4 Must-Have Elements of a Brand Style Guide

A beautiful brand is a terrible thing to waste. Protect your (brand) identity and maintain a consistent, quality image with a Brand Style Guide!

So, you’ve started a business. You’ve meticulously crafted your business plan, labored through sleepless nights honing your craft, and after close collaboration with an expert design team you have professional branding that captures your unique vision.

All is well in brand-land until you’re looking at an event program and see your logo displayed like this:

YellowDog logo with black outline

Or this:

Angled YellowDog logo

Or… gasp… THIS:

Wavy YellowDog logo

What went wrong? The intern from the comms team said they knew what they were doing, so why did they do THAT? Wasn’t it obvious that your logo should never look like that?

Should’ve sent them your Brand Style Guide.

Jeff Bezos quote about what is a brand

What IS a Brand Style Guide?

A Brand Style Guide, also known as a “brand guide” “brand kit” “brand book” or “brand standards” is a comprehensive document that contains all the ways your brand’s logo, graphic elements and messaging should, and shouldn’t, be displayed. 

Brand recognition and trust are built from consistency in both application and quality. Every business owner’s dream is for consumers to instantly recognize their branding, but that can’t happen if those consumers are playing an “are they, or aren’t they?” guessing game every time they see your marketing. If your branding doesn’t present a cohesive story of high quality and attention to detail, just imagine what it says about the quality of your business. 

“But if I’m designing everything, won’t I just know what I want it to look like?” 

Perhaps, but consider this: Do you WANT to do it all, forever? And even if you do, having a guide at the ready can serve as a handy reference for your design process and eliminates the “What was that font again?” guesswork. As your business changes and grows, this document will also ensure smooth transitions in your marketing and design teams.

What’s IN a Brand Style Guide?

Ready to dig in? Here are the 4 most important components of a successful Brand Style Guide for your brand:

Spacing and Sizing, Horizontal Lockup of YellowDog logo

Logo

Your logo is perfect. It’s amazing. “Chef’s kiss”. But are you prepared with a black or monochromatic version? Do you have layouts to fit long spaces, square spaces, small spaces, tall spaces? Would you place it on the edge? Between more logos? Would you wedge?

You probably get the point. And though it may seem obvious, disproportionately resizing (“stretching”), rearranging, or crowding your logo too close to other objects should also be explicitly prohibited in your guide, along with visual examples. Your logo is your brand baby; take no chances!

YellowDog brand color palette

Colors

A consistent color palette is one of the most important elements of your brand. During  logo development, you may have hunted through hundreds of color swatches to find that precise, timeless shade of emerald green. Unfortunately, your “green” is not always the “green” you get after your logo has been bounced around different printers, designers, or screens. 

It’s important to specify your brand colors’ Pantone, CMYK, RGB and Hex Code values and provide these every time you leave your branding in someone else’s hands. It’s a very common mistake to assume that one color value will appear the same on your computer or phone screen as it does on a banner or business card, but including these details in your brand guide will set you apart as someone who values their image and expects quality.

Fonts

Quality typography can set a brand apart from its competitors, and consistent fonts across your website, packaging, print assets, and marketing are key. Don’t stop at the flashy headline fonts, though; be sure you’ve considered complementary fonts for subheadings and body text, too. The last thing you want is for a well-meaning temp to think, “You know, papyrus gets a lot of flack but I don’t think it’s so bad…” 

You’ll also want to define your text colors, and it may be helpful to lay out a few sample text blocks, showing sizing proportions and preferred justifications or spacing. This may sound a little picky, but if you’ve ever encountered the “good enough” goblin you’ll appreciate the importance of being prepared.

Graphic Elements

Think of this as a mood board for your brand. Textures, patterns, icons, and visual examples of imagery that match your brand’s image help add dimension to your vision and are a great addition to any Brand Style Guide. Including these elements can help inform flagship brand photography and new product photography, provide inspiration for stock images, and keep you and your team on the same page with a cohesive identity while developing new marketing campaigns. Plus, it’s just fun!  

Consider pairing descriptive words with your graphics to give even more of a “vibe”. Think “youthful & edgy”, or ”classic & conservative”. Maybe try “vintage and modern, pastoral and post-apocalyptic, soft and bat-like” and watch your designers squirm.

Who Can CREATE a Brand Style Guide?

If this all seems a little intimidating, don’t worry. YellowDog’s team of experienced designers are keen distinguishers of your gorgeous emerald green versus that “good-enough goblin” green. We recognize Papyrus as… of its time. And most importantly, we create beautiful Brand Style Guides as part of our Brand Identity package. Trust us with your big idea and don’t send your beautiful, bouncing brand out into the world unprepared!

Lucy the Yellow Dog

Lucy the Yellow Dog

Lauren Pinto is a graphic designer on YellowDog’s award-winning design team. Hailing from Lincoln Park, NJ, she brings the gusto (and the stromboli) to YellowDog events. She geeks out on musical theater and package design for boutique e-commerce products.
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