Brand guidelines (also referred to as a style guide) is a comprehensive document that can be used to help identify and build your brand. It is, in essence, your owner’s manual on how to use your brand and ensures it is always portrayed consistently and accurately.

Why are they needed?

Brand guidelines put a set of rules in place to make sure that your brand is being portrayed professionally and helps limit any variations or confusion. These are usually created by the design agency after a brand identity (or rebrand) has been completed.

Who is it created for?

Almost all sections of a company can benefit from having brand guidelines, from the product development team right through to the marketing and creative departments. It can also be a useful resource to hand out to new employees so they gain a better understanding of the brand’s history, vision, personality and key values.

What should be included?

Some brand guidelines may be as thick as a novel, while others are short, easy to digest documents. Although their primary function is to lay out a set of rules, this doesn’t mean that they have to be boring.

Some key points to include are:

  • Introduction: This is the section where you introduce your brand and give an insight into what your company stands for and what you are hoping to achieve. You should include your brand story, your mission, your values and your personality.
  • Logo: You should display your logo as full colour and a black and white version. Give examples of how it works on various backgrounds. Rules should then be set in place with regards to your logos safe area, positioning and scaling – you could state the minimum size the logo can be used at in order to keep it legible.

  • Colour palette: Colour is an important element of a brands visual language. It keeps it distinctive and reflects the brands personality. Introduce your core and secondary colours and break these colours down into their values for Spot, CMYK and RGB (or HEX for online if relevant). State any tints that can be used and any other variations or rules that should be considered when selecting colour.

  • Typography: Layout both your primary and secondary typefaces and show the full font families for both of these ( bold, italic etc). State if there are any rules for what font is to be used as a header, body text etc. If your fonts for online are different you should also list these. Any rules when it comes to kerning, tracking etc should also be listed.

  • Photography: You will no doubt have a clear idea of what imagery will best portray your company. Show examples of images that have performed well for your brand or create a mood board of the type of images that should be used.
  • Voice: How you communicate to your audience is important. It influences the way people interact with the company and how they feel about your brand. Set the tone of voice that you should be using and the style you should be communicating in – technical/ non-technical; formal/casual/slang.

The above are just a few points which you ought to include in your brand guidelines. You may also want to go into detail about your iconography, tone of voice, packaging, and any of your online or offline marketing materials.

As your business grows, so will the level of detail needed. Ensure you strike the right balance when creating the document  – the guidelines need to be flexible enough for designers to be creative, but rigid enough so that there’s no confusion about how to implement your visual identity.