What are brand guidelines, and why are they important? When do you need them and what should be in them? – This article aims to try to answer these fundament questions about brand guidelines and help understand how they create a stronger brand and business model, so everyone can be singing off the same hymn sheet so to speak…
What are Brand Guidelines?
Brand Guidelines or brand books, style guides, brand standards, however you want to call them, are a guide to how your business communicates to its customer base. It sets out fundamental rules and guides about the business principles, ethos, the logo, colour palette, typography, imagery, photography, visual device, advertisement, stationery and wording. It acts as a flexible yet robust guide to helping you maintain a strong personality to your brand that will involve and aim your businesses interests at your intended audience.
Why are Brand Guidelines important?
Every company already has there own brand, even if they don’t know it, but without a guideline to help define it and keep it consistent among employees and outside sources it is difficult to maintain a brand which is strong and recognisable in the noise of today saturated markets.
Consistency as noted above, is important to maintain a strong brand, keeping everything with a similar tone, or design making sure it‘s more recognisable, with set rules and guides in place means its harder to stray off target.
It allows for more time, as without a guideline there is no substantial material to help with designing, time can be wasted on redoing design work or designs may go off on there own direction, weakening the overall brand. Templates save time as well, with a lot of the basic design work already set out, it can be a simple as just filling in the gaps with new content.
Brand Guidelines also give you something to support your argument with and something tangible to check back with and making sure the brand is being used correctly even if work is outsources.
When should you have Brand Guidelines?
Sooner rather then later is the simple answer, in a smaller business it might be okay without – say if your just the one person then its probably less essential because all the communication is coming from the same person so essentially its your personality adapted for your business. However, if the business grows to have more staff and as your business opens up to more channels of marketing communication, it becomes more and more apparent to have a brand guideline in place, to lay down the ground rules of your overall communication.
What should be included in a brand guideline?
First and foremost, a good guide is, well a guide; you have to make rules and some boundaries, but also keep it flexible enough to move forward and change and develop as the company changes and develops. This said here are some of the key areas a brand guideline will include:
Business Overview – its vision, personality, values and history.
Mission statement – include what your business wishes to achieve and maintain and promise to its customers.
Tone of voice – a brief description to how the company should represent tone of voice, this may also includes associating words (word banks), to help keep a consistency across different written content.
Logo Usage – how the logo should be displayed, size restrictions, space restrictions, colours to use and how it displays on different background and on different colours, as well as what not to do with the logo.
Colour palette – what colours are used in the brand with breakdowns and even hierarchy of colours.
Type style – the fonts and styles of elements such as headers, sub headers, paragraphs, small text (copyright text for example) and quotes should be considered, along with size ratios to each other.
Image style – The style of images should be explained and examples of photography or illustration provided to get the general feel of the style. Usually Brand Guidelines are accompanied with a band of general images that may be used along side the literature.
Templates – usually starting with business stationery such as business cards, letterheads and compliments slips, these should be designed with the logo and brand in mind and set out as examples on the guidelines.
Additional templates for other literature such advertisements, posters, brochures, leaflets, POS, and even web based layout can all be included depending on the type of business and complexity you wish for your templates. But keep in mind, it’s a guide and it needs to be flexible, rules can be adapted and creativity still needs to play a key part to make sure your brand shows its own individuality.