Have you ever worked with brand guidelines? Perhaps you are considering one for your company or product but don’t know quite where to start or what type of information to include. Brand guidelines are a great tool to help you maintain a consistent brand across all your communication channels, ultimately saving you time and money.
Brand guidelines are an instructional tool for understanding a brand, its values and applying its visual and verbal tone. Without a set of guidelines, all those that come into contact with your brand will be creating their own versions of what they think your brand should look like, resulting in a lack of clear direction and message.
Whether you have an in-house team of designers or plan on working with branding partners such as outside designers, PR, marketing or advertising consultants, it’s a great tool to consider. Brand guidelines aren’t just reserved for a corporate brand, they can also be created for a product, service, packaging, events, programs and initiatives, just to name a few. Where there is a brand, there could potentially be a set of guidelines.
Brand guidelines are a balance between educational and easy-to-use. They can be accessible to internal and external users, reflect the spirit of the brand and provide brand resources.
Brand guidelines can be short, modular or very detailed. Whether you are a small business or graphic designer, start with an outline. This will help you get clear on the scope and any items you will need such as logo artwork, brand strategy copy or visual system elements.
Most brand guidelines today will cover everything from a logo to visual system (visual tone for the brand). As you establish your outline and decide on the sections, you will have a better sense of how short or robust you will want it to be.
As a brand evolves organically, so do the brand guidelines even after they are completed. Adding or updating sections is a very common thing. An intranet site is a great way to access this information and adapt accordingly. If that’s not an option, a downloadable pdf works fine too and is very common.
There are certain things you may want to include in brand guidelines. Of course, all of this is dependent on your organization, your audience and your goals for the guidelines and the brand. Let’s review some sections a little closer.
Introduction: An introduction to the brand is a good way to begin any brand guidelines. This can include anything from a general statement about the brand and its role, a table of contents, message from a CEO to the overview of the brand architecture if this applies.
Brand essence: It’s a good idea to include part of the brand strategy as this is the essence of the brand and what informs the visual expression. This could include brand positioning, brand personality, values and the brand story.
Verbal expression: Maintaining a consistent tone for the written communications plays a significant role in creating the brand style and is worth explaining. For instance is the voice friendly and approachable or is it serious and straight to the point. This section can also include communicative and legal names, corporate, division, business segments, partner logos.
Logo: The logo portion of the brand guidelines is an important visual representation for the brand and is likely the first connection people make. It’s important here to be clear on how to apply it, its colors, sizes, formats and what to avoid when applying the logo on any communications.
Visual system: This section is the visual tone for the brand and is expressed through various elements like typography for copy, color palettes, imagery such as photography or illustrations and any graphic elements such as patterns. Each element is introduced as part of the system and explained clearly with examples.
Experience: Examples of the visual system in action on various design applications such as print, digital and 3D is what we call the brand experience. It’s always a great idea to show how the brand is created with references in the form of prototypes or actual examples.
Conclusion: And finally, somewhere in the brand guidelines, it’s a great idea to include a contact list which includes a brand manager if there are questions that come up while working with the brand guidelines.
There are a lot more sections like brand architecture, sub-branded or even co-branded sections. You can certainly add or remove based on your particular project but it’s a good place to start. A set of brand guidelines can be an effective tool in providing a singular direction as you continue to communicate your brand to the world.
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