The Importance of Establishing Brand Guidelines
Because details always matter
From press coverage to contract work, your company’s identity will sometimes be in the hands of other people. This is one of the many reasons why a well-thought-out, carefully defined set of brand guidelines is essential for businesses of every stage. Well-defined brand guidelines ensure that the company’s identity remains consistent and cohesive, no matter who is working on a project or where the company is being featured. Large national brands can have huge brand guidelines that are over 50 pages, while other companies have none.
With all there is to consider when fitting these elements into a set of guidelines, here are a few must-haves to help you get started.
7 things to include when developing brand guidelines
A company’s logo will be used in countless ways, from web to print to merchandise. Specify which version should be used under which circumstance. For example, if the logo is going to appear on a black background, it may be inverted, or if used in print, must include the tagline. Be specific and clear on which of the different variations of your logo will represent your brand.
In order to make sure that your brand colors are consistent, list the CMYK, RGB, and web-safe HEX codes within the brand guidelines. If you are going to be printing a lot (packaging, marketing materials etc) you can specify Pantone colors as well. Pantone colors tell printers exactly what the printed color is so it’s consistent no matter what’s being printed and where. Be specific when it comes to the primary colors and accent colors and the balance of use between them all. Doing this now and officially putting it in your brand guidelines will save some serious time and costly headaches down the road.
Start by listing each place where text is used – in print, web and ads – and then get into the specifics. Pick a font and a font size for headlines and body copy and indicate if any of that text should be bold, italic, or underlined. Then, if applicable, add sentence case, all caps, or all lowercase. When it comes to font, a brand can have more than one, just make sure they work together.*
If your company frequently uses stock photography, provide an outline for evaluating potential imagery. Think about what aesthetic or “vibe” the photos should convey to the viewer. Provide examples of images that have been used in the past, as well as images that were declined. Also consider if images should be cropped horizontally or vertically and to what size. Similar to a brand’s voice, imagery has a tone, too.
5. Digital assets
Don’t neglect the details of the elements that only appear online. Trust us, things like the style, font and colors of social media icons stick out like a sore them when they don’t match the website’s vibe and color scheme. Also consider details like what should happen when a user hovers over a social icon, CTA, image or link.
6. Brand Voice
Always, always include a description of the target audience so that any freelance writer will have an immediate idea of who they’re trying to attract. Offer guidance on specific words and phrases that need to be used, as well as any words and phrases to avoid. Remember: the purpose of brand guidelines is to promote consistency, and it’s pretty obvious when the voice of the website doesn’t match the voice of the blog posts and marketing materials.
7. What Not to Do
In addition to providing examples of how each element should be used, it’s helpful to offer specific examples of how each of the elements should not be used. Remember: the purpose of the brand guidelines is to promote brand continuity for everyone from freelancers to your new hires. That includes the do not list.
Well-defined brand guidelines ensure that a company’s identity remains consistent and cohesive, no matter who is working on a project or where the company is being featured. Ready to put your own set of guidelines in writing? Download Katie Lord Inc.’s free DIY Brand Guidelines checklist, and check out the work we did for our clients for inspiration.
*Something else to be mindful of: There are hefty regulations on fonts that are for web use only. While fonts licensed through Adobe Typekit are licensed for print and web with an Adobe account, fonts pulled from Google Webfonts aren’t meant for print. A mistake in this area can lead to huge fines.
DIY Brand Guidelines Checklist
Well-defined brand guidelines ensure that the company’s identity remains consistent and cohesive, no matter who is working on a project or where the company is being featured. This checklist can be used for large national brands or startups. Each of these sections can be made more or less specific depending on your brand goals. Not all of the points listed may be applicable to your business, but it’s important to think through each one.