, and which ones violate brand guidelines. This helps reinforce consistency in the way your logo is used and displayed publicly.
- Fonts. A brand style guide outlines which fonts and sizes are considered the company standard. Sometimes multiple options are given, and in some cases there may be a list of forbidden fonts.
- Copy/voice. For any copywriters or marketing professionals working with your brand, voice guidelines are helpful. For example, a financial institution might choose to describe its brand as “extremely formal and conservative, with data-heavy copy and an academic tone.” This would be very different from a small business that chose to describe itself as “a down-home brand that uses simple sentences, storytelling and country language to appeal to a rural lifestyle audience.”
- Colors. Brands typically have an associated color palette. These may be general, such as “our colors are green and gold,” or more specific, referring to standard RGB color numbers. In some instances, certain colors may not be used: “Our company never uses white in any of our materials, either as background, font color or imagery.”
- Images. Are there certain types of imagery that fit with your brand style? For example, you may wish to avoid stock imagery. If your business does work primarily in urban areas, you might wish to limit the use of images in rural or suburban landscapes. Provide clear guidelines to simplify selecting photos for creative materials.
When creating original imagery, you will also want to specify the mood, tones, coloration and even the types of angles that may be required to send the correct visual cues to the viewer.
Developing a brand style guide is an important step toward establishing consistency with your brand. Over time, this consistency both builds brand recognition among your target customers and enhances trust with the market. Once you’ve developed your brand guide, share the final version with all of your employees and revisit the document annually to see if any revisions or updates are required.
In order to build a quality brand book, it is crucial to develop a solid strategy and follow through with a concise set of guidelines – but always push those boundaries to create a GREAT brand!