Branding, by definition, is “the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product” (Business Dictionary). Your brand is the voice and personality of your organization and needs guidelines and rules to maintain its identity. How does an organization ensure its branding is being handled well both internally and externally? Brand and style guides define the standards and technical parameters for the design of documents, signage, and any other form of brand identifier. They guarantee consistency in style and formatting to ensure no erosion of the brand identity in the design of logos, collateral, social media, and web presence.
In the world of company branding there are two type of guides that companies utilize to project their identity through design: style guides, and their sibling, the brand style guide. These two types of guides outline the rules of design and are essential to a company’s growth, especially in the world of design by helping the company establish a personality. Guides focused around presenting the visual aspects of a company are essential to the outreach to the firm’s clients.
A style guide canvases the basic visual elements of a company in order for it to develop and maintain a successful and well-rounded brand. A style guide would include subject matters on logos, secondary logos (if the company has one or more), brand colors, typography, trademarks, an overview of the brand itself, information on website design and layout, advertisement examples, and the copy interaction with design.
LOGOS (Prime And Secondary)
The backbone of any organization’s identity and style guide is the logo. Brand style guidelines include information and visual examples of the size of the logo, when and how to use the mark, the backgrounds that are usable against the mark, exclusion zones around the logo, and the incorrect usage of the logo. While the logo is the primary visual identifier that clients see, a company can also utilize one or more secondary logos (such as individual products or services). The secondary logo should complement the prime logo and can be used in different circumstances to help strengthen the brand. The secondary logo section of a style guide should have the information about logo sizes, usage parameters, and should identify incorrect usage.
It is essential that a company style guide contain a color palette. A color palette displays the brand colors along with the technical color codes in accordance to the medium in which the graphics will be used. For example, Pantone and CMYK for print or hex and RGB for web. These color codes are displayed as swatches, enabling the user to take a quick at-a-glance visual of the palette. This section would also show the correct and incorrect usage of the colors with the logo.
Branded typography includes the different typefaces, fonts, or style of text that a company uses. These typefaces are typically used in the primary or secondary logos that have a typography element, marketing collateral, or any published material from the company. The style guide establishes the formats, size, and layout of the typeface and font across all branded materials (print, web, and digital media).
BRAND STYLE GUIDE (or Brand Bible)
Similar to the style guide is the brand style guide, sometimes referred to as the brand bible. This guide is a more elaborate version of the style guide. While the style guide covers the basics of branding a company or corporate identity, a brand style guide provides more detail in more categories of issues related to the brand. These categories cover topics that pertain to the brand and the design.
- Logo design
- Secondary logo
- Iconography (images)
- Graphic language
- Editorial voice and tone
- Legal guidelines
- Brand platform
Brand style guides are similar to style guides in that they share similar categories, but brand style guides provide more comprehensive information for each category. An example of this is the logo category. In a brand style guide, the size, spacing, exclusionary space, and incorrect usage is included. Also included are examples of the logo in both print and web format and trademark examples. One of the more important categories that appears in the brand style guide, but not in the style guide, is the “Photography” category. This category is crucial to companies that use pictures in advertisements and an essential part of the brand style guide.
Do brand and style guides vary from industry to industry? Though the style and look of the guides may change, the bones of the style guide (the essential information), remains the same. There are many ways in which different companies share their information. Skittles, for example, uses funny pictures and stories to present information. Where Adobe’s approach is simpler and monochromatic with very little flare.
So, while the structure of the information is similar, the different elements are simply presented in a way that showcases the brand. Every brand needs a style guide that specifies the necessary guidelines and rules to maintain the brand’s identity and consistently present the company image. Visual aids are the best way to help people quickly understand the quality of work and services your company can deliver. It’s all in the visuals.
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CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).