What makes an excellent brand? Is it a keen visual style that’s immediately identifiable and recognizable? What about a story that’s told not just through advertising and content, but the atmosphere created by your visuals? Or a unique passion that competitors can’t easily ape? The answer to all of those is yes, of course. However, if your brand doesn’t have consistency, it doesn’t really matter how recognizable, unique, or engaging your brand is. It won’t stick. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to create a style guide for your business that helps foster consistency.
If you can’t decide on what the feeling of your brand is, then your customers won’t be able to, either. However, when it comes to online marketing, it’s not indecision that causes inconsistency most of the time. Often, the problem is that design teams in charge of different elements of your branding aren’t on the same page.
When you enlist a website design team to create a brand new, gorgeous, home page for your business that fits all of your needs, but it doesn’t match the dozen display ads you have going through the internet, that’s a problem. Customers can get engaged with the branding in an advertisement, only to find themselves on a website that has an entirely different look. It doesn’t look consistent. Often, it doesn’t even look legitimate.
A great brand is always, always, always consistent. From website design to advertisements, promotional leaflets to trade show booths. There’s some room for expression and variation, but it must all come from the same core. That core is your style guide.
What is a style guide?
Also known as brand bibles, style bibles, or other equally catchy teams, a style guide is a document that contains all of the information on the different components that make up your brand. This includes visual elements, imagery, fonts, and logos. But it can also include things like your unique selling proposition, customer pain points you focus on, and even your ideal customer.
As a result, whether you’re using internal email, website design, online advertisements, or something else entirely, you have a source of everything you need to know about what its style should be. Style guides can (and often should) get very specific with things like logo placement, color schemes, font usage, content formatting, and so on.
Why you want a style guide
The main benefit of a style guide is that it offers consistency through branding. The more consistent your brand, the more recognizable it is and the more its message hits home. When you’re working with new members of your marketing team or outsourced service providers, the style guide offers them a source of all they need to know about your brand. It also saves you and them a lot of time. It takes some time to create it, but it saves a lot of the time that might be spent creating a style from scratch again and again.
The brand guide process
Brand guides take time, effort, and a lot of creative thought to build. As such, it’s best to have an organized approach to how you create it. There are six major elements that most designers agree are crucial for your style guides. We’ll cover those in a little bit, but here’s the general process you should aim to follow as best as possible with each of them:
- Research: You’re going to want some inspiration for your style guide. One of the best ways to do this is to start pulling imagery that catches your eye and captures the feeling you want your brand to communicate. Pinterest is a great place for collating imagery into specific categories. Your inspiration can come from other brands, past branded content, but it doesn’t have to be brand related at all. Photography, illustrations, whatever inspires your design, put it in one place.
- Outline your goals: Think about what you want your brand to communicate and bring together a basic idea of how you want it to look using the inspiration mentioned above.
- Element definition: Here’s where you get into the nitty-gritty, detailing the different elements of style that we will cover below.
- Mock-up: Test and try out the different elements you choose, bearing in mind the different ways you might use them. There might be changes between digital branding and paper branding, website design and internal memos, pamphlets, and product packaging. This can help you see how your growing style works.
- Documentation: From there, it’s all about writing the details down and having them clearly laid out so that advertisers, marketers, and web designers can quickly reference them. The better organized your style guide, the easier it is to use.
The elements of your style guide
Your style guide should cover at least these 6 crucial elements, taking into account the medium-specific alterations that might need to be made. They should each be outlined separately but have some examples of how they all come together in different circumstances.
- Your story: It’s good to keep this up front so that it informs the rest of the guide. It tells the reader what your brand is about, what its values are, what kind of customers it’s communicating to, and the emotions it wants to elicit.
- Your logo: You likely know your logo already, but this is to ensure it’s used properly. How it should be spaced, proportioned, what colors can and can’t be used with it, variations and ways not to use the logo should all be covered. Make sure you have some clear examples so that anyone using it can avoid mistakes like stretching it.
- Your color scheme: Your palette does a lot of work in determining the mood and feel of your branding. It’s wise to stick with two-to-three main colors and be clear on what hues within those colors you want to use. As well as visual references to the colors, provide essential information, such as PANTONE name and number, RGB and HEX codes so that they can be easily reproduced.
- Your imagery: This can be harder to nail down, but the best way to show the kind of imagery you want is to have examples of what “feels right”, to create a mood board and some examples of images that have worked well for the brand in the past.
- Your fonts: Think of your typography as the flavor of any marketing text you use. Outline typeface families or specific fonts that you want to use with your marketing, including the brand name and titles. Different fonts for logos, headers, and content all help create a distinct brand image. You may also want to include notes on whether content should be aligned in any way and how they should be spaced.
- Your voice: This is how the personality of the brand resonates, mostly through written or spoken copy. You might want to include key brand identity words, words you don’t want to use, notes on style (is it conversational, formal, educational, luxury, or otherwise?) It’s good to have 4 or more descriptive adjectives that inform your brand voice, and some examples of what to do and what not to do.
Make it your own
You may have other elements that need to be defined, such as social media posting styles, packaging guidelines, website design layouts and so on. If they need a section, don’t be afraid to add it. Furthermore, ensure that you’re updating and creating new versions of the style guide as your brand evolves or diversifies into new sub-brands and media formats.
Your style guide can help you ensure that your message, your vision, and your vibe is crystal clear, no matter who works on it or how it’s represented. Hopefully, the guide above helps you ensure that your brand maintains the consistency it needs to go the distance.
Style guide examples
Need some style guide examples to get you started? Hubspot compiled 21 examples of style guides to help get your creative juices flowing!
Now that you’ve got a better idea what a style guide is for your business, let Enotto help you turn that style guide into a sales-creating website or some conversion-focused digital advertising! If you’re daunted by the creation process, not to worry! We’ll be able to help you out by connecting you with our trusted and proven brand guide creator, Spire Creative.