If you spend any amount of time on Pinterest, like me, then you have probably seen plenty of brand style guides show up in your smart feed. I personally love them. I have a whole board dedicated to brand style guides ( you can follow me on Pinterest here).
If you have seen them you are probably wondering what the are and why you would need one. They do have a purpose, other than to show off your stunning brand identity. Though… go ahead and show it off girl!
When I was in high school my government teach was totally awesome! Before every test, he gave us the opportunity to write as much information as we could on the front of a sheet of paper. He let us use that sheet when we were taking our test. It was essentially a cheat sheet. And let me tell you my grades in that class skyrocketed when I learned to write in microscopic print.
Think of your brand style guide as your branding cheat sheet. It can be as simple as a one-page document, like my government cheat sheet, or as complex as a 20-page booklet.
Your brand style guide should lay out all the visual elements your brand will use on every platform. From your logos and submarks to the fonts and patterns you use.
A brand style guide is the one way you can make sure your brand is cohesive. You won’t have to second guess what, where, or what to post on social media. You won’t have to guess if your Instagram images match your story. And you won’t have to guess when or where to use which logo.
When creating a brand identity for my clients the brand style guide is one of the most important things I can give them. After all the collaborating and hard work, we put in together no one wants to see a brand identity go awry.
Let’s take a closer look at what a brand style guide looks like and how to apply the elements to create a consistent message.
Your primary logo is the main logo for your business. It is generally at the top of your style guide because in the hierarchy of elements it’s probably the most important. This logo will be the one used most in your branding and will be the most recognizable to your audience. This logo should be prominent.
At the top of every page on your website. Source
On your collateral pieces (business cards, letterhead, etc.) Source
Your alternative logo is a variation of your primary logo. It will usually have a slightly different look with additional elements, like a tagline, or different colors. Designers will create an alternative logo to make sure your brand doesn’t become stale and too repetitive.
On printed material that is small and primary logo detail may get lost Source
A submark is another variation of your logo, often times an icon, but generally more condensed. You will see a lot of submarks that include your business’ initials or a graphic element. These are usually self-contained and are often included in a geometric shape.
Use on wax seals, stickers, and embossers Source
Collateral pieces (business cards, letterhead etc) Source
Submarks can also be used as social media profile images, website favicon, and even turned in a transparent image to add watermarks to images.
Your color palette sets the mood for your brand. Your designer should use your inspiration images (more on this in a moment) to pull colors that suit your brand vision. These colors should be used across all your platforms to create consistency. Most color palettes have dominant and accent colors. Your dominant colors will be the foundation for your brand and the accents are to add a little interest.
Your color palette should be used everywhere. On your website, in social media images, collateral pieces, logos, and anywhere you want to highlight information (like a call to action). See an example under Fonts.
Related Post: How To Choose The Perfect Color Palette For Your Brand
The fonts on your brand style guide are another element I recommend you use strictly. Too many font choices can make a brand seem chaotic and often it takes away from your brand design.
As a general rule of thumb, you should have three fonts for your brand. The first font will be your hero font. This font will be used for all your headings. The second font is your support font and works great with subheadings. And your last font is your body front and is used for the body of your text.
While you want three different you want to make sure they all work together in unison. Your fonts can also evoke an emotional response from your audience. Mix your fonts but don’t let them compete with one another, they should have a nice compliment.
Use fonts to draw attention to headings, categories, or calls to action. Be consistent with font usage. This is also a good example of using your color palette consistently across your media. Source
Some brands, but not all, will have patterns that help reinforce the mood. A pattern should be tileable (seamless and continuous design) to cover large areas without breaking up the design.
Use patterns to create interesting packaging design. Source
Use patterns in collateral pieces, website backgrounds, printed material, or products. Source
Again this design element is used to add a little interest to your overall brand identity. There are a lot of great textures out there now and I use them often in my client brands. From glitter to crumpled kraft paper there are plenty of textures out there that can enhance a brand identity.
Use textures on text, graphics elements, photos, and backgrounds. Source
Design elements are generally custom graphics you can use across multiple platforms to reinforce your brand. Having the same elements appear on website and Facebook page can help create brand recognition with your clients.
Use graphic elements for buttons (social media buttons count), icons, or to differentiate ideas. You can also use graphic elements to create backgrounds and patterns. Source
When I design a brand I start and end with my client’s inspiration. Style images represent not only the colors you want to see in your brand but also the style of photography you should use. Style images are a great reference for you when you create images for social media, website pages, and blog posts.
If your brand is represented by a soft pastel color palette you don’t want to add dark moody images that don’t reflect your brand, and vice versa.
Use style images for photography and image reference, color palette reference. Source
Your brand style guide is your cheat sheet to keeping your brand on track and consistent. Before marketing your business or posting to social media I always recommend taking a look at your style guide to make sure it’s on brand. And when you hire a designer, a virtual assistant, or anyone else to help out with your business your brand style guide is a great way for them to have a reference for staying on brand.
Do you have a brand style guide? How do you use it to build your brand recognition?