Whether you are just getting started with a new branding project, or it’s time to look at a refresh for your existing brand, one great place to start is by looking internally and assessing your core values and brand rules.
You may also look at other successful brands (to see what they have included in their brand guidelines template).
Not only will you learn more about building a successful brand image, but you’ll also find loads of inspiration!
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Before we jump into brand elements and examples, let’s start with brand guidelines. Brand guidelines are a set of standards or rules. They help you understand how to best build your brand in a way that communicates who you are in the marketplace.
While new brand guidelines can be added occasionally, established guidelines will help keep your brand consistent and showcase exactly what you do and why – and for who!
Strong internal brand guidelines also make it easy for your team to stay on the same page – from the sales department to the marketing intern. They will protect the visual identity of your business no matter where your customers find you.
What Is The Difference Between A Style Guide And A Brand Guide?
If you’re researching how to create brand guidelines, you may be wondering what the difference is between a style guide and a brand guide. The truth is, not much!
The names are interchangeable, and both include logos, fonts, brand colors, etc., and guidelines examples for a given brand.
The goal of both is to ensure that your brand can be consistently understood and properly represented, so whether you call it a brand style guide or brand guidelines, keep reading to learn just what it should include.
What Do Brand Guidelines Include?
If you’ve never developed brand guidelines before, you may be wondering exactly what they include. Keep reading for a list of important elements that should be in your brand guidelines, from primary logo to color palette and more.
Who You Are
Include information about your existing or new brand identity. Use the questions below as helpful guidelines if you’re unsure where to start.
Helpful Questions to Establish a Brand Identity
- What is the history of your company and brand?
- Do you have a clear and stated mission?
- What values are foundational for your organization and brand?
- You may also want to include the vision for the new few years.
- Where do you see your brand in five years or ten years, and what will the company look like?
- Will the brand be larger?
- Will you add services or products?
Who you are could (and should) take up an entire page or pages in your brand guidelines because it sets the tone for the entire brand.
Logos (And How To Use Them)
Your brand’s logo and logo colors (from the main logo to the submark and everything in between) should be included in your brand guidelines. You also want to have how to use each logo.
Helpful Questions For Logos
- What are the minimum and maximum sizing allowed for each brand logo?
- Can your logo (or logos) be placed over a photo or pattern or only on a solid background?
- Do you have rules about logo spacing?
This section of your guide should give direction on how to use your logos, when to use them, and what permissions may be required.
This is to ensure that wherever your logo is used, it will be in line with your brand standards and properly reflect your organization.
Brand Color Palette
Your primary and secondary brand colors (everything that makes up your color palettes) should be defined. We recommend including the exact codes for each branded color in your distinct color palette (Hex, RGB, and CMYK).
Each color may vary in appearance from online to print materials and everything in between. To ensure a consistent brand appearance, it’s best to include the codes for each item on the color palette (including secondary colors) so they can be used as needed for any situation.
What fonts you use for your brand, and where, should be included, so users know what to use, where, and why.
Helpful Questions for Font Guides
- What font is used for a brand headline versus a tagline?
- What sizes should be used?
If you have custom font styles, provide specific instructions on accessing the fonts and using them appropriately within your brand guidelines.
Your branding guide should include copy rules for your brand, from the tone of voice guides to specific rules on the type of words you use (or don’t use). While your design team may develop visual content, your copywriter will most likely support this section of the brand style guide.
The development of the brand voice is usually a project in and of itself. And it will help define who you are and who you are reaching so that you know how to best talk to your audience.
For example, a medical brand providing services to other doctors may use a more technical, professional tone and voice than a more casual brand that incorporates humor and pop culture references.
Just like the visual elements, you need guidelines to help everyone stay on the page, whether posting on social media, writing a blog or submitting a presentation for a talk. Use examples to help everyone understand the brand voice of the company.
Supporting Visual Elements
Your company may have other visual elements that support your brand outside of a logo, color palette, typography, and more. And if they’re key to the brand, they should be included in the brand style guide.
- During your company’s branding, did you develop custom icons?
- Did you hire a photographer to take company images?
- This section is a great place to include design elements that support your brand’s personality, whether custom or stock.
- Should fun, animated icons created for your brand be used alongside stark, technical icons?
- Why or why not?
Provide specific examples and clear guidelines on what visual elements can and should be included and what isn’t allowed for your brand.
Additional Brand Style Guide Elements
Along with the items above, your branding guidelines may include additional sections for other essential elements.
From a business card or letterhead template to basically everything that represents your company, creating your own style guide means that it can (and should) consist of your unique guidelines to support your entire team.
How do you create brand guidelines that work?
We’ve shared an outline of standard branding guidelines above, but the best advice is to create your own guidelines to support your team. The goal of brand guidelines is to ensure that they’re easily understood by anyone in the company – from the CEO to the newest intern.
How do you make a brand style guide most effective?
Choose a format that can be accessed easily – most often, that means digital.
And keep them concise. Today many companies have a distributed team working remotely and onsite to ensure that the brand guidelines are clear and don’t require interpretation.
Best Brand Guideline Examples
We’ve covered what goes into a brand guideline document and why it’s important. Now, let’s look at some great style guide examples (with a couple of famous brands you’ll recognize).
As we mentioned above, creating a digital document makes it easy for all company members to access the brand guidelines. But our first company (a great example of how to share brand guidelines) has taken it a step further and created a microsite.
This microsite acts as a portal for employees and partners to understand exactly how to use the brand, along with other examples for different brand components. Talk about a modern user interface from this company!
