What should be in brand guidelines?

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By Alex
 · 
January 16, 2023
 · 
6 min read

Below we will cover the main sections you will find in a strong set of brand guidelines. You can of course compare them to your own guidelines while you read through to help you figure out if there’s anything undocumented in your own guidelines.

What makes your brand unique? The identity from deep within that forms your brand.

Purpose

The purest reason for your businesses existence is it's purpose. Do you have an elevator pitch? A drive that makes you want to work each day? These would be your brands purpose, and they are a great starting point for all guidelines as they ensure anyone who picks it up knows exactly why you exist.

Attributes

You don't necessarily choose your attributes, but they should come naturally. You may find that your business operates at very fast speeds with quick turn around times, or you are extremely meticulous with very long lead times. As you can see your brand attributes come from you doing business and are extremely high-level, but still important as you can use these if beneficial within your communications.

Values

Our core values are the things we celebrate and promote from within, and this is also true for brands. This is much more an internal guiding message than something that will ever be shown to customers, but of course depending on your brand values that could be a good idea... To find your own brand values it's usually good practice to start by asking yourself what kinds of business do you want to be?

Personality

The last part of the internal identity if your brand personality. Again this part of your brand isn't communicated outwardly but it's extremely important for those who work within your business and your customers. Your brands personality is what will drive people to make 5e decision, is this a brand I want to do business with or not, would I want to work for this brand, or not. The personality traits of your brand will usually be found in some way within all your employees and can be a good starting point for new hires, of course were not saying exact copies here, just the harmonising similarities are enough to ensure employees will extend your brand.

How does your brand sound? The tones and messages your brand communicate with.

Tone of voice

A section on tone of voice brings your brand personality through to a written format. This section details the type of words you should use in order to evoke the brand tone.

Messaging

Some brands have specific messages or phrases that they use across multiple communications and this may require standardisation.

If key phrases aren’t high on your brands requirements then this section may include details of your brand messaging such as the details on how to write, the grammar, the punctuation, or the capitalisation of key phrases.

How does your brand appear on the outside? The visual building blocks of your brand.

Logo

The logo is one of the key elements of the visual brand, and it’s your key identifier. Sometimes the logo can be referee to as a wordmark or brandmark too but these are essentially the same thing. The logo serves to display the name of your business.

There will usually be a few pages covering you new logo. You will need to know if there are alternative versions, as sometimes it’s beneficial to have an alternative version that works well over a busy or colourful background. There may also be versions that work particularly well when used in a reduced area when you need to display a lot of other information too.

After the alternative logo versions, you’ll come across a section on white space rules, or clear space rules. This section highlights how much space is required to be kept clear around the logo, across any placement or format. This is to ensure the logo remains prominent and uncontested

Colours

Colours are an important are of your visual brand as they contribute heavily to the overall feeling of the brand, as they can separate an energetic, lively, or serious one.

Your brand will usually have multiple colours specified, and you may even find you have one or two primary colours which form the main bulk of your main identity, with four or five secondary ones that help build out your communications.

You will find these colours have various specifications for use in various formats such as print, web or TV. There will be a Pantone number that relates to an exact printed colour, that remains identical no matter where it’s printed across the globe from any printer. CMYK colours determine a close match to domestic and professional printers that use four the basic pigments. RGB or Hex colours are used for TV and web and ensure consistent colours across digital screens.

Typography

The typography section of brand guidelines is also very important for your brand, as it covers the fonts that you’ll need to be using within your business. There may be more than one typeface here, and these are called type sets, they could be split in a number of ways such as a primary and secondary typeface, or you may find there’s a typeface used for print, and one for digital.

It’s hugely important that these typefaces are the only ones used when communicating from your business so there will also be information on where to find them, or if they need purchasing by third party design studios that work on your brand.

Illustration

If your brand uses illustrative elements then you’ll most likely find a section covering their usage too, as it’s important that any new illustrations continue to use a similar visual style.

This section covers the type of illustration, this could be digital or physical, as well as any information regarding the composition, tone, colours and textures of the illustrations.

Photography

Just as with the illustration section, if your brand uses photography then there should be a section covering this. Here you will find details on where to find new images if you rely on stock imagery, or contact details for approved partner photographers who have been tried and tested.

There should be information regarding the composition of the images, how they are shot, and the feelings they evoke. There is usually information about how people or still life should be shot, for instance, do people smile at the camera, or are they always looking away from camera, or are people always captured from waist up. These details are important as they help ensure that brand consistency through choice of image.

How do your brand guidelines compare? Great brand guidelines start with brand discovery.

Brand guidelines can seem daunting and over complicated when first opened, but the best ones are usually broken down in such a way that the complex information they bestow can be easily understood.

A great brand in essence requires great brand guidelines. it’s the guidelines that are shared with new members of your team and external partners, without them they would be second guessing the complex workings of your brand.

We can help your business with its branding requirements, wether your looking to create your first brand guidelines, or moving on from something that isn’t currently working for your business. All it takes is a conversation and discovery session.

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