How To Use Your Brand Style Guide To Build Brand Recognition

Brand Your Business

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!

Not sure what you're supposed to do with your brand style guide? THink of it as a cheat sheet to building greater recognition in your brand. Read to know how to use your brand style guide to boost your business.

What Is A Brand Style Guide

 

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.

What Is The Purpose Of A Brand Style Guide

 

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.

Anatomy Of A Brand Style Guide

 

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.

Brand style guide for Lemon Squeeze. Learn how to use your brand style guide to build brand recognition.

Primary Logo

 

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.

How to use your primary logo to biist brand recognition
Melyssa Griffin uses her primary logo on the top of every web page to build brand recognition

At the top of every page on your website. Source

Fox and clover uses their logo on their business cards to build brand recognition.

On your collateral pieces (business cards, letterhead, etc.) Source

Alternate Logo

 

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.

How to use your alternate logo in your branding
bleu cupcakes and bakeshop uses their alternate logo on small printed items in their branding.

On printed material that is small and primary logo detail may get lost Source

Submarks/Watermarks

 

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.

how to use your submark/watermark in your business branding
A submark used on a wax seal to build brand recognition

Use on wax seals, stickers, and embossers Source

21 degrees uses their subark on their business cards to help build brand recognition

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.

Color Palette

 

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

Fonts

 

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.

How to use fonts in your branding
Think Creative Collective uses fonts and color to further their brand recognition.

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

Patterns

 

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.

How to use patterns in your branding
Sugarfina uses patterns on their packaging design to build brand loyalty

Use patterns to create interesting packaging design. Source

Violeta uses patterns ontheir business cards to add interest and further their brand recognition.

Use patterns in collateral pieces, website backgrounds, printed material, or products. Source

Textures

 

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.

How to use textures in your branding
Brenda Miller Photography uses rose gold foil textures to enhance their logo design

Use textures on text, graphics elements, photos, and backgrounds. Source

Design Elements

 

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.

How to use design elements to further your brand design
Elle & Co uses graphic elements to to draw attention to her areas of expertise.

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

Style Images

 

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.

How to use style images to help build brand recognition
First Class Photography uses their inspiration photos to carry a theme through their branding.
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?

Want to know more about me and why I love helping creative businesses brand with confidence? Head yourself over to my about me page to find out.

Learn how I booked 4 new clients before launching with Brand Clarity.

38 Comments

    • Brand Guides are great for keeping your brand on track. Plus they are a lot of fun to make.

      Reply
  1. I love this! I have a new blog and I’m working to have this branding! Now I especially want a wax seal! HA!

    Reply
    • Wax seals are great!! If you sell a physical product they are a great addition to your packaging. You can use them to seal notecard enclosures or add details to tags. So many wonderful uses.

      Reply
  2. I came to have a look at your post as I’ve just got business cards and my site
    name up. Yours is a very full post and filled me in on quite a few things.
    Well put – thanks!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Deborah! And congrats on getting up and running. I am so glad you found the post helpful. A brand style really is an amazing tool to keep in reach. Whenever I am in doubt I just reference it and I’m good to go.

      Reply
  3. Thank you so much! This is such good stuff. I’ve been working on branding and now what I should focus on!

    Reply
    • Yay! You’re so very welcome. I am glad it will help you with your branding. If you ever get stuck with something let me know and I can give you some tips.

      Reply
  4. Great tips! I like how you laid it all out…got some good ideas generating now!

    Reply
    • I would love to see what you come up with. I love helping people think in different ways about their branding.

      Reply
  5. Great tips! I’m going to use this to redesign my brand in the near future!

    Reply
    • Having a brand style guide will make it so easy to brand your business. You won’t have to second guess any part of it.

      Reply
  6. I need one of these! But I want to do it at the same time as I have a blog redesign!

    Reply
    • Yes!! When you redesign or rebrand your blog make sure your designer gives you a style guide. It can either be one page like the example I show in the post or it can be more detailed. I create style guides that are more detailed for my clients. That way they can see messaging info (like words to use and not use) and how to use their brand colors across their platforms. Either way, it’s great to have on hand.

      Reply
  7. This is huge – and helpful, but it seems so difficult to actually accomplish. I’ve gotten better, but still feel like my branding needs a LOT of work! I’m just not a “creative” type and wish I were…

    Reply
    • A brand guide is really helpful to stay on brand. It helps to keep everything looking cohesive. I really love that I can easily reference my color palette to make sure my brand colors are the same on every platform.

      Reply
  8. I definitely need to create one for myself. I kinda have the ideas in my head and I utilize them a lot but I think it would help to have an actual guide that I could look at. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome Nicole! Having something you can actually look at is very helpful when trying to keep everything cohesive. It can be just a simple one page that keeps the feeling of your brand in one place fore easy reference.

      Reply
  9. Wow this is awesome and super helpful! Thank you! I have my color palette, primary logo, and an alternate logo.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Stacey! I am glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful. It always nice to have everything you need to brand your business in one easy document to reference during those “not sure” moments.

      Reply
  10. Your post had me drooling over all the gorgeousness!! Best brand style guide explanation I’ve read (and I like checking them out too). Thanks for the inspiration to put some more effort into our branding!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Maegan. I am glad it lived up to your expectations. I know a lot of people see a style guide but a lot of them don’t know how to use it. It’s a great tool to have on hand to keep your brand on track.

      Reply
  11. Fantastic resource and perfect timing as I’m in the process of building out my 2nd website and my to-dos for next week is nailing all my branding down. I will 100% be saving this and referring back to in a few days. Thanks for the great overview!

    Reply
    • Congrats on the starting a second website! That’s huge! I may be coming to you for pointers on how to juggle it all. I am super happy that this post will be helpful for you.

      Reply
  12. This is truly an amazing guide! Half of these I didn’t even realize I needed! Which is sad, but definitely something I’m going to be working on! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Having a complete visual brand is important because it can give you a lot of flexibility in your branding. And your brand guide can help you keep everything cohesive and put together. It also helps keep your brand fun.

      Reply
  13. This was such a great resource!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Tracy! I am glad you found it helpful. I have mine hung up next to my desk so I can see whenever I post anything. It saves me a lot of time.

      Reply
  14. I really need to pick a color pallette for my blog etc. I keep changing my mind but I know it’s time to narrow it down.

    Reply
    • It is so hard to choose a color palette. My blog is mainly black, white, and pink… but I add in lots of other colors in my photos so that it’s bright and airy. I think color palettes are one of the hardest brand elements to nail down because it’s color!! It’s so hard to just choose a few when there are so many to choose from.

      Reply
  15. I have just gone through this, to decide on brand colors for my new blog. It really is difficult when you like too much of colors 🙂 I don’t know yet if I am happy with those colors I have chosen right now. I want my brand to reflect the word Bright which I am using on my blog.
    It’s a fun step as well, cause everything else is no fun. To set it all up on WordPress, but to go through all different color palettes are more fun.

    Reply
  16. This is great information. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others so they can build their brands and grow their businesses.

      Reply
  17. I LOVE my brand style guide. It keeps me focused when creating my content. I love the idea of incorporating patterns, that’s probably the one thing I don’t have on my guide!

    Reply
    • Patterns can be a great way to add interest to your brand. I have a couple of patterns for my brand but I haven’t used them yet. You have inspired me to go ahead and use mine on my website.

      Reply
    • You’re very welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it. Putting together a brand style guide is so much fun to do. It’s a great place to let your personality shine.

      Reply

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