What is a Style Guide?
A style guide is a document created for your business outlining design and writing standards across your company’s branding. Your audience expects consistency from your brand, so the aim of this guide is to achieve just that in any content you release. A well-written style guide will also help you to uphold a strong brand identity and solidify an unvarying brand voice, regardless of who the writer is. In this article, we go over how to create a brand style guide.
Why Do I Need a Style Guide?
Style guides provide a multitude of benefits, both internally and externally to your business. Ultimately, a style guide:
Any questions that writers and designers for your brand have regarding colours, word choice or even logo placement can be immediately answered with a quick check of the style guide. This allows the majority of company time and creativity to remain on the task at hand.
A style guide will assist in avoiding mistakes and discrepancies in spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as helping to improve consistency across all your communications. This makes your company appear more professional and authoritative to your audience.
Creates Stronger Brand Recognition
Having consistent language, design and logo use across your content allows your audience to learn what to expect from your brand. Soon any communications from you will be instantly recognisable, even without explicitly stating your brand name. This also contributes to your customers feeling more connected to your brand and builds brand loyalty.
What Is Included in a Style Guide?
Depending on the needs of your company, your style guide may include details such as brand personality, voice and tone guidelines, logo design and use, correct use of abbreviations, images, typography, fonts and colours. Consider what is most important to your brand’s image, and ensure there are clear guidelines surrounding each of these aspects.
How to create a Brand Style Guide | 7 Steps
1. Open with your brand’s story
What do you want your communications to say about your brand? Are you a no-nonsense brand, or a little bit crazy? What core values do you want to portray? Write about the character of your brand, and what you want your audience to think when they interact with you. Include your mission statement here, as well as some basic “About Us” information. This will help focus the guide on your brand and its values and characteristics.
2. Discover your brand’s voice
Now that you’ve got a story for your brand, how does your brand ‘speak’? Do you use simple or technical language? What about acronyms or emojis? Communications are likely to be written by a number of different people, so this section makes it easy for them to stick to a particular writing style. Your brand voice should embody the character discussed above and be easily understandable by your audience. Include any words or phrases that should be used, and those that should not.
3. Detail your core colour palette
Which colours do you want to represent your brand? Can you use these colours together? Should text be a particular colour? Your colour palette should be extremely specific, and include the exact RGB and CMYK values for universal use across print and digital media. Also include the lightened or darkened versions of colours and their values, if required. List any restrictions for colour use here, too.
4. Create logo guidelines
Where should your logo be placed on a page? How large can it be? What colour should it be on a coloured background? Include examples of correct and incorrect logo use, making sure to consider alternate versions, and any text that may accompany your logo. Be specific about size and proportions. Using your logo consistently makes it easier for customers to immediately recognise your brand, and makes you more memorable overall.
We’ve written an in-depth article about what makes a great logo.
5. Consider your typography
What fonts does your brand use, and where? Should your headings be a different size to the body text? If so, what size? Where should you use bold, italics and underlining? Typography is about making your copy legible and visually appealing for your readers, so make sure your conventions are clear and readable for both print and digital. Don’t forget to provide examples.
6. Outline imagery guidelines
Is an image the best way to share what you want to say? What mood should photos convey? When should icons be used? Use images and icons to communicate messages quickly and simply, and assist in setting the mood for your audience.
7. Include any other brand-specific information
Is there a specific look you want all your communications to share? Are there words that describe your products that aren’t found elsewhere? How do you refer to your brand? Your brand is unique, and that should shine through in your communications. Include anything else important to producing your brand’s best image here.
When Should I Update the Style Guide?
Style, design and language conventions are constantly changing. It’s important your style guide reflects these changes, as appropriate, to keep your brand fresh and up-to-date. One of the easiest ways to keep your guide current is to make it a live document using Google Docs, Microsoft Office Live, or another similar program. If you or another writer finds a certain convention is missing, it’s simple to just add it in. Spend time at least once a year to reconsider the entire guide, and make any changes where needed.
Who Should Read the Brand Style Guide?
It is absolutely essential for anyone who creates content for your brand to read and follow the style guide. However, the rest of your team is more than likely to benefit from knowing the guidelines, and you might even have conventions for internal communications, so make it available to all your staff.
Where Can I Get Help With My Brand Style Guide?
If you’re still not sure how to start, there’s hundreds of examples online that focus on different aspects of their branding. Netflix’s style guide focuses predominantly on their logo meaning and use, while Mailchimp’s extensively details the language and tone to be used in writing.
Need more help building your brand’s style guide? Adlab are digital marketing and branding experts and are always ready to assist you in meeting your business goals. If you are considering working with a graphic design agency, we’ve written an article about how to work best with a graphic design agency. We hope this article helps answer your question of how to create a brand style guide.