The  Evolution of Branding & Brand Style Guides

Every brand, from small start ups to well established companies like Nike, need a set of branding guidelines and rules to maintain consistency and convey a memorable brand identity. This document, which can range in size depending on the design agency, is the backbone of any solid marketing campaign. Although every design agency approaches this aspect of marketing a bit differently the underlying purpose is essentially the same; to deliver a professional and consistent identity across marketing mediums.

We work with dozens of clients who have an excellent product or service and even a decent logo design but lack a style guide for their marketing. In many cases, we receive an outdated brand style guideline PDF to review which makes digital application an afterthought with maybe 5% of the package dedicated to digital implementation. A brand style guide should address application across mediums this includes print collateral, signage, vehicle graphics, and especially digital application.

It seems preposterous that in this day and age the digital environment is still considered secondary to above-the-line communication when it comes to the planning process for brand visual representation. The increase of smartphones, tablets, and the household computer have made digital communication the strongest form of communication for businesses and their brands. We believe developing a brand style guide for digital communication should be at the forefront of any marketing campaign. Digital channels are already at the heart of most brand communication nowadays, especially with small start-ups. Providing guidance on how a brand should be implemented across this new frontier is essential in order to stay ahead of the curve. There is a marketing shift in communication and brands that are aware and take note will undoubtedly have an advantage over those that don’t.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Reasons Why A Brand Style Guide Is Necessary

  1. Professionalism – There is nothing that conveys an air of professionalism more so than a consistent visual identity that not only makes a brand unique but continually reaffirms the identity with both subtle and obvious design techniques. This can be something as obvious as placing your logo in the right places or using more subtle techniques like consistently using a specific color or illustration that reinforces your brand.
  2. Memorability – In a time when hashtags, posts, and check-ins rule the world you want a brand design that breaks through all the clutter and makes a memorable impression. Well developed styling allows your brand to find a place in people mind without feeling like it’s an advertisement – you want your brand to have charisma and good design does this.
  3. Credibility – When people decide to purchase a product or use a service they are basing that decision on trust – they trust your company and what you do. Well developed packaging or graphic design allows your brand to deliver the message that you care about the little details; that you take what you do seriously. People want to feel like they are getting value when they purchase a product or service and your marketing is one of the best ways to tell your potential clients that you are the best business for the job.
  4. Increased Sales – Effective use of brand logos and design allows your business to generate a positive impact. It’s easier to sell an item for top dollar when the packaging or marketing subtly says we provide top dollar service.

Creating An Effective Brand Style Guide

  1. Create A Flexible Brand Style Guide
    Most creative agencies create elaborate overly-detailed styling guides that often stifle creativity and even cause some designers to ignore the important details. Create a Brand style guide that is straight-forward and to the point. Many of these style guides may even read like a blueprint and other design agencies to feel there is a certain level of control that leaves little room for creative applications of a brand’s elements. Brand style guides should allow designers to have a guide but still have the freedom to apply branding elements in a way that reinforces the overall brand.
  2. Include Essential Elements For Brand Styling
    Creating a brand style guide is not rocket science but it does involve a certain level of methodology. A brand style guide should include all of the basic elements necessary to carry a brand across mediums while maintaining a consistent approach that reinforces the overall brand’s image.
  3. A Brand Style Guide Should Include The Following:
      • A written summary overview of the company and it’s philosophy
      • A rationale for the work carried out and it’s various applications
      • Information about the logo and its application across mediums
      • Pertinent elements like font usage and color palette
      • The tone of voice for the company in their marketing
      • Any Illustrations that play a large role in marketing
      • Photographic Guides & Treatment
      • Collateral Application & Implementation
  4. A Brand Style Guide’s Purpose
    The overall purpose of the guide is to allow other design agencies to produce consistent common elements that work together to reinforce your brand values and embrace a successful implementation of the brand style guide. A brand style guide should offer insight to the proper implementation of branding elements but also invite the possibility of creative interpretation and innovation on the brand’s marketing.
  5. The Brand Style Guide Is A Cookbook
    It’s important to think of your brand style guide as a cookbook which provides all the recipes and ingredients necessary to create new marketing across mediums. It will provide instructions on how to use specific ingredients but also explain where too much of a specific ingredient can ruin the recipe.
  6. Keep It Simple
    The goal of a brand style guide is to help your brand develop a consistent image across mediums and essential breathe an air of professionalism in your marketing. It’s important to isolate the most important elements that make up your marketing and highlight these points in your brand style guide without going into to much detail with the smaller details because this can ultimately cause confusion.
  7. Communication Is Key
    A style guide should appropriately communicate and energize the brand. The style guide will potentially be used by clients working with in-house designers or various other design agencies in future work. The brand guide should communicate the spirit of the brand, the branding elements that make up the brand, and many of the details that are key to delivering the brand’s message.
  8. The Brand’s Tone of Voice
    It is important to also include the tone of voice for the brand; this is something that is often forgotten by many creative agencies. Showcasing how the brand delivers it’s a message to its target audience is key to helping future designers understand how to implement their marketing choices. When you think of many of the bigger more successful brands you can often associate a particular voice or tone of voice in their marketing – explaining a brands tone of voice in a brand style guide is something that will only enhance the marketing.
  9. Layouts & Implementations
    The brand style guide should also include layouts for particular elements like collateral or logo use and implementations across mediums. This allows future designers to create marketing that harmonizes with the current and past branding to deliver marketing the reinforces the brand image
  10. Master Artwork & Templates
    As a brand evolves so too does it’s marketing repository for branding materials. These materials and templates should be properly indexed and accessible for future artwork and marketing. There should be coordinated version updates, dates created, and a structural organization of all files necessary to work on further branding for an organization. This type of coordination takes time but once generated can save you a lot of money and time in terms of coordinating new projects.
  11. Typography & Font Usage
    Understanding the choice in typography, its implementation, and how to properly use it across mediums is the difference between a professional marketing campaign and an amateur one. There should be a link to download any and all important typefaces – if they are a premium typeface this may prove to be expensive for non-designers. Work with your original design agency to find the best solution and rationalize your choice of fonts to enhance your brand.
  12. Explain Design Treatment Choices and Rules
    A Brand style guide should showcase the proper use of logos and design elements as well as explain why certain effects or elements may not work well with your design. There should be some type of description that provides key information to layout and typographic/logo treatment options in your marketing.

There are many applications for a brand and it’s marketing, we understand this. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to brand style guides but every style guide should provide a roster of design agencies the tools they need to build on a brand successfully without hampering its marketing development. If you have suggestions, comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to email us at [email protected].

We are 960 DESIGN and we help businesses carry their brand into the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]