Brand guidelines are a set of rules and guidance on how you use the brand.
In other words, it should be a manual for the company’s language. The use is for the brand owner but also for anyone else who works with that brand (e.g. designers, marketeers or employees). They can be a simple as showing the use of the logo, the fonts and the colours. Or they can be a complex as how to use the brand in printed brochures or to set up the tone of voice.
“A good manual is a manual that gets used”Massimo Vignelli.
Over my ten years of experience, I have worked with brands who had the most extended and most complex brand guidelines to brands that they didn’t even know what those were. In my opinion, the smaller manuals, the better, as they then get used. What you put inside has to be practical and clear. Brand guidelines should be a balance between rules and advice, and should only have the useful stull. An ambiguous or confusing brand won’t have the base to become strong.
What should you have in a brand guideline?
Present the logo, if the logo has more than one element, for example, and imagotype (iconic representation) and text, the manual should explain the relationship (size and spaces). It is also useful to tell the minimal size of the logo that you can use.
If your logo has variations, black and white or vertical and horizontal version, it is essential to explain how and when these are used.
A business should not have a lot of colours (unless the brand requires it). Also, a brand colour is not red, is Pantone Red 032 C or #F5333F. It would help if you established what your colours are and list the Pantone, the CYMK (for print), the RGB (for screen) and the Hexadecimal (for web).
If you have more than one colour, tell the user of your brand how to utilise the colours and which one is primary.
Like in colours a brand shouldn’t be using more than one or two fonts. When listing the fonts, for example, you should also show how they are used. Titles and body text may have different fonts. You may have a set of fonts for print and one for the web.
Visual language or brand elements
You can include the brand elements, such as textures, graphics, icons you use or images.
Explaining how the graphic elements work in the relationship of the brand is exciting and helps designers and marketers to get inspired. Having a set of icons that are all consistent will explain the user the style that you are after. And setting up an image library will save you time, but the minimum you should have in the guide is the style and mood your brand wants to portrait.
Communications and tone of voice
A good practice is to add the tone of voice, straplines and communication strategy. To help people who are using the brand to understand how it speaks and the personality that needs to portrait.
Brand guidelines – The document
Having a brand guide manual is useful, printed or and PDF format to share with anyone who needs to work with your brand. It can be from one sheet with the basics to hundreds of pages. It will depend on the brand but as mention at the beginning needs to be useful.