This article introduces some of the basic elements you should expect in your brand guidelines.
When we first start working with a new client, one of the first things to come up is a brand guideline or style guide. Whether we are working on a relatively simple project like designing new product packaging for an expansion into a new market or working on something more complex like developing and implementing high-impact online e-business opportunities on a larger scale, it is important for us to understand our client’s brand; what differentiates them from their competition, the essence of the brand voice, and even the simple visual indicators that define an element of the client’s specific brand. A brand guideline is a key tool in ensuring consistency in both brand voice and visual identity.
Despite the importance of this powerful marketing tool, brand guidelines are often overlooked by businesses of all sizes. From smaller drop-shipping companies to enterprise-level corporations, many clients come to us without formal brand guidelines in place. Some come with a set of logo files scattered across different folders and emails, while others come with the beginnings of a guide; perhaps a set of logo variants and one or two preferred fonts. If this sounds reminiscent of your own operation, rest assured, you are in good company. It is not uncommon for business owners to be unaware of the impact that a brand guideline has on the quality of marketing collateral, or even what component parts should be included in a fully built-out set of guidelines. What are those component parts? And where do you start? We are here to fill in some of the blanks.
When creating any public-facing representation of a company, there are some basic brand elements that must be known. Defining these elements is typically where we start before any design work can commence. Elements like typography and colour palette are built out to include formal rules that form the building blocks of consistent design:
In most cases, the basic elements listed above will give a designer the bare minimum required context to create a new design that effectively represents a company’s brand. When we work with small businesses on an initial Ecommerce launch or their first run of product packaging, this is typically where we stop. For larger corporations with more aggressive marketing goals, a more built out set of brand guidelines is crucial to achieving higher quality results:
To begin building brand guidelines, the first step is to gather everything that already exists. If you have a logo, and you have variants, gather all of them in one place. If you have brand colours, fonts etc. record them. Having something extremely refined from the very beginning is less important than having something consistent. Once all of the existing assets are collected and formalized, the missing pieces will be visible. From there, you’re ready to begin building out the missing pieces or hand your assets off to an agency to fill in the gaps for you.