How to create brand guidelines to impress

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

Brand guidelines are like the blueprint for your company. If you do them right, they can help you stay on track but also make sure people you work with adhere to your goals. If you are providing brand guidelines for your clients, it can be a great way to show them how to implement the brand once the project is finished. Since this is often the last handoff, it can be a nice way to impress and show that you know exactly how to move the brand forward if they choose to hire you for implementation in the future. Let's go through all you need to know to create brand guidelines to impress. If you would like a template, you can join our Facebook community and get it for free!



OVERVIEW

  • Style and layout

  • Introduction and brand ethos

  • Logo and how to use it (strict versus free)

  • Visual language guide

  • The back page


Style and layout


Besides being helpful, brand guidelines are a great place to showcase your design skills and make the client feel special. This is a document they should be proud to share with partners and other creatives. Putting some extra time in to the design also makes it more of a feature to include in your portfolio. If you already feel swamped with work, create a template with all the necessary parts and add the company branding to make it unique. I always use a square format for brand guidelines since it feels a little more special than a typical A4 and it is still not expensive to print if the client (or you) want a copy for the shelf.


This is an example of how the design agency Only from Leeds created a cohesive document for Printworks, an event space in London.



Introduction and brand ethos


Perhaps the most important and often overlooked section of branding in general, I think a nice paragraph that conveys the "brand feel" makes all the difference. It helps anyone opening the first page understand what values are important and who the customers are. An example of a company who have really embraced this and seen great success in their brand following is Monster energy drink. This is how they describe their brand ethos:


"At Monster, all of our guys walk the walk in action sports, punk rock music, partying, hangin’ with the girls, and living life on the edge. Monster is way more than an energy drink. Led by our athletes, musicians, employees, distributors and fans, Monster is a lifestyle in a can!"


Reading this, you immediately get an idea of what the company stands for and who it wants to attract. If you like, you can also add a section about how to use the brand document.


Logo and how to use it


Now to the nitty gritty, or perhaps the bit you already feel comfortable with. You have designed a powerful and well thought out logo, however, that does not mean everyone knows how to implement it. I suggest presenting the logo in the different ways you find in line with the brand, and also add some "don'ts". These can be things like distorting the logo, adding new colours or effects that take away from the design. It is always good to add a little note about why to help your client understand why it is important to stay consistent. This is an example from the Ragged Edge agency creating a brand document for CTC.



Or...perhaps this is a brand like Airbnb and Escape the city where the point of the logo is to change? These brands have embraced the fact that they want the logo to be adopted by those who use it and have made flexibility part of the brand. If this is the case, show some examples to get them inspired!


Escape the city logo works like a frame


Visual language guide


Now that the reader is clear on the mission and the logo, it is time to tie it all together with the full visual language. If you have a unique photography style, give examples. If you have used illustrations, icon styles or specific fonts, explain them. This is the section where you can really bring it home and show how it all fits together in one cohesive message.


This is also a great place to show how they can expand the brand through implementation, such as merchandise or social media. Make sure you don't do extra work that was not part of you brief but you can create a little teaser by adding the logo to a mockup that represents the style you are after. This example by Koto shows the new Gumtree brand in action.


If you need some extra inspiration, check out Issuu for a number of big brands and their guidelines.


The back page


Last but not least, I suggest adding your contact details to the back or inside the last page of the guidelines. This can say something like "if you have any questions about how to use the brand, pease get in touch with...". This is a good way to make sure the brand is used correctly and to generate new leads as the document is sent around.



Good luck designing and if you are looking for a brand guideline template or to ask a question we did not answer today, join our Facebook community and ask away!