If you’ve ever looked into working with a brand designer or branding agency, you may have come across the term brand guidelines aka a brand guide. A brand guide can be an invaluable tool for you as a business or owner (or for your marketing team) to help you create consistent marketing materials.
If you’ve ever taken a look at your social media graphics or branded marketing materials and thought they weren’t quite up to par (whether you created them yourself or had someone else do it) you could probably benefit from having a set of brand guidelines.
What are brand guidelines?
Brand guidelines (or a brand guide) is a reference document that describes the different elements of your brand and how to use them consistently and effectively.
Typically brand guidelines are either created by a brand or marketing strategist that is helping your business with its branding. A brand guide can also be created by an in-house marketing team you may have, or you can also create your own.
While brand guides are especially helpful for corporate businesses or large teams, any business owner can benefit from having one. Even if you are a solopreneur or one-woman business, brand guidelines can come in handy when you are working with contractors such as graphic designers, content creators, ad specialists, SEO partners or social media managers. With a well-developed brand guide, anyone who works on your business’ brand will have clear instructions on what to do AND what not to do.
What’s included in a brand guide?
The content that a brand guide covers can vary widely depending who created it and their intent. While there is no definitive scope of what a brand guide must include, typically you will see it include content that covers brand messaging and/or brand visuals. Here are some key components outlined in those categories that are commonly included:
- Audience research – demographic and qualitative information about your audience
- Unique value proposition – unique defining traits that differentiate your business from others
- Mission statement – why your organization exists and what its overall goal is
- Vision statement – what you aspire to achieve with your business in the future
- Content pillars – key brand topics you can use to direct your marketing and messaging
- Logo construction and usage – characteristics of your logo design and how to use it effectively
- Brand color palette – a variety of colors with HEX, RGB, and CMYK color values
- Typography selection & font styles – fonts and styles to use for different hierarchies of information
- Photography art direction – style and composition of photographic imagery
- Design templates & mockups – depictions of collateral such as business cards, packaging, signage, letterhead etc.
You brand guide may also come with additional files packaged with it such as logos, branded collateral templates or inspirational designs that can help guide someone who is working on your brand.
How to create a brand guide
Make your own brand guidelines
As mentioned, you can create your own brand guidelines document, even if you aren’t a designer or working with an agency.
1. First, I would suggest identifying the intent of your brand guide. What you want to get out of using it? If you are using it internally, just to keep yourself on track with your brand communications, your brand guide doesn’t have to be extra fancy or incredibly robust – it just needs to get the job done. If you are using it to pass on to other partners you might work with in your business, you might need to invest a little more thought and organization in putting it together.
2. Next, create an outline of everything you want your brand guide to cover. As mentioned earlier, your brand guide isn’t required to record usage of every branded element under the sun. Most brand guidelines are documents that evolve as a company grows and matures.
3. Lastly, you need to lay out your brand guidelines. You can use a free online tool like Canva or Google Slides to help you layout the content for you guide or if you want to get a little more sophisticated, you can use professional design software such as Adobe Indesign or an online tool such as Bynder. If you’re creating your brand guide manually, you can get creative by trying to emulate your brand personality through the layout of your document or use a more straight-forward approach to simply document the suggestions and recommendations you have for anyone working on your brand by using a brand guide template or online tool.
Outsource your brand guidelines
You can also choose to hire out the creation of your brand guide to a designer or agency, although usually brand guidelines are not an a la carte offering. Most agencies will include brand guide creation as a part of a larger scope branding project that also involves logo design, brand color palette development, and design or conceptual development of other branded materials. This allows for them to provide strategic recommendations for your brand and ensure that everything from the fonts you use to how you display your logo is cohesive and well-thought out. Research branding partners to find the best fit for what your business needs.
How to use a brand guide
You can use your brand guide to help you create consistent messaging and marketing materials for your business. As you are creating designs or writing content, use the various sections of your guide to direct your work. Follow the examples or instruction inside your brand guide to the best of your ability to get the most from it.
Here are just a few examples of ways that your brand guide can help you in your business:
…if you are developing an ad campaign, and want to make sure your ad copy is on-brand
…if you need recommendations on how to lay out your social media graphics
…if you want to avoid incorrect usage of your logo for various sizes and formats
…if you are hiring a SEO strategist and they need to understand insights about your target audience
…if you need guidance on how to use appropriate font sizes and proportions
The use cases don’t end there – there is so much insight you can glean from having a well-developed set of brand guidelines, but these are just a few examples.
More Examples of Brand Guidelines
Want some more sneak peeks of brand guide excerpts from some famous internet and tech brands? Take a look below or visit Branding Style Guides to get access and download these and hundreds of other brand guides from brands around the world. Please keep in mind all rights for the documents shown are owned by the brand owners.
What do you think? Are you inspired by these brand guidelines examples and ready to get a set of your own with a gorgeous brand to match? Reach out the K Design Co. today.
I help female entrepreneurs and business owners create brands that command the spotlight. I love working with women to help them create beautiful, one-of-a-kind brands that give them the confidence to take their business to the next level and get them seriously noticed. I’ve worked with coaches, authors, influencers… you name it, and I bet I can help you too.