Good housekeeping: why you need brand guidelines

Good housekeeping: why you need brand guidelines

Creating a consistent and meaningful corporate identity helps to ensure that your organisation will be recognised, remembered and respected.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand Guidelines are an agreed set of rules that determine how your organisation is represented. They set out how and where to use assets like the logo, colours, photography and icons, and they specify the tone of voice that should come across in written material.

What are the benefits of having brand guidelines?

  1. Consistency
    Consistency is the key to strong branding: it helps create brand recognition. We are highly attuned to subtle inconsistencies: if each time you met a friend they had a completely different accent it would be hard to take them seriously. Brand guidelines set standards and rules for how each element of the brand is used. Sticking to these rules means that all communications from your organisation will feel familiar to the audience, across all media, no matter who designs them. Repetition of the same consistent message will help audiences to associate the brand with certain qualities over time.
  2. Professionalism
    When branding is not consistent it looks amateur. It says that the organisation does not have a good understanding of its own identity. Guidelines help staff know how they are expected to represent the organisation at each touch-point.
  3. Speed up approval
    The process of creating brand guidelines is the opportunity for key stakeholders to have their input into the look and feel of the brand. Getting different people to decide on colours or fonts can be tricky, but when you make brand guidelines you only need to do this once, not every time you design a new thing. Without brand guidelines there is nothing tangible to judge the design against, and so it can just come down to the personal aesthetics and opinions of stakeholders: they don’t like a certain green, or prefer one font to another. Getting this agreement in advance will speed up the approval process for new materials.
  4. Streamline design
    Without brand guidelines you are asking the designer to start from scratch every time a new thing needs to be designed. The designer is having to second guess the aesthetics of the stakeholders, and this has implications for the cost of the design, and the turn around time.
small studios logo with exclusion zone
small studios logo with exclusion zone

What do brand guidelines include?

  1. Introduction
    This explains what the guidelines are all about, and is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the value of having them.
  2. Vision, mission and purpose
    These are at the core of any brand: they explain what is important to your organisation and set expectations. If your brand is just starting out, this can be something that you develop over time.
  3. Logo usage
    This section sets out how and where the logo should be used (clearance space, size, it’s positioning on a page) and how it should not (distorting, recolouring etc). If an organisation has secondary logos (for example, a black (mono) version for black and white documents), this section will make clear when each version should be used.
  4. Typography
    This section shows your corporate font(s), and may also set out sizes for headlines, body copy etc.
  5. Colour palette
    Here is where you would find the colour references for each of your corporate colours. References will normally include: CMYK, RGB, HEX, Pantone (see Do you speak digital and Do you speak design for more information on colour gamuts). You may have a primary (main) and secondary (supplementary) colour palette, and instructions about where/when to use each.
  6. Graphic Style / Images
    This gives a description of and shows examples of the types of photographs or icons that you want to use to represent your organisation.
  7. Writing Guide
    This sets out the tone of voice that should be used when writing on behalf of your organisation. It also may give instructions about how you write; which words do you hyphenate, for example, or use capitals.
  8. Examples
    The guidelines may include examples of how the brand should be used across different media.

small studios colour palette
small studios colour palette

What do brand guidelines look like?

We’ve worked on a lot of brand guidelines for our clients. Check out our portfolio for examples. You can also look at Adele, which is an online “repository of publicly available design systems and pattern libraries”.

And while you’re at it…

Brands are not static – they change with time, technology and necessity. Help add flexibility to your brand guidelines by appointing several named brand guardians to approve materials that fall outside the standard design guidelines.

Help yourself by organising your brand assets within a simple asset management system. Label your assets with file names that match those in the brand guidelines. It’s also helpful to create a photolibrary, including all images filed appropriately and model release forms where relevant.

Contact us

If you’d like to talk more about how your organisation could benefit from brand guidelines, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you: