Friday, 13 September 2013

Brand Style Guides – why they are so important to small business

You might have heard this buzz word “brand style guide” floating around before but are not too certain what it means or how you get one. A brand style guide is a document set in place that outlines a set of rules to how the design of your marketing collateral and any correspondence might be presented. These are the items you should look at having in your style guide to ensure continuity across all platforms.
Your logo
You have had your logo designed. Great! But you should now think about how it should be displayed. Generally a logo is designed to sit on a white background (not all of the time but in a high percentage of cases it is), this means you should not allow it to sit on a background of similar colours, or any background where the quality of the logo might be compromised. If you have circumstances where your logo may need to sit on another colour other than white this is where your rules can come into place. In most cases people will have another version of their logo, possibly in plain black or white to take its place. If you don’t want a secondary logo to take its place, no problem – your rule can be the logo must always sit on white. 

If you have an icon with your logo you might have rules set in place as to when and how this is used, similarly to using a byline with your logo. Some brands include a spacing rule – e.g. the logo must have 25% of space around it before anything else or the edge of its medium as an example.

A good design would normally stick to 1-2 fonts at the most, 3 at a push. This is not to say you can’t use different styles from the family, but don’t go crazy. For example if Helvetica is your chosen font family perhaps you take advantage of Helveticas different styles: bold, condensed, roman and oblique. Up to you, but the most powerful brands are simple and don’t over complicate things by having too many fonts. To set these up on your style guide you might specify what each font/style is used for.

Headings: Helvetica Bold + Condensed
Sub-Headings: Helvetica Condensed
Body-Text: Helvetica Roman
Quotes: Helvetica Light + Oblique

Byline: Amperzand

2 fonts, 4 styles

Not all fonts are web safe – which means not all of them, can be used online, so make sure you think about what fonts are going to be used on your web applications as well as print so you don’t end up over cluttering your brand.

A brand might have anywhere between 1-3 primary colours plus white. You can specify how these colours are used in your brand style guide. If you wish your colours to be consistent and plan on using it on a large variety of different platforms you may want to look at getting a spot colour. A spot colour never changes, where a colour made from CMYK can vary from printer to printer and each time it prints as plates can move slightly and change the tone. So if you are adamant you want a specific colour with no room for variance ask your designer to use a spot/pantone colour instead of CMYK. Once you have your colours sorted specify them in your brand style guide so that anyone who needs it knows exactly what and how they are to be used.

Icons and Images
If you have had some icons or images made for your brand you should specify guidelines as to how they are used. For example there may be spacing issues, or perhaps when one image is used another mustn’t be. One image might be used with one of your products consistently where another might not. You might have backgrounds designed for different platforms, one for packaging one for advertising and one for web. This is very specific to you brand, but something to think about to ensure continuity is kept across all media.

Your brand style guide is unique to you; you can include whatever you feel necessary to ensure continuity is kept wherever your brand appears. You can include emotions and buzz words if it helps  “our brand is fun, quirky and whimsical aimed at children 5-10” these are good points of reference if you ever feel your brand is straying from where it began refer back to these thoughts to reign it back in. Strong design is so important in small business, especially those just starting out to gain traction and credibility without the years of experience behind it. It doesn’t have to big – even a single A4 sheet with a few guidelines would help. You have spent the time and energy creating this brand; think of it as maintaining and servicing to ensure the best output it can possibly get.

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