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What are brand guidelines?


Brand guidelines are the rules behind how your brand looks, sounds, moves, communicates, tells its story, and exists. They encompass multiple components such as your logo, colour palette, messaging and more, which should be applied across all marketing material.

Why are brand guidelines important?

Brand guidelines are there to remind everyone exactly how to use your branding.
So that no one inserts a cute cat photo into a client presentation just because.
So you don’t end up with snot-green mugs in the office when your brand colours are black and white.

Obviously it’s much more than just that.

They’re there so that your brand remains consistent, everything (in theory) stays on-brand, and you can work with third parties easily, letting them in on everything that makes up your brand, both visually and from a messaging perspective.

We think brand guidelines should always be digital, accessible through a webpage you log into, easily editable and updatable, giving everyone who needs to, the ability to download any or all brand elements in an instant, without having to search around for the latest version of something or get lost on the server.

What should brand guidelines include?

No two brands are the same so the elements that are included in your brand guidelines will not be identical to any other brand’s guidelines. There are, however, common elements that will usually be included.

Brand core

Your brand guidelines should start with your brand core. The essence of your brand. Its soul.

Why you exist, your brand vision, mission, values, USPs and story should go here. So that anyone opening up the guidelines, whether that’s someone in the internal team or an external creative team will know all about the brand. Your marketing material shouldn’t just look, feel and sound like your brand, but should be helping your brand achieve what it sets out to do. Align with the overall goals of the company.

Your logo (and its variations)

Your logo in all its forms should appear in the guidelines. The way we do it, as a creative brand agency, is to start off with the story behind the logo – what it represents, any hidden meanings, and why it was chosen for the brand.

Your logomark, wordmark, and any combinations, varying in size, should be laid out in the guidelines. Notice how logos appear differently depending on where they are, and the size and orientation of the space they’re sitting in.

In the modern world, we should also be showing how the logo moves and sounds. Think about the Netflix logo. That “duh-dummm” sound when it appears on your screen, the way it expands out afterwards, that’s all been thought through, and should be outlined here.

For this reason, we suggest digital brand guidelines over static PDFs. (Click here to book a demo)
They’re easily updatable, you can download everything straight from the webpage, you can give anyone access in a second, and there’s never any mix-up with who has which version, and no hunting around on the server for the latest high-res logo.

Typography

The typography section should include:

  • Your brand fonts
  • Usage rules of typography (which styles should be used, and where)
  • Type pairings (which fonts go with which)

Colour palettes

Both your primary colours and secondary colours should form a part of the colour palette included in your guidelines, alongside any gradients used, the colour codes, whether that’s HEX codes, CMYK, or Pantone. This will make it much easier for people to get the perfect shade when creating marketing material.

You can also include a “dos and don’ts” section, giving guidance on which colours should be used against dark backgrounds, which should be used against light backgrounds, when to apply certain gradients or colours, etc. It’s also important to emphasise which brand colours are accent colours and which aren’t. E.g., if your brand colours are black and white, but you have accent colours of hot pink and neon yellow, the bright colours could be used for things like page numbers, arrows, and headings. Accent colours should not be used for a background for a presentation slide, for example, or fill an entire screen.

Graphics

This section should include any graphical elements within your brand. This could be illustration graphics, iconography, bespoke graphical elements such as arrows and line separators, renders of certain graphics used throughout the brand regularly (e.g. if your brand story involves a rope, the renders of the rope you’ve agreed to use to represent this part of the story would go here. This avoids people within the company thinking they can grab a random rope graphic from the internet and use it in your marketing material).

Photography

Your visual style is unique to you, and might include some kind of photography. If so, it’s important to know the photography style so that people within the company can match the same style. It’s important people don’t just think “a photo is a photo” – there are so many different types of photography, you all need to know which fits your brand.

Application

The application section includes things like how the branding should be applied to video content, how to style printed material, web styling, how to use different graphical elements within promotional graphics and thumbnails, the ways different graphical elements and photography should work together, how to use the brand to create infographics, the type of merchandise the brand should and should not be applied to, and so much more. Every brand is different, so it’s impossible to list all applications here.

Other brand elements

There are plenty of other things you can include in your guidelines, such as your brand tone of voice, your elevator pitch, core messages, tagline, and other things unique to your business.

As we mentioned before, digital brand guidelines are far superior to standard PDFs.

Get in touch for a quote on yours today. 

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