Your brand represents you in the eyes of your prospect. It is how they know who you are and how they relate to you when you aren’t around to remind them of who you are.
In order for your brand to matter to your prospect or stakeholder, it needs to be presented consistently. The visuals you use, the way you present your brand need to fit together and build a whole.
You end up dealing with visuals more often than you may realize. And it is way to easy to go with what you have or what you “feel” today:
Nobody will notice if the square black logo on my email signature doesn’t match my pink rounded corner business card.
Or this is a pretty teal colored pen, let me squeeze my website and phone number in a legible font along the side.
An old logo at a trade show is fine… nobody knows who I am anyway.
We hear this from time to time, I am too small, too academic or too new to worry about brand. But big brands are consistent brands and the sooner you align all the visual pieces of your brand, the better you will be.
How do you avoid last-ditch brand changes and random acts of graphic design?
You need a brand style guide.
A style guide is an essential tool for any brand.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a personal brand or a trillion-dollar computer company: the brand guide keeps you aligned. The guide sets the rules.
The problem is that an inconsistent brand disappears into the crowd and your stakeholders will not recognize it.
But when you use a brand style guide and stick with it you start to stand out. Follow the simple rules and the pieces of your brand will come together in the minds of your prospects.
They will start to see your color, your font and your logo as representing you. This is so important that big companies trademark colors and fonts so that they are the only brand associated with them. (Think of Home Depot orange and the Coke font).
A style guide also helps you:
Align your team to that you can delegate to employees and outsource marketing and website creation.
More effectively use social media.
Reduce time spent on design.
All while communicating a consistent brand message.
Where to start with a brand guide?
Brand guides can go on for multiple pages and be very specific.
You don’t need that. Start simple and grow over time.
The first step in designing your brand guide is to understand the basis of your company. Start by defining your
buyer persona or avatar.
These foundation points will help you clarify what you want to communicate before you even start with how.
Here is how that works:
If you are selling to couples getting married you want flowy romantic fonts and light colors. You want to convey romance.
If you are selling to couples getting divorced you want to convey strength and power, so you will use stark fonts and lots of contrast.
A university appealing to students might use friendly welcoming content.
While a university raising money from donors may create a more professional brand experience.
Once you have established who you are, look for images that resonate
An excellent resource for deciding on your brand elements is Pinterest. Create a brand board and pin core values, colors, textures, patterns, fonts, and icons that speak to you.
You can look at other brands and see how they express similar concepts. You may decide to do something similar or completely different. But use that as a starting point.
This can feel overwhelming. So start small. Break the process down into manageable chunks. Start with putting together just the essentials. And, remember, a style guide isn’t really ever finished and you aren't married to the elements you choose.
A basic style guide includes a logo, color palette, and typography.
Elements of a Basic Style Guide
A Logo is one of the first things thought of when you open your business is a necessity. An identifiable logo with an accurate representation of your brand is a precious asset to your company and brand. Your style guide should incorporate your logo, an alternative logo, and possibly an alternative logo. Extensive style guides also show the correct ways to print on different media, including the size, and placement and when and how to use alternative logos.
Color Palette - Color is one of the best tools to create a cohesive look for your brand. Having an identifiable color palette helps to make your company and brand easily recognizable. It adds to the value of your brand and can attract your ideal clientele.
For a balanced palette, include a bold main color, a complementary color, accent color, dark neutral color, and a light neutral color. Be sure to identify your color codes such as CMYK and RGB under the color swatch.
Typography - Is another visual element of your brand that can communicate consistency. We use the typography not only for our logo and tagline, but it will be used over and over again in social media content, website design, and in our blog writing. The font styles to be used are a header, body, and special text font. They should match and flow together, and this section will also identify the font sizes.
Brand guidelines can additionally contain sections on:
Your brand identity (mission, core values, personality, tone, elevator pitch, etc.)
Your brand assets and the appropriate use of them (logo, color palette, typeface, spacing, backgrounds, etc.)
Proper usage of the logo, visual integrity,
Creating this document for your brand should be one in the same as creating the logo. Before you spend the time to design a business card, website, or social media profiles. Decide how much guidance your brand needs or speak with an expert on Brand Design to see what other businesses in your industry are doing or what they would suggest as a best practice.