Imagine you’ve just purchased a chest of drawers from Ikea. You open the box, and there inside is everything you need to put together your new piece of furniture…except for the assembly instructions. Without those illustrated images to help you along, you’re more likely to end up with a headache than a Hemnes. If you think of a brand guide as the assembly instructions for your brand identity, you’ll understand why we think you need one.
If you don’t have one already, the prospect of creating a brand guide can seem daunting. Consider this your guide to building a brand guide.
What’s in a brand guide?
A brand guide can be a simple, one-page brand board or an elaborate, all-inclusive tome. As long as you build it around these basics, it will be a useful tool:
The intro of your brand guide sets the tone for what is to come. This could be a simple statement about the importance of your brand identity, information about your business, or you could choose to list your company’s mission, vision and values.
Your brand essence includes the tone, words and pictures that express your brand. At a minimum, consider including a list of descriptive words and some simple image guidelines. Or go big with approved images and key messaging. If you have other branding components—icons or graphics—you can include those here, too.
A well-defined color palette plays a big part in brand consistency. Pair color swatches with key information like Pantone names/numbers, CMYK and RGB color models and HEX codes. Also consider noting if and when transparencies can be used. If you have a more complex color scheme, include a hierarchy to ensure that your brand colors are being used in the right proportions and in the right places.
Your brand guide should include at least two pieces of information about how to use your logo: minimum size and how much white space must be maintained around it. Also, consider other variations of your logo. Do you have a logo lockup that includes multiple elements (e.g., a mark, your company name, a tagline)? Can you use them separately? Are there multiple acceptable colors? If so, be sure to delineate where and when the other versions can be used.
Keep your written collateral material looking consistent by providing information in your brand guide about fonts. At a minimum, include the name and examples of the font. Bonus points for giving guidance about what font, size and style to use where (headers, body copy, etc.). Include tracking, leading and kerning information, and your designers or vendors will squeal with joy.
Brand in use
If you have marketing samples that set the gold standard for your brand, include pictures of them in your brand guide. Show sample web pages, stationery, email signatures, collateral, signage, etc.
Include what not to do
As you’re building your brand guide, consider including concrete examples of how NOT to present your company. They will help people avoid making mistakes with your brand.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you didn’t build your brand identity internally, you may not have some of the information needed to create your brand guide. Ask your marketing partner to fill in any blanks or compile your brand guide for you.