Why a Brand Guide is Important
Establishing a memorable, unique, and relatable brand is no small feat. Standing out in today’s crowded marketplace requires research into your target markets, competitors, and a good, hard look at where your organization fits in. Unfortunately, after doing all that work, many brands fail to document and follow key guidelines regarding brand use, resulting in a diluted and discombobulated brand image.
Maintain consistency and clarity for your brand by establishing a clear, detailed, thorough brand guide. A well-written brand guide will make it easy for your employees, contractors, sales representatives, and partners to share your brand correctly. We recommend the following 5 key elements be included in every brand book:
Element #1 – Story & Voice
Be sure to clearly document your brand story and voice and make this information accessible to any employee or contractor who may represent your brand online, in person, or through print materials. If your voice is one of authority and competence, be sure to strictly limit the use of slang, avoid casual, conversational writing, and nix emojis and excessive punctuation (!!!) If your story and voice support a more casual, friendly approach, these stylistic choices may be on-point. Marketingland.com has some great examples of different voices to help you get started.
Element #2 – Primary Logo and Logo Variations
The brand guide should catalog all of the logo variations available for use and include detail which logo should be used in each application. Your designer should provide versions of your logo for different use-cases. For example, you may need a logo that works in horizontal layouts for business cards and digital banner ads, and one is narrow and tall to better suit a tall, slim print or digital ad or bottle label. If you have a tagline, is it always included in the logo, or is there a version that omits the tagline? You should also have a version that works in grayscale in addition to the full-color version(s).
Logo sizing and resolution is also very important. Social media channels have different requirements for logo sizing and resolution. To use your logo as your profile image, be sure it is formatted correctly (note – these sizes are current as of 08/2018, be sure to check the latest specifications):
- Facebook – Min. 180 x 180 pixels
- Instagram – 110 x 110 pixels
- LinkedIn – Min 200 x 200 pixels
- Twitter – 400 x 400 pixels
- Pinterest – 165 x 165 pixels
- YouTube – 800 x 800 pixels
- Tumblr – 128 x 128 pixels
- Google+ – 250 x 250 pixels
Element #3 – Fonts and Colors
Font selection can be tricky. While there are countless amazing fonts to choose from, very few will work on the web. Be sure that the font you select for your business collateral material is available for the web or works well with one of the web fonts. Your brand guide should detail the fonts, sizes, and use-cases for font formatting such as when to use italics, underlines, or bold and font weights for headlines versus body copy.
There are three types of color schemes: CMYK for full-color process printing, Pantone for spot color printing, and RGB for digital use. Your brand guide should establish the color formulas for all three types for each of your brand colors.
Element #4 – Dos and Don’ts
The brand guide should also include specific rules for logo use that are tailored to non-designers who may use the logo. Common rules include:
- Maintain proportions when resizing logo – don’t stretch or compress the logo
- Margins around logo – ensure the logo has enough padding to stand out from the rest of the content
- Gradients and colors to avoid – detail any color variations that are approved, such as lighter or darker versions of the colors and if any of the colors should not be used together
- Signatures – be sure to include a template for email signatures to ensure consistency across your organization
- Letterhead – create a letterhead template that users can access when crafting letters or memos electronically, and lock the header and footer sections to maintain control
While it’s important to establish a strict set of rules, your reader may have a short attention span, so also keep it brief. Too many rules may distract your representatives from comprehending the most important ones.
Element #5 – Imagery
Clearly specify the types of images that represent the brand and what style or content of images to avoid. Examples of approved and non-approved images should be included in the guide, along with specifications regarding use of emojis, clip art, icons, black and white photos, color photos, and more. The guide should also warn against the use of copywritten images.
Ideally, your organization should have a content library of high resolution images and graphics and vector versions of the logo (.eps, .ai) that are accessible to anyone who may be responsible for creating presentations, ads, social media posts, email campaigns or other branded communication.
Once the brand guide and templates are complete, be sure the materials are accessible to everyone who will be creating branded materials for your organization. We also recommend holding regular training sessions to keep employees updated on any changes or additions to the content library and creating a short, quick reference guide that contains brand guide highlights that employees can keep on their desk and refer-to easily.