The Essential Components of a Brand Style Guide

Does your company have a formalized style guide?

If the answer is no, this is something that you should strongly consider. Although creating a brand style guide may seem tedious, it is absolutely critical – especially as your company continues to grow and acquire more clients and employees. A brand identity and standards guide tells users exactly how to use visual elements (logos, fonts, colors, etc.) in order to retain equity and maintain consistent branding on all company documents and in all marketing channels. By not providing a formal style guide, you can create confusion and inconsistencies in how your brand identity elements are communicated.

First and foremost, a style guide is defined as a set of standards for the writing and design of documents that enforces a specific style to improve communication. It’s particularly helpful for employees and gives a company one strong, cohesive voice and image. Whether you are a service provider or produce and sell products, a style guide will help ensure that the message being put out there is the one that you approve. Consistency breeds trust, trust breeds loyalty and loyalty breeds repeat purchase.

Here are the essential elements of a style guide:

  • Written overview of the company
  • Purpose, mission statement, and values
  • Target audience and customer demographics (if appropriate)
  • Logo guide – sizing, colors and placement. That includes what to do and what not to do
  • Color palette – specific colors for the brand (primary and secondary) and color combinations that are permitted
  • Font guide – explanation of typographical choices and the names of the approved fonts
  • Collateral – letterhead, business card layout, press releases, email signature format, etc.
  • Photography guide – style and aesthetic
  • Digital and web guidelines – may include social media policies
  • Voice and tone of the company – for both internal and external communication

Tips for creating a style guide:

  • Include images and examples – don’t leave the guidelines up to interpretation. Show employees exactly what the colors look like and how your logo should be placed with clear examples. If you use Pantone colors, specify the number, the coating and the 4-color process build.
  • Work with a copywriter – consider bringing on a copywriter to craft the copy. You need someone who can communicate your brand values effectively so that there is no confusion about what is or is not allowed.
  • Anticipate questions – think about questions that your employees may have when looking over the style guide and answer them clearly in the text of the guide.
  • Make it accessible – provide both individual and communal printed copies of the style guide, or set up a simple website that people can search. This prevents people from losing their copies and gives everyone constant access. Finally, create a pdf that can be sent to your vendors, suppliers and press, if needed.

What other elements do you include in your style guide? Do you have any additional tips for creating an effective style guide? What are some of your favorite examples of guides from other brands or companies? Let me know what you think by responding in the comment box below.