Let’s take a look at their in-depth brand guidelines. https://creative.starbucks.com/
First, you’ll notice the company does a fantastic job of sharing who they are and what the mission involves.
Below is a short excerpt from the brand style guide that tells the company story:
From farmers, roasters, and baristas to writers, designers, and illustrators, we believe in the power of both coffee and art to connect people and communities. Our new creative expression marries the artful core of our brand by helping our customers where they are, on their terms.
Next, Starbucks has a menu of core items that you’d expect in a brand style guide. These items include the company’s primary logo, secondary logos, and logo submarks. The brand book continues to cover the use of color, typography, illustration, photography, and voice.
Where Starbucks really excels is by including case studies with examples of how the company has utilized each of these brand guidelines together. You can review the use of a logo (or logos), colors, illustrations, etc., by the season or by a specific product.
By bringing all of these elements together in such a clear, effective presentation, Starbucks as a company has helped solidify the brand in a way that anyone who visits this site would be able to understand their unique brand identity.
Slack is another example of a brand style guide that includes everything someone could need to ensure brand consistency.
While not everything is hosted on a microsite, the brand guide can be easily accessed and downloaded through a site for media. https://slack.com/media-kit
Slack’s mission is included front and center in its style guide as a starting point for who they are and what they do.
The Slack platform is where work happens. It’s where people have the perfect conditions to connect, align, to get context so they can work toward shared goals, together.
Our mission is to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
Our vision is a world where organizations can achieve agility easily, no matter their size.
A user can easily find the primary logo, secondary logos, color palette, and other brand assets within the brand guide to understand the Slack brand. The strong brand guidelines are outlined in such detail that the document alone takes up 50 pages and goes into detail about many additional items, such as trademarks, governance, and more.
Another company with an online style guide that includes a brand guidelines template (and loads of fun) is TikTok. TikTok starts, like many brand style guides, with the mission behind what they do and who they are.
We celebrate the relentless energy, creativity, and expression of our users. This is the beating heart of TikTok.
Our identity is made from layers of content that constantly remix and refresh, encouraging you to discover more.
The TikTok brand is a unique, memorable brand, and it makes sense that the brand guidelines book reflects that image.
Instead of a static brand story, the guide actually uses images from users to bring the style guide to life. This is an excellent way to incorporate guidelines and examples while explaining how to reflect the brand essence properly.
What else will you find in the brand guidelines?
You’ll find the brand’s logos, colors, and typography (all with guidelines and examples). You’ll also notice the brand guide goes deeper and includes toolkits for users and legal guidelines for the company.
TikTok has found an interactive way to express a style guide (which is exactly what you would expect from an interactive platform) and is a great example of a well-done brand guide!
Want to explore more on your own?
Once you jump into a new identity and new project, it can be fun to explore a color palette, a primary logo, and a brand guide from a dozen brands or more that you recognize.
You can begin to see how the company uses a logo and whether you’ve noticed it before or not, they’ve created a consistent brand, thanks to the use of guidelines.
More Brand Guidelines Examples
The Red Cross can’t compete with TikTok’s interactive online experience, but it doesn’t have to. Take a look at their simple, static brand guidelines that convey how to use the primary logo and more to reflect the brand properly.
Keep this in mind as you create your own brand guidelines. The Red Cross manages to share relevant details on logos, colors, voice, and more on one page.
How Do You Get Started Developing A Brand Guide?
Ok, so we’ve covered what’s included in a brand style guide and why. In addition, we’ve looked at some great digital examples of a brand style guide from some recognizable brands.
The goal of any brand style guide is to create something that will work for your company, complete with a logo (or logos), color palette, and at least an example or two of how to use elements that best reflect the company and brand properly.
So if you’re ready to get started, what’s first?
Choose A Format
While you may not have the budget (or time) to create a microsite, the good news is that you don’t have to. Unless you have a worldwide team and a large budget to match, your brand style guide can be a much easier undertaking.
Take a page from the Red Cross organization and their efficient one-page example. While it doesn’t come close to the 50 pages the Slack company has shared, it is also available in a digital format that is easily accessed online.
If you aren’t ready for digital brand guidelines, you can start with a print version. Be sure to create the company brand guidelines in a format like PDF so it can still be easily shared but not altered.
Bring Your Brand Elements Together
If your company is new, you may not have a logo or mission statement yet. Start by creating these important pieces so they can be incorporated into your brand guidelines.
If you already have these elements, take the time to review each piece before creating your brand guidelines examples. If anything is outdated, take the time to update it before including the piece in your brand book.
Use the steps we covered above to walk through the most common elements in a brand guide – for example, mission, logos, color palette, and typography.
Once you have all the pieces together, it’s essential to communicate the brand guidelines (and purpose) with your team. Brand guidelines only work if everyone knows the why and how to use them effectively.
Roll Out Brand Guidelines
In addition to letting your team and partners know about the brand guidelines, you’ll need to consider where else updates need to be added.
If the brand (or guidelines) are new, marketing materials including brochures, decks, websites, and products should be updated simultaneously. The best way to execute this is to create a plan in advance that accounts for the necessary time to print new materials, update or create a new website, etc.
Work With The MMC Agency
Need a partner to help you develop brand guidelines for your company? The MMC team would love to assist.
Our expert strategists, designers, and copywriters guide our clients through the process of creating brand guidelines, from developing (or updating) logos, branded colors, visual elements, copy, and more. Regardless of what you need to design and execute your company brand fully, we’re your go-to agency.