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What Is a Brand Guide?
A brand guide is a document that details a company’s visual identity, along with rules and guidelines for any public-facing communication. Brand guides set forth rules for official logo usage, font type and color, typography, and tone, along with the brand’s mission statement, positioning, identity, and values. Also called a brand book, you can use a brand guide internally or in collaboration with vendors or partners to ensure the proper representation of the brand’s image across every channel and all marketing materials.
What Is the Purpose of a Brand Guide?
A brand guide serves several purposes.
- Maintains brand consistency. The most important purpose of a brand guide is to keep the brand image consistent for the public. For example, the brand guide can ensure that your logo is the same shape across all marketing materials and stays within your brand’s particular color palette. Brand consistency is vital for your company to build instant brand recognition and enhance brand loyalty—a dedicated consumer base that will advocate for your brand.
- Ensures brand quality. Most brand guidelines include best practices and things to avoid. For example, your brand book can ban the use of drop shadows or high-contrast colors behind the logo. These guidelines ensure that any communication your brand sends out (whether a marketing email, direct mail, or a billboard) will look polished and professional.
- Encourages deliberate decisions. Constant rebranding can negatively impact a company’s ability to build and maintain a dedicated customer base. By implementing a guide, you can narrow your brand design to a particular look and feel. You’ll need to carefully consider any changes you want to make, which will encourage you to make deliberate and informed decisions whenever you redesign your brand identity.
What Is the Difference Between a Brand Guide and a Style Guide?
A brand guide is often confused with a similar document called a style guide. While both documents lay out your company’s identity guidelines, a brand guide focuses on the overall look, feel, and visual identity. In contrast, a style guide focuses on writing and editing copy. Additionally, many people refer to a brand guide as a “brand style guide,” but a brand guide is a more global and design-focused document than the more granular and copy-based style guide.
What to Include in a Brand Guide
If you want to create a brand guide for your organization, here is a list of the most common components:
- Mission and values: Most organizations include their mission and core values as part of their brand guides. Including this statement introduces new readers to the brand story and helps reflect your mission in the design choices outlined in the guide.
- Logos: You’ll need to include your company logo in the brand guide, but it’s unnecessary to include every iteration of it. Most companies have a few different logo variations, depending on the situation. For instance, a large and detailed logo for bigger treatments (think billboards or full-spread ads), a smaller logo for small treatments (smaller ads or documents), and a tiny logo for special situations (like digital apps). Include spacing and alignment requirements in your brand guide. In addition to your brand assets, including a few best practices for your logo treatment can help designers understand how to make all of your brand’s communications readable and professional.
- Color palette: Every brand should have a small set of brand colors that they use when developing a visual treatment. Ideally, when including the color scheme in your brand book, list the hex codes, RGB numbers, CMYK details, or Pantone names to ensure they’re easy to find. It’s also a good idea to break the colors up into specific palettes. For instance, the brand guide can dictate the use of primary colors across all materials and secondary colors as accents.
- Typefaces: Many brand guides will include a list of font styles and families that the brand uses, including helpful style guidelines, like the ideal sizing and spacing. Laying out your typography removes the guesswork for designers, ensuring that all of your communications will look consistent and clean.
- Iconography: Does your company use specific doodles that match the brand’s tone, or are there particular types of photography that you prefer? Include a section in your brand guidelines on imagery—what to use and what to avoid—to ensure that all of the images your graphic designers use feel consistent and on-brand.
- Tone: When making your brand guide, include the tone of your organization’s visual identity and copy. For visual tone, ensure the design of the brand guide matches the visual tone for your company. If you’re a whimsical e-commerce company, design the brand guide with visuals that match your identity. For brand voice, define your ideal messaging tone of voice in a few words (Is your brand friendly? Scientific? Humorous?). Include examples of communications that you think perfectly match your desired tone.
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