How to Create a Brand Style Guide: 5 Steps for Consistent and Cohesive Branding

Maintaining quality and consistency in your brand’s content can be challenging, especially when dealing with large volumes of content or multiple content creators. Without proper direction, you risk ending up with content that doesn’t align with your brand, from incorrect colors to misplaced logos and off-brand messaging. This can undermine your brand’s integrity, making it crucial to ensure your content is always on-brand. The solution? Create a comprehensive brand style guide.

Brand Style Guide

What Is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide is essentially the documentation of your brand identity, presented in a format that makes it easy to apply to any content you create. It serves as a toolkit to help you present a consistent and cohesive brand to the world, encompassing everything from your logo to your brand voice.

Why Do You Need a Brand Style Guide?

Having a brand style guide is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it provides more quality control, ensuring that your content is well-crafted and effective even without the constant oversight of an Art Director. It also increases comprehension for your audience, creating a better content experience through clear communication and good design. Finally, a brand style guide contributes to better brand recognition, as it delivers a more cohesive brand experience that makes your valuable content easier to recognize and trust.

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Ultimately, if you want to build a successful brand, you need a style guide that supports your brand identity.

Example: Whether it’s an e-book or infographic, LinkedIn adheres to a strict visual language, including consistent use of their signature blue color, data visualization style, and other details.

What Should a Brand Style Guide Include?

To create an effective brand style guide, include the following key elements:

  • Brand Heart: This section explains your brand’s core principles, including its purpose, vision, mission, and values, which guide your behavior and define your brand’s identity.
  • Verbal Identity: This covers how you communicate about your company, describe your products, and interact with customers. It includes your brand voice, tone, personality, messaging pillars, tagline, and value proposition.
  • Visual Identity: This section focuses on your brand’s visual aspects, such as your logo, colors, typography, and any additional elements like photography, illustration, iconography, or data visualization.

Note that if you’re a new brand, start with the basics, such as your logo, color palette, and typography, as well as guidelines for your brand voice and personality.

What Makes a Good Style Guide?

To ensure your style guide is effective and widely used, consider the following factors:

  • Comprehensiveness: Include as much relevant information as possible to help content creators produce on-brand content.
  • Practicality: Avoid overwhelming your team by providing clear and concise direction with helpful examples, dos and don’ts, checklists, and tools and resources.
  • Accessibility: Make sure your style guide is easily accessible to everyone on your team and new employees by housing it on a company server or creating a digital PDF.
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Remember that your style guide should be customized to meet your brand’s unique needs.

How to Create a Style Guide

Step 1: Choose Your Format

Decide on the format of your style guide, considering whether you want it in print, digital, or interactive format. You may even experiment with a combination of these options.

Step 2: Create a Table of Contents

Outline the elements you plan to include in your style guide, such as your brand’s heart (purpose, vision, mission, values), verbal identity, and visual identity. Adapt the outline to your brand’s specific requirements.

Step 3: Build Out Your Style Guide

Flesh out your brand guidelines, focusing on clarity and practicality. Include tips, call-outs, sidebars, dos and don’ts, checklists, and examples to make it easier for content creators to apply the guidelines. Let design elements illustrate your guidelines wherever possible.

Step 4: Vet Your Style Guide

Have someone intimately familiar with your brand review and proofread your style guide for clarity, completeness, and user experience. Incorporate their feedback and ensure that your style guide is a valuable tool for those who use it.

Step 5: Make Your Brand Guidelines Easy to Access

Ensure that your brand guidelines are easily accessible to your team by storing them in a central location, such as a company server or Wiki. Consider sharing a digital PDF version as well, even if you also have a printed copy.

5 Awesome Brand Style Guides to Inspire You

Looking for inspiration? Check out these well-executed brand style guides:

1) Mailchimp

Mailchimp offers interactive guidelines for both copywriting and design. Their level of detail for copywriters is impressive, covering various content types and providing writing principles and tips. Their design guidelines are beautiful and concise, demonstrating the brand’s design philosophy.

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2) Zendesk

Zendesk’s style guide tells a story, breaking down their brand identity elements with simple dos and don’ts, tips, and resources. It feels less like an instruction manual and more like an editorial piece.

3) Gusto

Gusto demonstrates that a well-designed PDF can be just as effective as an interactive one. Their brand guidelines are visually appealing, providing not only practical guidance but also educating users on the importance of these guidelines and how they reflect the brand’s philosophy.

4) ELM

ELM’s brand guidelines stand out with their colorful, clean, and engaging design. The interactivity, animation, and visuals make the guide a joy to use, and design elements effectively convey information.

5) Starbucks

As a mega-brand, Starbucks must maintain a cohesive brand identity. Their comprehensive brand style guide covers various elements, and the interactive presentation showcases their signature colors, animations, and case studies.

Always Keep Your Brand Guidelines Updated

Remember that your brand is always evolving, and your brand guidelines should reflect those changes. Schedule regular content reviews with your team to ensure the guidelines remain relevant and useful. Encourage feedback and ideas that can enhance your style guide and make it easier to use.

If creating your brand guidelines feels overwhelming, consider working with professionals who can help you develop your brand identity. Reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to assist you.

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