You might have heard of style guides but probably quickly dismissed them as something only a big corporation will do. Well it’s not. The complexity and scope of a style guide obviously varies from one brand to another. But the necessity of having one is crucial to ensure your brand’s consistency. Simply put a style guide is nothing more than an instruction manual. It informs your creative team of how they can or cannot use your company’s branding materials. The main function of a style guide is to ensure that your brand is promoted consistently both internally and externally.
Depending on the size of the company and the branding needs, it can contain some of the following (and maybe more):
- Explaining of the brand values, history and evolution.
- Logo usage guidelines and misuses to avoid.
- Brand’s colors along with the numerical breakdowns for print and on screen usage.
- Typography choices and fonts used across the various brand collaterals.
- Appropriate usage of other graphic elements like images, illustrations etc.
- The writing tone and style to use across all communications.
To give you an idea of where the style guide fits in the creative process let’s take a look at a typical process most professional designers will follow. At one point or another, each designer develops his own steps. But generally speaking are the following:
Define: The problem gets defined through the creative brief. We establish what the problem is and understand who is the target audience and what our constraints or restrictions are.
Research: We research and review our information about the design problem at hand, historical data about the company, the competition, potential obstacles or expectations.
Ideate: We brainstorm, generate potential ideas and we identify the needs and motivations of our end users.
Refine: Those ideas we got will need to be reviewed against our design brief’s objective, refined, and the most efficient of them are being prototyped. The prototype aims to test aspects of the solution & of course its not yet made with the final materials.
Implement: The final design solution is implemented and we deliver it to the client.
Document: After the final design solution has been implemented the style guide documents our design decisions and ensures that all elements will be used consistently, effectively and in alignment with the brand strategy.
As you can see the style guide is just a part of the design process. But a very useful and important part. Anyone associated with your brand’s promotion needs to have access to this guide. While much of what is contained in a style guide could be common sense, don’t forget that your employees are not familiar with your brand vision or are concerned about your brand’s image as much as you do.
The style guide will make clear to your staff, your branding partners and the designers responsible for developing your brand’s collateral, how the various elements will work together. How they need to be implemented in a professional and consistent way. And it will also help your new designs to coordinate with your established brand image. As well as ensure that they will work alongside and not against your existing designs.
Incorporating your new design solutions to the overall brand image, not only will strengthen your company’s branding but also diminish the risk of alienating your existing client base.
(Featured Image: Licensed Stock Photo from Dreamstime)