Brand Guidelines – Why You Need Them
“More what you’d call guidelines than actual rules” – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
The thing that makes it easiest to run my business is creating rules, or guidelines you might say. I have categories I post about on social, I have colors I know that match my brand, I have a checklist that photos need to meet in order to be posted, and have lists of lists of content I want to create that all must pass the hard test of “Am I adding value to my customer’s life?” Yeah, I don’t just create for the sake of creating but instead think long and hard about how this fits within my brand and how it will affect my audience. That, my friends, is where my brand guidelines comes in.
What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines or a brand style guide, are a PDF document that has all the rules of your brand in one place. This book is used as a tool to reference anytime you have questions about if something is on-brand. I share it with people who I’m partnering with or new consultants or employees that join the team. It’s basically the rule book that allows others to know how they make content that feels like my brand and I recommend that every business have one.
They don’t need to be long or designed by a professional, you simply need a place where all the rules of your brand sit in one place.
Back in the day when I was a graphic designer for a newspaper, we had guidelines that we would reference for every issue of the hundred-year-old newspaper. These guidelines included fonts, size of fonts, even the leading size (space between two lines of text). There were so many small rules for keeping the newspaper on brand that we needed a guide to keep track.
How Do You Write Brand Guidelines?
A brand style guide doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s simply a document that has all of your rules in one place. This makes it easy to share with outside consultants, partners, employees or to reference when you’re not sure if something feels on brand. To get you started with building your own style guide, download my template here.
What Goes In Your Guidelines?
The good and bad news is there are no rules, just your rules. Anything could go in your brand guidelines depending on what you see as being important to your brand. With that being said, here are the things I suggest a brand have in their guidelines:
- Fonts: Reference where each font type is used and the min/max size – Heading font, paragraph font, button fonts, etc.
- Brand Colors: include HEX codes and CMYK numbers. These are so helpful for graphic designers to have when you hire one on!
- Logo: Have all your logos shown in one place with any rules you have surrounding their formats and what formats are to be placed where. You can also include any rules you have about the smallest size your logo is allowed to go. (250 px is my recommendation.)
- Brand Photography: As a photographer, I’m a stickler about having brand photography guidelines. Are your photos light and airy? Are they bold with contrast? Do they lean on the warm side, cool side or with a pure white balance? Do you use white backdrop images or all lifestyle? If you can find one photographer you love and stick with them. It’s a great way to build a brand identity behind your photos.
- Voice: Are there words you just won’t use in your brand? Are there phrases, like your one-liner, that should be used over and over again? Are you fun and entertaining or are you serious and sentimental?
- Misc: If there are other things you talk to your staff about or make notes of to remember yourself that are about your brand, include those in your guidelines.
Who To Share Your Brand Guidelines With
While your customers don’t need to see your guidelines, anyone who is working with your business should. When you partner with another business or bring on a new employee they need a copy of your brand guidelines. Even if it’s just so they know what logo to use and how it’s to be used when they share it on a website page, banner, or print ad. Not every partner will always use your guidelines, but it’s good for them to have a copy just in case and it makes you look like a professional who knows what they’re doing.
Your brand is your baby and the way you present it to the world matters. What makes brands so great is that we can recognize them no matter what we’re looking at. That’s the same kind of recognition you want for your brand. These brand guidelines will help you achieve just that.
Want help with setting up your guidelines and getting clear on what you need to include in yours? Sign up for my FREE 30-minute clarity call and let’s get clear in your brand guidelines and set your business up for success! Schedule your free call today.