A Brand Guide Breakdown and Why You Need One Now
Whether you've put in a tonne of work designing your own brand or paid someone to do it for you it's pretty darn important you have a brand guide to keep everything in order.
If you've DIY'd your brand and don't have a brand guide or not even sure what you should put in the guide then I've listed the must-haves and included a template for you to download so you'll have one in no time!
SO, What exactly is a brand guide?
Glad you asked! It's important not to get a brand guide and a brand board mixed up.
You are probably already familiar with brand boards, you see them all over Pinterest. Check out the example below I created for a past client.
A brand board is a visual representation of a brand and usually includes the logos, colour palette, font palette, and any other brand elements. The problem with brand boards is you can't send them to someone who is working with your brand and expect them to know what to do with it. A Brand board is simply for style aesthetics not for in-depth instructional use.
A brand guide is a set of guidelines that will keep your brand on track and will make sure anyone who works with your brand understands what they can and cannot do with the brand elements.
Things you will find in a brand guide are:
- Logo guidelines
- Font and colour guidelines
- Voice and personality of the brand
- Web guidelines, etc.
Let's break it down:
A brand board is used to:
- Take a quick look at the brand elements laid out
- Pin on Pinterest and promote your website and possibly bring in more clients
- Quickly reference any colour codes or fonts
A brand guide is used to:
- Make sure whoever is working with your brand (other designers, etc) understand your brand and how to use it across multiple platforms
- House your brands DNA to keep its integrity in place
Below I've pulled apart a brand guide to give you an idea of what you should include. Keep in mind everyone's brand guide is different. What I have listed is the bare minimum, however, you can go even further and include anything you think is important.
I suggest Googling brand guidelines to get a feel for how other companies designed theirs. Since every company is different, every brand book is different. There really is no wrong way to put together a brand book but you should definitely be including the important elements.
This might seem like the least important page in your brand guide but it should still look good and represent your brand since it's the first thing someone sees when they look at it.
It's important to use your brand colours, fonts, and personality throughout the guide. Since this is your brand you want your guide to scream your brand.
In the example below I've simply used a colour background with the logo and "brand guidelines" at the bottom to avoid any confusion. You can keep it simple or get creative but make sure it represents and stays in line with your brand.
About Your Brand
One of the first pages will be a short intro to give your reader a look into your business and brand. This can include anything from:
- A short description of your business
- Your manifesto
- What your business and brand stands for
- Your brand's personality and tone of voice
No one is going to spend twenty minutes reading your long intro so keep it short, sweet, exciting, and to the point.
Next up is a page that shows off your beautiful logo. Give a short description of the meaning behind the logo and what it represents. It's also a good idea to let people know the smallest size your logo can scale down so it's guaranteed to look its best.
For example, if the smallest your logo can be displayed is 1-inch then make sure you have that displayed. If your logo looks unreadable and unrecognizable at .5 inches then you definitely don't want people scaling it that small.
This page should only display the logo in black and white. We will introduce colour later on.
If your brand has any secondary logos add them to the brand guide immediately after your primary logo. Once again, discuss any meaning behind them and if necessary write in the smallest scalable size.
Some brands have multiple secondary logos, if you are one of them make sure you include them all, don't leave anything out!
It's crucial to include a section in your brand guide that informs people the correct and incorrect usage of the logo.
A few things you should have in this section are:
- How much space should sit around your logo when paired with other graphic elements. This will make sure your logo isn't overcrowded and has room to breathe.
- Include examples of incorrect ways to use the logo. In the second image below I have a list of ways the logo cannot be used. Everything from stretching the logo, changing the fonts in the logo, repositioning the logo, and more.
Your colour palette plays a big role in your brand so having it in your brand guide is a must.
Display your colour palette however you like (in squares, circles, etc) and next to the colours list the colour codes. In most cases, people will display the Pantone code, Hex code, RGB code, and the CMYK code.
If you have any specifications for how to use the colours make sure to include them. As you can see below I let the reader know the primary brand colours are the salmon and moss colour and the secondary colour is sand.
It's always a good idea to display your logo in the correct and incorrect colours to really put focus on the importance. The last thing you want is someone using an accent or background colour on your logo which makes it impossible to see it from a distance.
Display your primary and secondary fonts and describe where they should be used. In the example below I have the primary typeface listed for headlines only and stated it will be used in upper and lowercase. The secondary font is used for body copy and only in lowercase.
Last but not least include the designers contact info. This will allow people to contact them if they have any questions about the guidelines.
Depending on your business your brand guide may vary. As mentioned above you can add other guidelines on how to use:
- Packaging design
- Web design
- Stationery design
- Pattern design
- Photography style
- Social media guidelines, etc.
Keep your brand guide simple, straight to the point, and easy to understand. A brand guide will grow with your business so it's important to keep it up-to-date. Even though your brand guide is a set of rules on how to use your brand it shouldn't be too restrictive. You don't want to limit creativity with new designs just to make sure the proper guidelines are in place.
GET YOUR BRAND GUIDE TEMPLATE
I've put together a brand guide template for you to download. A few things to keep in mind:
- The template was designed in Adobe Illustrator CS6
- Easily add in your own images and text
- The file comes layered
- AI/EPS files included
- The file can be opened in Adobe Illustrator CS4+
- The fonts used in the template are Droid Sans and Open Sans. Both can be downloaded for free from Google Fonts. You should use your brand fonts so it would be a good idea to replace the fonts I have with your own.
- The template won't work in any other program