Brand Design Guidelines 101

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What is one of the most important assets you own? Arguably, it is your brand! It is more than just a logo; it is the heart and soul of your business and is key to delivering a consistent message to your target audience anywhere they hear about you. In other words, it is the plan to achieve BIG ideas! You’ve invested and worked diligently to create your brand, so what more do you need? The answer is found in brand design guidelines.

Otherwise known as a brand guidebook, brand design guidelines designate the specific details used to create your company’s social image. With these details in place, you will be able to protect your brand value and supply detailed instructions for anyone who is part of your marketing team.  

So, what are brand design guidelines?

Brand design guidelines are written rules that establish the parameters for how your company embeds your message into your content so you stand out in the marketplace.

They allow designers, social media managers, content writers, and anyone interacting with your organization internally and externally to use the same playbook when creating content. Everyone can then follow the same rules of engagement, representing the company professionally and accurately every time.

Why do you need brand guidelines?

Whether your company is a single proprietorship or a multimillion-dollar enterprise, brand guidelines are essential to ensuring brand consistency. Without these guardrails to keep your marketing focused, your brand’s reputation and value can become distorted over time, leading to confusion and mistrust. A confused potential client will run the other way!

Brand guidelines help:

  • Form first impressions – We start forming opinions in the first five milliseconds. What do you want people to experience first?
  • Provide brand consistency – People are creatures of habit. We depend on consistent visual clues that tell us a company is dependable and relevant.
  • Eliminate confusion – Rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping for the best, brand guidelines ensure your message is clear -and recognizable- every time.

Did you know that 75% of website visitors determine a company’s credibility based on its website?

Due to the nature of the social and online environment, your brand may be the only touchpoint someone has with your company. Accurately portraying the professionalism of your business is key to a successful and lasting relationship with your clients.

What to include in your brand design guidelines

Guidelines vary from company to company and can be as simple as a one-page plan or as complicated as a hundred-page report. How detailed you want to be is up to you! It all depends on how consistent you want your brand to appear. Most unique brand guidelines include:

  1. Company logo
    Create or purchase a high-quality logo in both vertical and horizontal formats for various uses within your marketing campaign. You may also consider different colors, black and white, and transparent backgrounds. If you want to get more technical, you can specify spacing requirements. These options ensure your logo will appear crisp and clear on any device or site.
  2. Color palette
    Choose some colors and stick with them! A good rule of thumb is between 5 and 10 separate colors or shades. Be sure to write down the HEX numbers, CMYK values, and RGB values to achieve the same look across multiple platforms.
  3. Typography
    Use more than one font to make the text more exciting and can guide readers’ eyes to important information. Brand guidelines typically include different fonts for headings, subtitles, and body paragraphs. Also, consider font weights and spacing!

More details you may want to add:

  • Tagline – A single sentence that describes who you are and what you do (Example: Disneyland – “The happiest place on earth”)
  • Target audience – The specific group of consumers who want your product or service.
  • Profile picture – The same picture used across all platforms to ensure your brand is recognizable.
  • Tone of voice – The tone used in marketing materials and internal and external communications like emails.
  • Print materials– Business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers, and other templates for materials you hand out to the public.
  • Photo styling– High-quality photographs with a consistent style (i.e. dark and dramatic or light & airy.)
  • Email Styling– A standard email signature for everyone in your company. 

At Melanie McWilliams Design, we love seeing clients come to us with established brand design guidelines, but we also enjoy the process of creating them! Brand guidelines are an excellent way to introduce your company to potential clients while creating a consistent message that builds trust and cements your business as a leader in the industry. In the end, clear brand guidelines create a solid and powerful impression that infuses your brand with energy and intrinsic value.