The Elements of a Brand Style Guide
Consistency is essential when it comes to your brand's identity. When you have more than one person or department creating collateral or marketing materials for your entity, you want to ensure consistency with your brand across all mediums. A brand style guide will allow you to communicate your brand requirements clearly and consistently.
The Six Key Elements of a Brand Style Guide
There are six key components of a style guide. Each one merits careful consideration and needs to speak from the heart of your company. As a business owner, you need to have a hands-on role in developing the style guide because it should clearly define your brand's image and identity.
So, let's start where you started: with your business's story.
1: Brand Story
Every business has a beginning. What's yours? Tell the story of how your business came to be. However, there are a few different ways to tell a story.
You can be like Warby Parker, the disruptive eyewear company who tells their story by focusing on the problem they wanted to solve: expensive glasses. Or you can focus on the people who make your business possible. MouthFoods tells stories of the farmers and small business owners who make the products they distribute, establishing a rich emotional connection.
Your story should include your company's mission and vision as well. Keep it simple and easy to understand.
2: Brand Voice & Personality
Voice is all about word choice and writing style. It's a critical component of your brand's identity. You're probably not a professional writer, but that's okay!
Start with personality adjectives. Jennifer Aaker, a behavioral psychologist, and Stanford professor defined a framework in 1997 which divided the personality into five dimensions, each containing a set of facets.
These dimensions are:
Sincerity: down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful
Excitement: daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
Competence: reliable, intelligent, successful
Sophistication: upper class, charming
Ruggedness: outdoorsy, tough
These facets are further divided into a set of traits.
Down-to-earth: down-to-earth, family-oriented, small-town
Honest: honest, sincere, real
Wholesome: wholesome, original
Cheerful: cheerful, sentimental, friendly
Daring: daring, trendy, exciting
Spirited: spirited, cool, young
Imaginative: imaginative, unique
Up-to-date: up-to-date, independent, contemporary
Reliable: reliable, hardworking, secure
Intelligent: intelligent, technical, corporate
Successful: successful, leader, confident
Upper class: upper class, glamorous, good looking
Charming: charming, feminine, smooth
Outdoorsy: outdoorsy, masculine, western
Tough: tough, rugged
A brand’s personality is developed or identified by ranking these traits on a scale of one to five, with one being the least representative of the brand and five being the most. How did your brand rank? What top 5 emerged?
Fine-Tuning Your Voice
Your voice should be appealing to your target market, so take the time to study how they communicate with one another. Your voice should also fit the status level of the product or service you offer. You wouldn't expect Ritz Carlton to open up with anything but "sophisticated" and "upper class" themes in their advertisements.
Standardize and Spread
Your voice needs to be consistent throughout all of your marketing materials. Once you've nailed it, spread it to every possible medium. Just consider this example of how Alfa Romeo and Mini handle 404 errors. These occur when a web page is not found, perhaps because of an old bookmark, and most businesses wouldn't even think to add their voice here.
While Alfa uses plenty of passive voice and fancier words, the Mini page cracks a joke about the missing page having gone on an adventure. Each car company appeals to a specific market, and their voice reflects that consistently.
3: Logo and Usage
Your logo is the face of your business. It deserves its very own section because it needs to be properly presented at all times. Feature a high-quality version of your logo in your brand guideline document and describe its specifications.
Start with the dimensions of your logo and its colors. List all color options: hex#, RGB, CMYK, and HSL values. Also include Pantone equivalents if possible, as this may be required when requesting printed materials such as swag (Tshirts, pens, etc.) or brochures and flyers.
Next, think about the rules of your logo. The Nike logo, for instance, no longer has text above it or to the side. The logo always goes above any accompanying text. You can also mention how much space there should be between the logo and other elements.
4: Imagery Style
Besides your logo, your website and other marketing materials will likely contain images and photos. The brand style guide will state what kind of images fit your brand, how they can be used, and where.
This section of the guide will help designers to select images that match with your brand personality. For example, Dollar Shave Club's images tend to feature people looking goofy and unkempt, while their product images are organized and clean. You may feel that your brand is better represented by vibrant illustrations or black & white photography. It's OK to incorporate more than one imagery style as long as they are complimenting.
5: Color Palette
The colors you choose have a lot to do with the personality of your company. They evoke emotional responses and strong associations. Picture the iconic overlapping circles of Mastercard. Those colors in the logo define the colors that the company will use in many of their other materials. But those key colors are just the start of your color palette.
Your tier 1 color palette should consist of 4-5 primary brand colors. Typically these come from your logo. Your tier 2 color palette should consist of complementary colors. Define all colors according to its hex#, RGB, CMYK, and HSL values. Listing all of these forms will make it easier for designers to ensure you get the exact same color regardless of the workflow.
Why do you need a proper color palette? A well-defined palette prevents people from using your colors incorrectly and makes it easier for viewers to identify components of your brand. Your color palette will guide your logo, website, printed materials, and all branding mediums.
Font selection is a fun part of the design process. Your brand style guide needs to specify what fonts can be used and when alternate forms such as italics and bold text are allowed. Define standard sizes for each type of text. You can see a great example of this in Virgin Airlines America's style guide.
Create Your Brand Style Guide Today
If building a complete style guide is giving you trouble, then contact Spot On Creative Solutions. We can develop a comprehensive brand style guide for your new business so you can be sure your brand style, personality, and messaging remain spot on!