Many of our clients struggle, once they’ve built the foundation of their brand, to keep their branding consistent across all their business and marketing materials, especially as their business grows. That’s why we’re going to show you how to create a style guide — with examples — so that you can keep the branding you’ve invested so much into from being used incorrectly.
While one or two branding slips that you make yourself can be easily corrected, over time, as you hire more employees or outsource your branding, it will become easy for the brand you put so much effort and thought into to be used incorrectly, to be degraded over time, and to ultimately stray from the vision you began with.
When you purchased your new logo, you invested a significant amount of time and money in the development of your brand. You made the decision early on not to cut corners on your business identity, and you hired a pro to design it for you.
You run a high-quality business, and it shows.
Now that you have a great logo, you need to protect it — that’s the goal of a style guide (also known as a brand guide or a set of brand guidelines).Learn More About Custom Logo Design Services
Your Brand Is Valuable — A Style Guide Protects It
As your business grows, so will your logo usage, and that opens the door to misapplication.
On day one, the designer you hired to design your trademark is the only person touching it. Naturally, this person knows exactly how it should look — they created it!
But, over time, more and more designers will be handling your logo, and expecting all of them to use it properly is unrealistic.
What Happens When You Don’t Use a Style Guide — Examples of Misapplication
Here are just a few examples of how this can go wrong.
- You may run a print ad in your local newspaper, and the design is included in their pricing, so you send them your logo and contact info.
- Then, you run a web banner on a partner’s website, so you hire a designer you met at a conference to knock that out for you.
- You also need business cards and a tee shirt, and you find a different company to handle both of those for you, so you send them your logo.
A different version of your logo is required for each of these applications. Size, color and orientation will all be affected from use to use, and you need to have options defined for each designer to pull from.
Otherwise, you run the risk of letting each designer do whatever they think is best — sometimes this works out fine, and sometimes it doesn’t.
That’s where a style guide comes in.
A Simple Style Guide Outline — 3 Parts
Style guides spell out the dos and don’ts for anyone working with your brand. Clearly defining proper usage of your logo in advance is the best way to be sure its integrity isn’t compromised.
A good designer will provide a brand style guide for you when your logo design is complete, but you can also create one yourself with this simple outline.
The basic components are:
- Correct Usage
- Incorrect Usage
We recently designed a style guide for Craftmade Brands, so we’ll use that as a template. Once you see a few examples of style guides, you’ll start to get a feeling for what your own should look like.Learn More About Custom Logo Design Services
How to Create a Style Guide — Step 1: Write an Introduction
Your intro page should define your brand as clearly, and in as detailed a manner, as possible.
You know who you are and what your logo represents, but most designers who you work with will not — so, tell them!
A good intro page will follow this format:
- What qualities your logo represents
- Why branding matters
- How and when to apply the brand
- Who to contact with questions
Your logo was developed to portray specific qualities about your business (for example, sophistication, professionalism, or playfulness), and you don’t want current or future designers to lose sight of those qualities. Start with these qualities to give designers an idea of what your brand stands for.
Branding matters. Most designers know that, but they may not know precisely what portions of your branding matter the most to you, how important it is to, for example, convey the sense of playfulness that your brand embodies, or to convey a small amount of professionalism, but scaled back in favor of playfulness when the two come into conflict.
That’s what your intro is for. It helps your designers understand the nuances of your branding.
Here are a few paragraphs that we use when we create style guides for clients. We typically use the same categories for all the style guides we create, so feel free to copy these paragraphs into your own brand guidelines.
Finish up your intro page with contact information for any questions people may have.Learn More About Custom Logo Design Services
Sample Introductory Paragraphs for Your Style Guide
Why Brand Matters
Our success depends on our ability to build good relationships with our partners, clients and employees. By building trust and rapport, our branding both begins and continually reinforces these relationships. A brand is a promise to deliver on what an organization claims, and broken promises risk the brand losing loyalty.
Applying The Brand
Please be sure to maintain the integrity of the design scheme. Significant investment has been made in this program and artwork, and pay-off is only realized when we all use the brand in a consistent manner. Templates are not to be altered without consent.
How to Create a Style Guide — Step 2: Define Correct Usage
This is where you spell out exactly how to use your logo. The more information you can give, the better!
Items you should include:
- White Space
- Reduced Size Variation
- Approved Colors
- Black and White Version
- Print and Web Colors
- Reverse Color Options
Placement is an easy bullet point — your logo should be placed on everything you ever produce.
Orientation options should include any approved layouts of your logo and where they should be placed on a variety of materials, like an 8½-by-11 page, an envelope, a promotional item, a vehicle, etc.
The example below shows clearly how an example logo should be used. We explain that it should be centered or left justified on the page, depending on which layout is used.
Defining how much white space should be around your logo is important so that no other design elements interfere with it. Using an element of the logo itself as a measurement tool is ideal: That way, the space can scale up and down with the trademark.
A reduced-size variation should be included for when your logo is scaled down to one inch or below. Insignias typically need to be dropped to keep your name legible at smaller sizes, so be sure to specify that.
Be specific with the approved color combinations of your brand as well. If you don’t provide examples, you’ll run the risk of a designer using non-branded color combinations, and your brand recognition will suffer.
What about black-and-white printing? Can designers use shades of gray, or just black? Which elements of your logo can be gray, and what percent of black should be used?
Again, be specific.
Specific color profiles should be defined as well. Printing presses use CMYK colors, while computer monitors use an RGB color profile. A good logo designer will also provide a Pantone color option. Include every option in your style guide.
Finally, a reversed-color option should be included. How should your logo look on a dark background? Should it be white or include your brand colors? If more than one option is acceptable, include both.
Learn More About Custom Logo Design Services
How to Create a Style Guide — Step 3: Define Incorrect Usage
Alright, you’re almost there!
The final page should include several options for incorrect logo usage. I will typically include these options, but include any you would like:
- Don’t swap colors
- Don’t change colors
- Don’t rearrange elements
- Don’t stretch the logo
- Don’t compress the logo
Time to Create Your Own!
There you have it! An easy-to-follow guide on how to create a style guide.
Remember, style guides don’t have to be overly complicated, just specific about the things you care about most — thoroughness on the portions that matter the most to you and your brand is the key.
Feel free to follow this step-by-step, or contact us today for help developing a brand style guide for your small business — click the button to get started.Contact Commotion Art!