How do you communicate to your team what your brand should look like or what it should sound like? If you’re like many people, you try and have conversations that explain what the brand attributes are. Conversations are great but, documents are better! You need Brand Guidelines. This exhaustive set of guidelines and rules govern how you operate your Visual Brand Identity Ecosystems. It is the access pass to your brand’s personality.
Sometimes Brand Style Guides and Brand Guidelines are used as interchangeable terms. However, they are two distinctly different things. A style guide is typically, a one-page document that details a few of the brand’s visual assets such as the logo, color palette, patterns, icons, and inspiration images. Think of it as a quick visual brand resource guide.
Brand Guidelines, however, are more comprehensive and thorough. As with most things, the contents of Brand Guidelines vary from business to business. Here are some can’t miss items to include in your guidelines either for your personal brand OR your business brand:
PROMISE and VALUES
Your brand promise explains why you do what you do. It defines who you serve as a business and what results you get for your clients/customers.
Your values share what is important to you as a business/consultant. By sharing what you value, you are flashing a blinking bat-signal into the sky for others who value what you value, to join you.
Your brand story includes your brand values and promise in a narrative form. Here is the breakdown:
Explain what matters. Make it compelling. Remember, this story is all about connection. You want to foster a connection between you and your target audience.
ELEVATOR PITCH and TAGLINE
Your elevator pitch is a quick and dirty explanation of what you do and who you do it for (cue Two Chainz).
Your tagline is your slogan or catchphrase.
Who are your people? Define your target audience is a great detail. List their pains and how you, your product or service addresses those pains. Here are some additional factors you may want to consider adding to your target audience profiles:
Demographics (age, gender, education, income, marital status, and geographic location)
Psychographics (faith, beliefs, values, hobbies, habits)
Describe 5 - 10 things that your brand IS. Use adjectives here: sophisticated, fun, exciting, practical
Describe 5 - 10 things that your brand IS NOT. More adjectives, folks: cheap, dirty, exclusive…
MOOD BOARD/INSPIRATION IMAGES
Include inspiration images that inform your brand aesthetic.
Include buzz words to describe the overall aesthetic
How much space is supposed to be around the logo
What are the logo do’s and don’ts? (Don’t change the color, don’t change the orientation)
Define the colors in the following format:
Show acceptable hues (shades) of the palette
TYPOGRAPHY or FONT SELECTIONS
Define what font pairings you’re going to use for your website and collateral. Perhaps you are going to use one font family exclusively. That’s okay, just make sure you include a visual representation of the font selection in your guide. Oh, here’s a pro tip: DO NOT use the font from your logo as one of your official brand fonts.
Define the font hierarchy (Header, sub-header, paragraph)
Define alignment (center, right justified or left-justified)
Define the FEELING you want your images to convey. Are your images bright and highly saturated or muted and moody? If you don’t have your own brand images to illustrate this concept just yet, you can pull stock images to share what is acceptable.
How you speak to your audience is just as important as the visual assets you share at all of your touchpoints. The visual collateral and copy go hand in hand. Here are some tips:
Create another DO and DON’T list. What words are acceptable and what words are not?
What collateral does your brand use and where? List all the digital and print collateral and explain acceptable uses of the collateral.
Digital Collateral - Website graphics, social media graphics, patterns, lower-third graphics, etc.
Print Collateral - Packaging, business cards, brochures, banners, books, hangtags, etc.
Whew! That’s a lot BUT, it will set your brand up for success. No matter who joins your team, there will be a comprehensive guide to navigate them through the inner workings of your brand.