Many businesses live without a comprehensive branding guideline for their teams. This is usually how it looks when your team is not aligned on the company branding - the Sales team creates a proposal and uses whatever fonts they think look good; the Management team creates a PowerPoint presentation and uses purple and yellow when the brand colors are blue and orange; the Operations team creates a how-to sheet and stretches the logo to fit the space so the letters are now a funny shape; an admin needs the logo to send to a sign company and can’t find the right files. These inconsistencies are all reasons to create a brand guide for your company and distribute it to your teams.
We understand this disorganization and the branding process because we lived through it ourselves when we rebranded our agency in 2020 and finally were able to roll out reliable brand guidelines. Creating a reference for the elements of your company branding ensures brand consistency, and builds trust for your clients (and much less confusion for your team).
The process of creating your brand guide doesn’t just sit with a graphic designer. Your leadership team should come together and agree on the company brand components first. A branding agency can also help facilitate these decisions.
- What are your official brand colors?
- What are the rules for how your logo should and shouldn’t be used?
- How should your business name be written, or not written?
- What are the branded pieces your team uses often - info sheets, word docs, presentations, sales sheets?
- Which client-facing or internal pieces could you apply branding to that are currently not marked with your company’s identity?
Once you have those questions answered, then a graphic designer or branding specialist can pull these elements together into a comprehensive brand guide for your business. These are the sections your brand guide should include:
Basics to Include:
- Visually show the proper use of your logo - such as in a box, with and without an icon. Include whether a registered or trademark symbol should be used. Also show variations of your logo, such as an approved horizontal and vertical version for use in different spaces, or color variations.
- Show the improper use of your logo - ex: on a slant, shortened, different colors not permitted, improper spacing
- Provide spacing requirements around the logo, and also the overall size of the logo
- Include the tagline, and the rules for usage
- Provide links to logo files for anyone to access the correct version. You should create and provide versions of the logo that have a white background, a transparent background, in full color, and in black and white, solid one color, and a white version.
- When your business name is written (not a logo), share the rules. If the name is two words is there a space between, or no space.
- Include whether a registered or trademark symbol should be used in the written version
- Use of capitals, or no caps
- Give examples of possessive use
- Show typefaces used in the logo, and then those used for headlines, body copy, website, etc. (they are not always the same as your logo fonts)
- Include links to the fonts for your team or vendors to download or access (such as Google or Adobe typefaces, or purchased fonts)
- Show the palette of the primary brand colors, and where they should be used, such as headlines on documents. Primary colors are often those used in your logo.
- Include the palette of secondary brand colors, and where they should be used. These are accent colors that are complementary to the brand colors and can be used on the website to draw attention to calls to action, in presentations, or in charts and graphics.
- Provide color codes for all sign and production processes: CMYK, RGB, Pantone, HEX.
- For commonly used documents, such as cover sheets and presentations, design brand-approved templates for these pieces and include links to the files so the team can access them and make copies.
Bonus Points When You Include:
- Outline the point of view of your business, including character, purpose, tone, and language.
- Include key phrases and words that your company messaging could use, and alternatively should not use.
- Unify every touchpoint your team has with a client. Create a solution for an email signature that will work for your teams’ various email services.
- Show variations based on the needs of your team, such as a team member photo, or logo, meeting links, etc.
- Include templates for often used graphics such as social media, blog titles, client reviews, etc.
- For stock or original photography, include the style that should be used and subject matter (ex: with people, or no people, close-ups, landscapes, etc.)
- Include any color overlay or filter details that are used to create a consistent brand look on the website and presentations.
- If your company will be producing giveaway items like clothing or office supplies, show sample placements, and also items that are on-brand in function or color, so the team member ordering can be more efficient.
Introducing Your Brand Guide
Storing these elements in a shared spot like Google Drive or Dropbox assures that all of your team has access. Once the guide is complete and the components are accessible, meet with your team to discuss the brand standards and processes that your company will follow to adhere to them. Also open the conversation for future brand guide adjustments, such as what a team member should do when a new document or template needs to be created. Create a plan for rolling out the changes beyond templated documents, such as website updates and social media profiles.
With these adjustments to unify your company identity through brand guideline usage, your company’s image will be improved, giving your prospects, customers, and partners a cohesive, and improved brand experience!