Updated: Jun 4, 2022
Table of Contents:
What is a brand guidelines document?
A brand guidelines document is a set of rules that explains how your brand works. It includes information on how to use your logo, colors, fonts and other design elements. These are the rules for your brand.
The purpose of a brand guidelines document is to help you stay consistent with the way your brand looks in all places (including marketing materials like websites and brochures). When everyone working on projects for your company knows what’s allowed or not allowed when it comes to using elements from the style guide—it makes it easier to maintain consistency across all channels of communication.
Brand guidelines vs style guides
Brand guidelines and style guides are often used interchangeably, but they actually mean two different things.
Brand guidelines are designed to be comprehensive, covering all aspects of your brand—from logos to website copy to social media images—in one place. They're usually more extensive than style guides because they have more complex objectives.
In contrast, style guides focus on just visual elements like logos, typefaces and color palettes. Style guides may be limited in scope (for example: "this is how we treat our logo") or broad (for example: "this is how we treat everything related to our brand").
How long should my brand guidelines document be?
How long should my brand guidelines document be?
It depends on how many people will need it at any given time. If you're an independent artist or photographer, you might only need a few pages to get started. But if your business has grown to the point where multiple departments are working with branding across different platforms, you'll want your guidelines to be more comprehensive and complete. As a general rule of thumb: four pages is good; 20 pages is too long! You should be able to fit this document in one place (like a binder or spiral notebook) for easy access when needed.
What should I include in my brand guidelines document?
Your brand guidelines should include:
your brand purpose and personality (including relevant messaging)
logo capabilities, usage, and protection
color palette - typography
imagery - iconography guidelines (if applicable)
primary and secondary layout grids
Brand purpose and personality
You may already have a brand guideline or are thinking of developing one. This can be a good idea, but it's important to set your expectations correctly from the beginning. A brand guideline is not an instruction manual for how to create marketing materials and products; it's more like an outline for how you want those things to look and feel. It should define your brand's personality, describe its purpose in the world (often called "brand purpose"), and help guide your design efforts as you create content across all channels (print, digital, etc.).
The most important thing to remember about a brand guideline isn't that it needs to be "perfect" before you start using it or putting it out into the world—it won't be! Rather than asking yourself if this particular version of your brand guideline is ready for prime time yet, think about whether or not it has been clearly articulated what kind of personality you want your company/organization/product line/etc., in order then make sure everyone involved understands what those guidelines mean before proceeding with any other work involving them (and ideally at least once every few months).
The first step towards creating a brand guidelines document is to define your key messaging. From there, you can build out the rest of your brand guideline document.
Define Your Brand
Your brand's values and personality should be expressed in the language you use on all marketing and communications materials. Make sure that whoever writes content for blogs or social media shares this same voice and tone with their audience (e.g., don't use slang in one post while using formal business writing in another). This consistency will help reinforce your brand's identity as well as make it easier for employees to follow through on the same message at all times.
Define Your Target Audience
Make sure that everyone who works on marketing materials knows who their target audience is so they can write copy accordingly (for example, millennials may prefer informal language while older generations lean toward more traditional styles). Make sure everyone understands what makes up an ideal customer of yours so they know how to describe them when creating content—and make sure everyone is aware of any specific terms or phrases they should avoid using when speaking with these potential customers!
Logo capabilities, usage and protection
The logo is the most important element of your identity. It is your brand name, and it should be used consistently across all marketing materials.
It’s important that you don’t distort or modify the logo in any way—including when it appears on a mobile device or in print. You also need to follow strict guidelines when using the logo so that you don’t violate any copyright laws and risk losing your rights to use the graphic mark permanently:
Do not place our logo on a busy background (e.g., with text), unless it is for a specific purpose like an advertisement for products or services where appropriate usage will be provided by us prior to publication/displaying online/printing etc...
Do not use our logo as part of an icon set (e.g., emoticons).
Do not represent our company name as anything other than its verbal pronunciation (i.e., “Dot Com Productions”).
Color palette with CMYK, RGB, and PMS values
You can create your color palette using a combination of CMYK, RGB and PMS values. The CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) is the four-color process used in commercial printing. It’s called “process color” because it uses subtractive mixing (dyes are mixed together to produce a range of colors).
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and refers to the specific ink colors that have been certified by Pantone Inc., which makes standardized color products such as paper, fabric and packaging materials with matte or glossy finishes.
RGB stands for red green blue — it’s the most common system used in computer screens so you can see what your design looks like on screen before printing anything out in physical form.
Typography (including typefaces, weights and sizes)
There is a difference between a typeface and a font. A typeface is the design of the characters, such as Helvetica or Garamond. It has no size, weight or italicization. A font is made up of one specific typeface with its weights (regular, bold and italicized) and sizes (8pt-$$$$). The set of characters in a font are called glyphs. For example: Helvetica Bold Italicized is one font; however it contains three different types of glyphs: Helvetica Regular; Helvetica Bold; Helvetica Italicized.
Imagery with photo examples (such as colors, style), along with acceptable stock photography sites
When it comes to imagery, you don't have to hire a photographer or designer. There are plenty of stock photography sites that offer beautiful, royalty-free images that you can use. Just make sure they have a consistent feel; for example, if the brand's palette is bright and warm, then avoid dark or cold photos. The same goes for style and tone of voice—the main character in your story must match your company's personality!
Here are some examples of stock photo sites:
Iconography guidelines (if applicable)
As you've probably noticed, icons are everywhere. They're a common way to convey complex ideas in simple ways, and they help users understand your brand's personality and values.
Icons are also great shortcuts for visual storytelling—their simplicity allows you to say more with less space. For example, if you have a series of products that share a similar theme (like different types of cameras), you might use an icon instead of writing out the full words "camera," "digital camera," etc., each time it appears on your website or social media content.
You should always be sure that any icons used in your brand guidelines follow these general rules:
They should be simple and recognizable at all sizes (they can even be as small as 16 x 16 pixels)
They should be consistent in style, color palette, size/weight ratio (i.e., how tall vs wide an icon is), and shape across all platforms; this helps reinforce their meaning
A brand guideline is an indispensable tool that keeps your brand consistent.
A brand guideline is a document that outlines the primary elements of your business and how they should be used. It helps ensure that everyone in your organization is on the same page when it comes to your brand’s voice, voice tone, visual identity (logo), and key messages. The goal? Consistency across all mediums so that people have an experience with you that feels familiar no matter where they encounter you—whether it’s over email, social media or at one of your brick-and-mortar locations.
It also protects against missteps or confusion among employees or customers who may not understand how to use something correctly if they don't know what's expected of them. This can prevent embarrassing situations like someone accidentally sending out an inappropriate tweet from a company account because they didn't know any better!
Don't want to start from scratch?
Check out our Ecolodge Brand Guide Template to hit the ground running with a fully editable, professionally designed brand guide that's ready to be used in your next project.