Updated: May 17
If you’re running a business or building a brand, you’ve probably heard mention of a brand style guide or brand book. No matter what you call it, it may just be the most important element of your brand deliverables. Your brand style guide is invaluable to ensuring your brand is consciously delivering a cohesive brand experience.
So what really IS a brand style guide and why is it so important?
WHAT IS A BRAND STYLE GUIDE?
Just like you receive a manual with any new product you buy, the style guide for a brand is essentially your brand manual. It is customized for your unique brand assets and outlines everything you need to know to uphold your brand’s identity in the way it was designed to exist.
When you receive your brand deliverables, which generally include a series of different logos and brandmarks, you’ll also receive a curated colour palette and font family that will be used exclusively for your brand.
That’s all fine and dandy, but how will you know how to use them?
Along with your deliverables you’ll be sent a brand style guide PDF which outlines all of your branding guidelines.
WHAT DO YOUR BRANDING GUIDELINES COVER?
Every branding studio will have their own take on a style guide for brands. Let’s cover some of the basic branding guidelines you can expect.
Your brand assets are versatile, we call this a brand design system. Each logo you have has its own role to play, which is why it’s important that you—and any other person working within your brand—are familiar with the rules.
For instance, you’ll have a designated primary logo. This will be your flagship design and will be used most often in your brand identity.
You’ll also have supporting logo designs that are of different orientations or simplified in design. These support your brand when the primary logo isn’t ideal.
The goal is always to have your brand appear its best, but with some logo placements requiring wide dimensions and others needing round dimensions, you need supporting logos to ensure your brand is always prominent.
Inside your brand style guide book, you’ll have all of the rules and guidelines for each logo, including how to use them over imagery, over different colours, and how they may pair alongside other brands or subbrands.
Brand Colour Guidelines
All of your brand colours have corresponding colour codes. Inside your brand style guide PDF, all of the colours that have been assigned to your brand will be there along with their colour codes for web (HEX codes), CMYK (for print) and RGB (for screens).
Just like with your different logos, there are rules to accompany your brand colour palette. Your brand guidelines will outline the roles of your primary palette and supporting palette and the unique rules surrounding each one.
Different examples here can be:
which colours the logos can appear in and how
rules for transparencies
overall colour hierarchy
Your brand will have a collection of fonts that have been carefully selected to reflect the tone of your brand and appeal to your target audience. Typefaces are also selected deliberately for the way they function. For instance, legibility in print versus on a screen is very different and your brand needs to ensure your user experience is carefully considered.
As such, each font will have its own specific role to play. The typography guidelines will cover which typefaces to use on your website, printed documents and digital graphics.
WHY IS A BRAND STYLE GUIDE IMPORTANT?
When you hire a brand designer to develop your brand, there’s a lot of thought that goes into each component. There’s a strategy and intention behind all of the visual elements that are designed to resonate and attract your ideal customers.
Striving for brand consistency contributes to growing your brand awareness. When you show up consistently through your brand identity, you establish familiarity among your followers.
And people crave familiarity.
It evokes a feeling of comfort and dependability. So when you follow your brand style guide to deliver this consistent brand experience, it actually creates a positive response in your followers, one that will hopefully lead to sales down the line.
Remember, branding is an experience. Each time someone interacts with your brand—whether it’s online, in store or in a magazine—if the elements are consistent, their brand experience will be stronger for it.
Your style guide is for you and anyone else who will be working on your brand. Send the brand style guide PDF to designers, web developers, employees, project managers to ensure all of your creative is cohesive.
This consistency will prove to your audience that you take your business seriously. It shows the value you put in to every detail and you will have a stronger brand and business for it.
TIPS FOR USING YOUR BRAND STYLE GUIDE
Beyond ensuring your brand is always cohesive, it also streamlines your approach to branding. With a select number of colours and fonts to use, all with their own roles, you won’t be wasting time searching for the right colour or the right font because you already have everything laid out for you. It makes existing as a brand far more efficient.
Here are a few brand and style guide tips to get you going.
Print Out a One Page Brand Style Guide Cheat Sheet
At the back of my client style guides, I include a reference sheet page. In this brand style guide mockup you can see that it gives them a snapshot of the colour codes and typography rules, which is ultimately what they’ll use most often. Have these on hand, posted next to your laptop so following your guidelines isn’t a chore.
Keep a Note of Your Brand Styles
Create a note on your computer and phone with all of your brand colour codes and font roles. This makes it super easy to copy and paste colour codes into apps like Canva or CRMs. It also ensures your font styles follow a consistent look in each of your email campaigns or other creative assets.
Set Up Templates
Save oodles of time by creating templates. Whether it’s email templates in MailChimp or social post templates in Canva, having them set up with your brand colours and styles makes outputting content SO MUCH EASIER.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BRAND GUIDE VS STYLE GUIDE?
Before we wrap up, I think it’s important to tackle this final popular question: what’s the difference between a brand guide vs a style guide?
Your brand style guide, as we’ve been discussing, focuses primarily on your brand’s style and how to present your brand to the world visually.
A brand guide focuses on the brand strategy of a business. This covers more specific elements within your business that keeps it on track. For instance, your brand guide may include things like:
And these are just some of the components that would be featured in a brand strategy guide. Having a clear foundation for your brand and business allows you to refine your approach in business and better target your ideal clients to grow your business.
Want to learn more? Find out if a brand strategy is right for you!
My final piece of advice to new businesses is to strive for consistency in your visual identity. It not only makes your day-to-day easier, but it leads to a more profitable business. Your brand style guide is not just a PDF that accompanies your brand assets, it has SO much value. Get familiar with your style guide and the rest will become natural in a short amount of time.