Elements of a Style Guide
Next up in our Branding in the Details series is the Style Guide. This is essentially the recipe card for any material that you will create for your brand. It contains all the pieces and guidelines to keep you on the right track to a cohesive brand.
Now, I'm not exactly known for my recipe following skills. I frequently leave out ingredients on accident, and sometimes I'll tell my husband that I am making something and he quickly checks to make sure I am following a recipe. I don't have a gift for making things up in the kitchen, and I desperately need a recipe if we want something to be edible.
This is the same thing when it comes to creating anything for your brand. There are a million different design styles and you'll probably be tempted to try out a few, or add some extra colors, or change your font 20 times if you don't have some guidelines. So pick everything out ahead of time, and stick with your choices! It will save you time in the long run and everything will look like it belongs in one big happy family.
Here are five things to include in your branding guidelines
1. Logo and Variations
3. Color Palette
4. Patterns or Graphic Elements
You are free to include more things. Some companies have entire books with their brand standards in them. Good for them! But these five ingredients will get things looking cohesive as you begin your new brand. So let's dig in to them a little deeper.
Logo and Variation
Just as we discussed in our last post, keeping your logo consistent is a must. So placing your finalize logo and all the variations of the logo on top of your branding guidelines is a great way to make sure you are using the most recent version of your logo on everything. It also helps to include the variations so you know what options you have for various situations. Say you are planning to create a stamp for your brand and you would rather have a round stamp than a long one. Grab the icon version of your logo and you are good to go rather than digging through everything, recreating a round version, and then placing the order.
Choosing a couple fonts and sticking with them would solve all the design problems in the world. Or it would at least get rid of a lot of them. Picking the fonts might be best left to your designer. There are a lot of fonts created for a specific purpose and do not need to be included on your postcard or website. So maybe we will dive into that process later. But the point here is to discipline yourself and only use your chosen fonts. If your website currently has 8 different fonts on it, lets take a step back and examine the situation. There is no way that is necessary! It is confusing and distracting. Pick a font for headings and a font for body copy and you'll be good to go. And if you really want to get crazy, you can choose a font that has more variation WITHIN the font family. Once your fonts are chosen this will speed up the process of making any graphics because you just find the font and go. No need to wade through all 8 million on your computer before you even start designing.
One thing that will instantly make your brand feel more cohesive is a color palette. When all your colors work together and each piece contains your color palette, your brand will start to come together and feel like a happy family. Including your colors in your branding guidelines will save you so much time and effort. Making a new icon? Pick a color from your palette and go. Need a new header for your blog post? Pick a color and go. No need to tweak and adjust the color to get just the right shade. Grab your swatch and go!
Patterns and Graphic Elements
Patterns or other graphic elements can bring your look together as well. Adding a simple pattern throughout your materials will give them all a distinct look and pull them together. Graphic Elements can include anything from a unique icon to double lines or color blocks. Its a little something you can add here and there so people can quickly identify your brand.
Another thing that will keep your brand looking consistent, especially on your website or social profiles, is the images you use. Right now, everyone LOVES white everything. So it seems that everywhere you look, there are bright, crisp, white photos. But if that isn't your style, no worries! Maybe you like black and white photos, or photos with bursts of color. That is fine, just keep them consistent. If someone is scrolling through Instagram and instantly knows that it is your photo, you are doing something right! So keeping a small sampling of images on your branding guidelines gives you a quick reference when you are looking for a picture or out taking your own. It also greatly reduces your time editing your photos! Like bright colorful photos? Adjust the brightness and saturation a tick and you're good to go. No need to click every single filter to find which one fits best. You already have your formula, now stick to it!
When you step away and look at your branding guidelines as a whole, you should get a pretty good picture of your brand and the overall feel that you are going for. If something looks out of place, go back and adjust it now, not when you are getting ready to create a new material for your brand. Once your guidelines are complete you are ready to create. Just grab your ingredients; logo, font, color, pattern or image, mix them together and wa-la! A new piece that will fit seamlessly into your existing brand.
Tune in next week as we discuss templates and how they will save you so much time in your business!
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