What is a brand style guide? (and what it should include)

If you crave more consistency in your brand – to have a more cohesive look throughout your website, social media feeds, and other marketing materials – you probably need a brand style guide.

Today, I’m answering these key questions:
What exactly is a brand style guide?
Why will it help?
And what does it include? 

So, let’s get started!


What is a brand style guide?

A brand style guide is a document that defines your brand and sets rules for design application. It starts out with your company/organization's vision statement and then outlines design rules that align with that vision.

Why will it help my brand be more consistent?

By setting design rules, you are limiting your brand to one style. While that may sound like a negative thing, defining your design aesthetic and sticking to it will result in that consistent look you’re going for.

That aesthetic should be well thought through, taking into account your vision statement and target market. For this reason, I suggest hiring a professional graphic designer who specializes in branding to create your style guide. If you create a set of design rules that don’t align with your vision and don’t reach your target market, a brand guide might actually hurt you more than it would help.

Having a brand style guide is great for the solo-entrepreneur, but they are absolutely crucial if you want to grow your business beyond a one-man-operation. As soon as you start hiring out graphic design, social media marketing, or visual communication of any kind, having a style guide will help ensure your brand remains consistent. 

What does a brand style guide include?

A brand style guide should include:

  • Business/organization vision statement and target audience
  • Logo use and guidelines
    • Define when the logo needs to be present
    • Show all correct logo variations and logo marks
    • Outline incorrect uses of the logo (no stretched logos, no pixelated logos, no drop-shadows, color changes, etc.)
  • Color palette
    • Display your color palette with CMYK, RGB, and HEX codes
    • Outline when/where colors are to be used
  • Typography
    • Define which fonts you use and when you use them (example: what font do you use for headlines, sub-headlines, and body copy?)
  • Photography style
    • What feeling or mood are you trying to evoke?
    • Diversity
    • Colors
    • Empty space
    • Editing
    • Subject matter
  • Communication standards
    • Define the tone of your writing, give examples
    • Capitalization and grammar standards
    • Define any internal vocabulary you use, any words you avoid

A brand style guide could also include:

  • Stationary
    • Approved stationary for official documents: letterhead, business cards, and notecards.
  • Email signature standardization
  • Examples of your brand in action
    • Show examples of your style guide being used correctly on various materials
  • Social media standards
    • Do you allow text over images?
    • What profile image do you use across all of your various platforms?
    • How often do you post?
    • How often do you engage in replying back to comments?
    • What are things you do or don’t post about?
    • What filters do you use?
    • Do you use text over imagery?
    • What hashtags do you use?
    • How long are your posts?
  • Words that describe your brand

Questions about creating or implementing a brand style guide? Ask away in the comments below!