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A template for brand guidelines

Perfecting your brand’s identity is simple when you have the right blueprint in place. Discover what brand guidelines are, why they’re important and how you can turn them into an essential piece of collateral in your business.

Consistent branding is a key cog in the wheel of a business’s success. Yet, in a faced-paced world, that cog can squeak, buckle and bust.

As your brand starts to push out new content and marketing comms, inconsistencies start to creep in.

Conflicting wording, colours and image usage are sure-fire ways to dilute the power of your brand identity and potentially put prospects off for life.

But never fear, DITS is here. In this blog, we show you how to create brand guidelines and share some inspiring examples to ensure you build a consistent and memorable brand.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are a set of cast-iron rules created to clarify how a company wishes to present itself to the world.

These “rules” stipulate how colour schemes, tone of voice, imagery, typography and much more should be presented to customers across numerous platforms.

When setting these out in stone, businesses can create anything from long-form style guides to one-page documents. It all depends on the flexibility they wish to give employees and how big the company is.

Why are brand guidelines important?

When a customer feels an emotional attachment to a company, we’re more likely to buy from them and stay loyal.

To help you keep hold of the “essence” that makes customers love your company, you’ve got to be consistent. Brand guidelines will help you achieve this.

By applying this blueprint, businesses set a standard and build familiarity. The sky is the limit. If McDonald’s didn’t have its famous golden arches, would it be as memorable and easy to franchise? No.

Not convinced? Then maybe these brand guidelines statistics from SmallBizGenius will help:

  Presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%.

• Consistently presented brands are 3.5 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility than those with an inconsistent brand presentation.

• Consistent colours improve brand recognition by up to 80%.

One additional finding, which especially catches the eye, is that 89% of shoppers stay loyal to brands that share their values. This stat highlights how businesses can unlock vaults of potential customer spend through a clear and consistent brand persona that brings their values to life.

How to create brand guidelines

A great starting point for developing a brilliant set of brand guidelines is to establish your values. This approach will provide a springboard, enabling you to create a set of clear standards and have the biggest impact.

Brands that develop large brand style guides will do this right from the get-go, leading with a mission statement and highlighting three to five fundamental values.

For example, National Geographic’s brand guidelines kick off with the statement: “We seek. We explore. We take risks, not just for the sake of adventure, but for the higher purpose of understanding.”

The company then backs this up with their five values: premium, science, adventure, exploration and destination.

From this, the business could build a vision, which would shape the rest of the content in the brand guidelines and inspire content creators.

What to include in brand guidelines?

First things first, let’s talk about the logo. The correct design and acceptable variations should feature front-and-centre of the brand guidelines. Sometimes, it will appear next to a matrix of how the logo should not look too. This will discourage designers from altering their appearance.

The company’s trademark colour palette will likely be addressed next, with each colour and its applicable hex code. Hero and supporting colours will be labelled, so stylists know which colours to lead with.

However, many will go beyond these basics. Just take a look at this page from British Airways’ brand guidelines. They give clear instructions on colour quantities.

Creating a consistent tone of voice is also a significant consideration. This will largely stem from your previously established values. For instance, if one such value was “fun”, the guidelines would articulate how writers can create content that will encourage customers to smile.

Then you need to think about building brand guidelines for typography. This section must include header sizes, plus primary and secondary fonts.

Next, it’s time to consider imagery. Perhaps there’s a certain type of picture that works and others that are off-limits. You can also set specifications for filters and how images are colour corrected.

To take it one step further, add guidelines for overlaying text on images and explore the meanings of colour. A prime example is Adobe’s 39-page brand guidelines.

Extensive guidelines, such as Adobe’s, may also be filled to the brim with clearly stipulated standards for:

• Grammar and language choice (i.e. Oxford English, dos and don’ts, sentence examples and punctuation)

• Email signatures

• Letterheads

• Presentation slides

• Social post templates

• Motion graphics

• Design dimensions

• White space limitations

To cram all these essential elements into one brilliant set of brand guidelines is a real challenge. Let’s see how other brands have struck the perfect balance.

Amazing brand guidelines examples

Having referred to guidelines from National Geographic, British Airways and Adobe already, there has been much food for thought. Yet, let’s not call it a day quite yet.

Here are four further brand guidelines examples to inspire your creation:

American Red Cross brand guidelines – These stand out, as each rule has been condensed onto one page, jammed full of clear instructions.

Urban Outfitters brand guidelines – Key customer personas are included, so designers can better get to grips with the brand’s target audience.

Netflix’s brand guidelines – Take a look at the detail within these guidelines on how the Netflix logo should be used. The attention to detail, in terms of size, spacing and positioning, is remarkable.

Nike’s brand guidelines – 14 pages of Nike’s brand guidelines are dedicated to typography alone, linking the standards to an overarching goal of being “expressive”. It’s a real celebration of the visual appearance of the written word.

Set sail to brand guidelines success

Ready to lift the anchor, take the wheel and steer your way to success? A consistent branding experience is just over the horizon.

The main thing to consider when creating brand guidelines is to design one in proportion to your business. For example, if you’re in charge of a small business you won’t need a 30+ document. It’s excessive and irrelevant. Plus, you can probably voice your concerns about dodgy wording in the staff kitchen!

However, as you scale up or start outsourcing your graphic design and content, you may need something more conclusive. After all, these professionals and agencies have the reputation of your company in their hands. So, the best course of action is to guide them on what you like and what you don’t.

In the meantime, if you need any branding and design support, DITS is here to help. We’ll be your compass, navigating you through treacherous waters to create a powerful public persona that delivers the right results.

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