Branding guidelines, or visual brand style guides as some companies call them, are a very important component to any successful brand.
Why do they matter so much? Brand guides establish a professional level of consistency throughout any visual your company uses - on the web or in print. A style guide is especially important if you operate a brand that produces many different products and marketing collateral or if you have many different individuals working on your materials.
By establishing standards for your business to use whenever your brand is utilized, you'll end up saving loads of time and frustration as your designers will know exactly how and when to use each element. Especially when you're creating packaging or custom labels for various products, it will help to maintain a professionally branded look, even if the product's label design changes with each variation.
Trust us, it will drastically cut down the amount of time you spend on editing and revising any design work.
So now that we've established why it's important to have a set of branding guidelines, we'll go over how to create a style guide for your business.
How to create branding guidelines
To start off, here is an example of some of our brand guidelines here at LabelValue.com:
As you can see, the item that gets the most attention is the logo.
So the first step is to define how exactly your logo can be used.
1. Defining your logo
When it comes to configuring your logo, there are three things to take into account: logo size, color, and placement.
Regarding size, you should dictate what size your logo should be for standardized documents, like letterheads. Think of the different ways your logo can be used and establish set sizes for your logo.
For color, it's important to realize that your logo may need to have alternate color options, depending on where it will be used - especially if your primary logo has multiple colors.
It's essential to specify what designers refer to as clear space for your logo as well. This is basically the amount of breathing room your logo should have from other elements in any given design. This is important for ensuring your logo never becomes overpowered by other design elements in any given usage.
If you do nothing else with your branding guidelines, at the very least come up with guides for how your logo will be used. Your logo is what most people will exclusively associate with as your brand and you want to make sure it's being used correctly.
2. Choosing official colors
Here's a great example of color palette branding from the communications guide for Code for America:
It is most important when defining your colors to make sure you specify both print and web colors. That means you should specify the colors in RGB or hexadecimal as well as CMYK or Pantone.
The reason for this is that many colors appear quite differently on your computer screen than they do when printed. CMYK and Pantone colors are color standards that printers use to create color, while RGB and hexadecimal are codes that computers use to create colors.
In the example above from Code for America, they specify the Pantone (PMS), CMYK, RGB, as well as the hexadecimal. The more detailed you are, the greater certainty you can have that your brand colors will come across correctly, no matter how they are used.
3. Selecting fonts and typography
The final recommended step while creating branding guidelines is to specify the fonts/typography that will be used for your brand. The fonts used may differ based on the medium used. For example, if you use the PT Sans typeface on the web because of its web accessibility and readability, you might use a serif font like Georgia in print, because it is more legible in print.
The key is that whatever you specify, you should stick to across the board unless you do a total rebrand.
You should specify headers, subheaders, and body copy rules. If there are any strange quirks (for instance our header font of Futura Bold is vertically scaled by 95% based off of our logo) then you should designate them in this section
4. Optional elements
You may have a certain set of icons or images that you use in association with your brand. If that's the case, then you want to dictate how they should be used as well. To do this, follow similar rules to what you did for your logo. State when, where, and how your icons or branded images should be used.
And that's it! Creating branding guidelines will make it easier for many departments in your organization to be consistent and efficient when creating new materials. It does take some time initially to set up, but it will pay dividends in future time saved from needless mistakes and discrepancies with your branded materials.