Brand Style Guide: Why your business needs one
Part of building a strong brand identity is making certain that it stays consistent in look and feel across all media - both online and offline. The best way to do that is by creating a brand style guide. Once you’ve taken the time to put this document together, you will find it to be incredibly useful, time and time again.
In this article, I’ll go over what a style guide is, why your business needs one, and how to create a simple visual brand style guide. If you’re ready to dive right in, I’ve prepared a Google Doc template that you can use to create a simple brand style guide of your own. Get the free style guide template here.
01 // What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is a document that references all the visual elements which make up the look and feel of your brand. It should define and offer examples of those elements and include any other pertinent info.
More thorough style guides would likely feature the brand mission, values, personality, vision, voice and tone, and even target audience. For this article, however, we will focus on creating a simple brand style guide to help keep your visual brand identity organized and easily accessible at all times.
02 // Why do I need a brand style guide for my business?
When you hand a business card to a new contact, chances are they’ll visit your website. When they do, that user should, almost instantly, know they are in the right place. Why? Because they’ve most likely seen your logo, primary colors, and typography on the business card. They should see those elements again on your website and any other place they come in contact with your brand. If your brand elements are used well, it will help foster familiarity and build trust. If not, it can create confusion and undermine all the hard work you put into building your business.
This is where a style guide becomes incredibly helpful and even critical. Anyone who creates assets for your brand should know how to properly use your visual brand elements across all media. Preparing a brand style guide for your business gives you a document that you can personally refer to and share with your team. By providing clear and solid guidelines to follow, you ensure the integrity of your brand throughout any collateral that is created–no matter who produces it.
03 // How do I create a simple brand style guide?
A simple brand style guide should include the basic information you’ll need to use and apply your brand assets effectively and consistently. Create a document and include the following:
Make sure to add your primary logo, secondary logo, and any other approved variation.
Add swatches of your brand colors and make note of the hex code and RGB values for digital use, and CMYK and Pantone colors for print use.
Define the font families that should be used for your headlines, subheads, and body copy.
Whether it’s icons, photography, or patterns, be sure to add examples of each to your style guide.
You should consider adding links or noting where these assets are kept. In my own style guide, I provide links directly to the assets on my Google Drive or note where I can find them on my hard drive. This removes the step of having to go searching all over the place for the assets that I need.
04 // Put it all together
Now it’s time to gather all of your assets (e.g. images of your logo or custom graphics) and note down the information (e.g. hex codes, links, etc) that you’ll need to create your brand style guide. Open up a fresh doc and add all of the items listed in the previous section. I personally like to keep everything in a simple and straighfoward Google doc so that I can access it from anywhere and share it with anyone. Here’s an example of what my own simple Google doc brand style guide looks like:
To help you get started, I’ve created a free Google docs template just like the one I used for my own style guide. Feel free to use it to create your own simple brand style guide. Get the free style guide template here.
Don't have a Google docs account? No worries. You can download the template as a .PDF or .doc for use with your own word processor. Just go to FILE > "Download as" > and select your choice.
For Google doc users: The doc is in "View only" mode. To edit it just make a copy and add it to your Google drive.
Video Tutorial: If you'd like extra assistance, view the video tutorial below where I walk you through how to edit and update the brand style guide template in Google docs.
05 // Conclusion
Once you’ve prepared a simple brand style guide, you’ll have a document that will help you, and your team, create assets and collateral that are cohesive and on always on brand.
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