From the ground up: Start with a brand style guide

If you’re starting a new business (or you’re already established and looking for a freshen up) what do you do first? Signage? A brochure? A website?

While both brochures and websites are great ways to communicate to your audience, the most important thing any business can do is to first create a brand. By doing this, you define who you are. You become unique.

Once a brand is forming, the easiest way to ensure that it is consistently represented is to develop a brand style guide. No matter the size, it is a vital tool for every business. Without a brand style guide, your website and other marketing material will lack personality, consistency and longevity.

So what classifies as a brand style guide?

For smaller businesses, a brand style guide doesn’t have to be big. In fact, you may start with a single page PDF which covers the basics – logos, fonts and colours. Larger businesses often go into a lot more detail and may have several guides covering different parts of their brand such as the tone and voice used in their language, photography angles and treatments, the look of icons, buttons and forms on websites and much more.

Who uses one?

A style guide can be referred to internally by marketing departments or externally by vendors such as printers, signwriters and freelance designers. It needs to be clear enough for your receptionist to understand and comprehensive enough for a designer to follow.

The benefits 

  • They help you and your employees define your business’s brand which helps set you apart from the competition
  • They create consistency – from printers producing your business cards to developers building your website, venders are all on the same page
  • They save time (and cost) – with an established guide, employees and vendors aren’t spending time asking questions or continually beginning from scratch
  • They add an element of professionalism by giving a sense of pride in your appearance

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Elements to consider

  1. Logos

• Your primary logo
• A symbol if you have one (and its relationship to your logo)
• Any secondary logos
• Minimum sizes it can be displayed (in millimetres and pixels)
• The minimum clear space around it
• It’s placement on a page layout or on coloured backgrounds
• Any ‘do not’ rules such as rotating it 

  1. Colours

• Your primary, secondary (and tertiary) colour palettes
• Pantone, CMYK, RGB and/or Hex colour values 

  1. Fonts

• Your primary font family
• Your web font family (if different from above)
• Your fallback font family (used for emails, PowerPoint, etc)
• How they should be displayed as headings, sub-headings and body copy, for example, in upper case or in a bold weight. 

  1. Examples

It’s a good idea to add some examples of layouts which fit your brand style guide specifications. It will give users a good idea of how the elements interact with each other.

 

Before thinking about the fun stuff like a new website, it’s best practice to knuckle down and develop your brand style guide first. It will ensure that when you finally build your website, it will last the test of time. And as your brand grows and evolves, don’t forget your brand style guide should too!

A good style guide will give users the structure required whilst still giving them the freedom to be creative (and avoid brand fatigue). Need help? We’re just a phone call away!