Ask your Geelong Graphic Designer:  What is a brand style guide? And why do I need one?

14 January 2018

Ask your Geelong Graphic Designer how to help your business stand out and we will tell you that every business wants to stand out from the crowd – however it takes more than just a sharp logo to really make your business shine.

If you take a look at some of the Australia’s biggest brands, you will quickly notice that they consistently use the same fonts, the same colours, the same artwork elements, the same style of photography and placement of their logo.  All of this does not happen by accident or coincidence.  Businesses that invest in the development of a style guide and put their guide into action – get noticed!

Brand consistency – is the key to easy and fast recognition of your brand with your target audience. Your Geelong Graphic Designer will be your most valuable partner in the development of your brand style guide.

What is a brand style guide?

A brand style guide (or style manual) is a document that outlines a set of standards for the design of documents, collateral or content created by your business.  It establishes and enforces style and visual composition, to improve communication and ensure consistency across multiple types of communication materials.

As one of your key business reference tools, it ensures consistency in the use of your visual brand, whether it’s on your website, social media, printed collateral or stationery.  Your brand style guide should demonstrate what your brand looks like, what elements make up your overall visual brand and how these elements come together to communicate your unique message. It is this consistent approach that will give your business credibility and a feeling of stability among your clients and target audience.

Think of your visual brand as your business’ personality. It’s how people recognise you and remember you.  Your personality will determine whether others trust you, like you or want to know you better. Just like our personality, if we change how our brand looks, behaves or communicates, we risk losing trust, recognition and loyalty from our audience.

Anatomy of a standard brand style guide

Unfortunately, there is no magic template solution for your brand style guide. As every business is different, every visual brand will require different information included in their style guide.  Some style guides are very simple one page documents.  Some are over 100 pages long and go into great detail. Here are some points that will help guide what we consider when developing a brand style guide for our graphic design clients here in Geelong and further afield.

  1. Keep it alive!

Your brand style guide should be considered a “living document” that may need updating each year or every few years to keep up with changing communication channels and materials.  Updating or changing your style guide is not considered as ‘changing the rules’.  It is simply a proactive way to manage the consistency and relevance of your visual brand as your business grows and changes focus.

  1. Internal or external

Brand style guides can either be internal or external documents.  Some of our clients have both, with a detailed style guide developed for in house use and a simple one-pager for external use.

  1. Logo use and placement

Your logo has been designed to accurately reflect what you do, how you do it and what your values are.  It is a very important part of how you represent your business and you need it to be used consistently every time it is used.  Your style guide should provide guidelines about how to use your logo and even how not to use it.

Guidance about minimum sizing, surrounding space, vertical and horizontal versions can all be outlined in your style guide so that your logo is consistently used every time.

  1. Color palette

Your brand colour palette is an important part of what makes your visual identity – recognisable.  Changes in colours can compromise the strength and credibility of your brand.  Your style guide should provide a detailed colour break down for your visual brand, including colour breakdowns for printed and web based format.  For more information about understanding the various colour systems for your brand artwork, read our ‘True Colours” article.

  1. Fonts and typefaces

Your logo artwork will use specific fonts and typefaces that help communicate your unique message to your audience.  These are your brand fonts, which will be detailed within your brand style guide so that your business documents and all collateral have the same look and feel and use the same family of fonts. Details about the font used to create your logo and guidance on what secondary fonts should be used are usually outlined in your brand style guide.  Read our “Guide to Typefaces and Fonts” for more information.

  1. Supporting design elements

Supporting design elements (backgrounds, textures, icons, complementary elements) can really help set your visual brand apart and can bring together an overall document or website design style. Any supporting design elements should be included in your brand style guide to make sure it’s being used appropriately.

  1. Photography

Photography can speak volumes about your brand personality and values, so including some guidance about the use of photography can be a great asset to your designer and business team. Specific photography styles and compositions can evoke certain responses and your photography can establish another point of brand recognition with your audience. Including some guidance on the type of photography your brand supports, will also give any future photographers a great reference tool for taking the right kind of photos. Check out Sara Taylors guest blog post “Brand Yourself and Your Business with Photographs”.

  1. Collateral

Your brand style guide may also provide examples of how your visual brand assets will come together for your stationery, website, promotional materials and signage.  Providing visual examples will give any future graphic designers an idea of the boundaries they will need to work within and how much creative license they have when creating new designs.

Why do I need one?

Your brand style guide communicates your business’ design standards to your whole team, your graphic designer, copy writers, photographers, web developers – just to name a few.  Your brand style guide will give a strong framework to use as a starting point for creating ‘on brand’ documents and collateral.

Your business marketing activities will be strongly supported by your brand style guide, by ensuring that all communication reflects your brand vision and is cohesive. This cohesion is important because

  • it helps establish a strong brand voice that connects with your target audience;
  • builds consistent brand awareness and trust.

If your business is about to embark on a brand design or redesign, ensure that your graphic designer will be developing a brand style guide.  Having a brand style guide will help your launch your brand and communicate guidelines for its use.

Looking for inspiration for your style guide? Check out our Pinterest board with some great examples of what works for all types of businesses.  From one pagers to style guides that are more comprehensive – there is something for everyone!

Need help developing a brand style guide for your business? We love working with businesses of all sizes achieve consistent visual branding and would love to chat with you.  Drop us a line and the coffee is on us!