Remember the last time you had a quick marketing opportunity come up and you jumped on it? Then, I’m sure, you immediately panicked about the creation of the artwork needed for the ad. I remember what that was like and it was NOT fun. Stop what you’re doing and let’s make a brand style guide today. You will be so happy you did the next time another ad has to be created for that sports program you paid to be included in.
We’re going to focus on a one-page brand style guide today for the visual elements of your brand, but you will need to know just who you are before doing this exercise. The more thorough version of this one-page is a full brand guidelines document. It’s okay if you’re not quite ready for that yet, but you’ll need to know more about your business before you develop a style for your brand. The five areas you’ll need to know are mission, vision, target audience, brand personality, and core values. We’re assuming you’ve done that work, but if not, definitely contact us to help you out!
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is a collection of brand-styled and approved colors, fonts, elements, photos, and more displayed alongside your logo suite. It’s a handy, quick-access document to use anytime you need to remember just what that font was in your last ad or the exact shade of blue you are using in your main logo.
But, why do I need a brand style guide?
When building your brand presence either online or in print, it’s so important to be visually consistent in all of your marketing…ESPECIALLY if you have a limited budget. Every time you create something for your business that doesn’t align with the last items you’ve designed, it’s almost like you’re branding and promoting two different businesses. Consistency is the most important part of branding, even if you’re in a hurry to get something out there.
What do I need to make a Brand Style Guide?
Guess what? We are going to help you create one today! You can use a free program, like Canva, or try to do it in Word if that’s all you have. We have created a template for you, so all you have to do to follow along with today’s challenge is download the size you’d like below and scroll to the blank page to get started!
Now that you have that downloaded and opened in Canva, let’s go step by step and include the basic necessities for your business’ brand style guide.
1. Company Logo
You’ll want to start with your most commonly used logo. Let’s add that to the top of the page to set the stage for what’s to come below. If you have more than one version of your logo (and you should – for your own sanity), you could include those too, but let’s put them below the main one and just a tad smaller. You can feel free to extend onto two pages or even more if you’d like, but the point of this document is to be a quick-glance document.
- Colors: For a full brand guidelines document, you may want to include all color options for your logo as well as versions with and without your tagline, vertical and horizontal, etc., but for this document, let’s just use one version.
- Spacing: Show an example of the proper space required around your logo. Every brand should enforce rules like this so that others are sure to follow them as well.
- Don’ts: It’s important to show how NOT to use your logo as well, including stretching, changing colors, tilting, etc. Again, since this document is just a style guide, we have left this off of our template, but this is an important section for a full brand guidelines document.
Next, you’ll style primary and secondary colors. Tools like Adobe Color and Coolors can help you find something great! Once you find your perfect color palette, include CMYK (for print), Pantone (for print), RGB, and hex versions (both for digital) in your style guide. Need a shortcut? We have 15 FREE color palettes ready and waiting for you in our Freebies shop!
Use your new primary colors with secondary or tertiary accents making sure the primary colors are the main colors used. Stick to the hierarchical use of colors and be sure not to lose your design aesthetic by layering too many colors creating a distracting style. See the DOs and DON’Ts included here.
You’ll need fonts to use for headers, subheaders, and body copy to display in print and on the web. Check out these brand style guide font examples of how to mix serif fonts, sans serifs, and more to work together for your final brand. If you need a bit more help, try Canva’s Font Combinations to help you match header and body copy choices. You’ll begin your font selection by thinking about the characteristics of your brand, choosing fonts that go along with your logo well, but they should not be the same fonts used in your logo since doing that can dilute your brand. Your font choices should:
- Be unique to your brand and memorable
- Be legible to read at any distance and size
- Work on every platform (try Google Fonts for free, open-sources choices)
- Show off your brand personality
4. Elements & Patterns
You can really start to show your brand’s personality with elements and patterns. They will help increase your brand recognition and overall awareness. When creating patterns and elements, the style of these should help to reinforce your brand’s personality. Choose elements (icons, drawings, bullets, etc.) that are hand-drawn, illustrative, structured, or simple depending on what your brand is trying to convey. When it comes to patterns, you should have a variety depending on your needs. When you sit down to create that ad, it might be as simple as a pattern in the background with text and a logo on top. If these elements align with your brand, your customer will see that quickly!
5. Brand Photos
Visuals will help tell your brand’s story when used properly. As social media continues to become a saturated marketplace, your brand photography needs to stop your potential customers in their tracks and reinforce your brand at the same time. Just as the other elements of your guide need to speak to your brand, photos are no different. Photography should consider three elements:
- Composition: Each aspect of your photography will be noticed by your audience, from what people are wearing to how each product is displayed.
- Environment: The location and lighting/filter of your photos will help your brand remain consistent and recognizable. Each photo should be unique, but establishing a style will bring your audience right back to your brand each time they view your photos.
- Color Palette: Color remains the easiest element to match back to your brand. Use photos that incorporate your main logo colors or secondary color palette. Some stock photo sites like Adobe Stock allow you to search by HEX colors to make matching your brand even simpler!
You did it! You made it to the end of the challenge. Now that you have your brand style guide created, the next time you have to create an ad, just grab a photo or pattern, a brand color or two, and your brand fonts and start building. It’s easier and better for brand-building when you don’t have to make design decisions along the way. And, in the end, consistency is the quickest way to a strong, easily recognizable brand.
(Psst…If you’re ready for even more, we’ll help you build a full brand guidelines multi-page document or move on to designing your marketing collateral.)
If you need a little more of a challenge…now that have your guide completed, you can expand it by collecting past marketing pieces from business cards and letterhead to ads and billboards. Putting those together in one place will help you notice any inconsistencies in your brand and marketing.