I present to you two companies.
Company A – you’ve created a brand, have a shiny new logo and are ready to unleash your brand on the world.
Company B – your company has been around for a long time and your branding hasn’t changed a bit in the last 30 years (except for that weird neon phase you went through in the ‘90s).
Which of these two needs a solid set of brand guidelines? Trick question! They both do.
Here at BatesMeron, we might be biased – but we think every brand could benefit from them. Brand guidelines exist to make sure your brand looks and sounds consistent across all executions, regardless of who is responsible for executing. Between establishing some rules for how to use your logo, setting a tone for messaging and showing how the brand looks in application, guidelines can have a massive impact on a brand, whether it’s two weeks old or two centuries old.
Here are a few ways to create guidelines around your brand.
You should start with a clearly defined set of rules, which will ensure that your brand’s assets will be handled properly and consistently. This will give you something to reference if you feel like rules aren’t being followed. They’re a fantastic introduction for designers that are new to the brand, but also serve as a great reminder for people who may have worked on it for years. Even if I think I know a client’s brand like the back of my hand, I still keep their guidelines handy to reference as I’m building.
There are a few must-haves to make sure the basics are covered – start by creating some rules for your logo, your brand colors and typography. From there, you can layer on some additional detail – like how NOT to use your logo (always the most fun page to build as a designer), how to incorporate photography (including any brand-specific styles that you’ve established), and even some rules on how to incorporate your brand assets into different layout formats.
I know what you’re thinking. My branding is pretty straightforward, so I don’t really need to go through the trouble of creating all these rules. Maybe you’re right! But leaving things open to interpretation could also result in someone turning your logo hot pink and using Comic Sans instead of your brand font of choice because it goes well with the cute cat photo they found for your print ad. An extreme example, yes – but you get the idea.
Many brand guidelines documents are delivered in standalone document form (translation: PDF). Still, more and more brands are transitioning to digital-first style guides that also serve as an archive for all their brand assets. So you can read up on the rules AND get the assets you need to get building, all in one handy website!
Creating this digital set of guidelines makes a ton of sense for a few reasons – it keeps everything in one place (because we’ve all reached that point on a project where you completely forget where you put your logos), it allows anyone to access any asset they need at any time (no more pulling logos from Google!), and it makes the guidelines infinitely updateable (even though BrandGuidelines_Final_V12_New_Updated.pdf has a nice ring to it).
These digital guides tend to lean a little more functional than flashy, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a great option.
There’s an opportunity within brand guideline documents to introduce non-design-related attributes of the brand to readers as well. These attributes may include company history, values and manifestos, and company culture (translation: lots of photos of that sweet ping pong table you just put in the break room). These additions, along with the necessary rules and details that we’ve already covered, can create a pretty robust summary of your brand’s look, sound and feel.
That said, these types of brand guides could also be highly designed pieces. Some brands go as far as turning their guides into printed lookbooks – which tend to be more stylized and much heavier on imagery but still have plenty of room for traditional design-specific resources. It may not be your standard-issue brand rulebook, but it could go a long way in introducing other important parts of a brand to the reader.
Whether it’s a short and sweet set of rules or a full-fledged deep dive into every corner of your brand, building brand guidelines can be an extremely beneficial exercise.
Looking to build your brand guidelines? Look no further – BatesMeron can help. Reach out to learn more!