The brand guidelines and corporate style guide are the cornerstones upon which you company’s personality and ideologies are built. A consistent voice and appearance helps you demonstrate your values and principles to customers and prospective companies alike.
However, many brands are outsourcing this task to external companies who do not share or fully comprehend the ideologies of the company and its services, or trying to create radical personalities which run the risk of alienating their audience.
Here we offer seven sensible steps for developing a style guide which can help develop the brand and truly reflect your corporate identity.
Let the team shape the style, not vice versa.
If you have a team of customer-facing professionals working for the brand: they are the face and the personality of the brand. Allow their personalities shape the brand and its ideologies rather than trying to pigeonhole them into an idealistic vision. Attempting to obscure the personalities of the workforce could be at the detriment of the brand – turning the outfit into a faceless corporation.
The infancy of a brand should not be confined by a style guide as it grows into the products and services it is hoping to market. The brand should be allowed to grow naturally and the foundations of the style guide will develop in time.
When plotting the style guide to paper, try to avoid vague adjectives to describe the brand. Terms such as Innovative and Passionate can be interpreted by designers and copywriters in a myriad of different ways – not helping define the personality of the brand.
Additionally, it is important to clearly define the fonts and logos which can be used to represent the brand. Stipulate the sizes and dimensions of the logo as well as the colour swatches – to increase the sense of identity and making branding easier to identify.
Understand the psychology of colour.
One of the key concepts of creating an effective brand guideline is to clearly define primary, secondary and (sometimes) tertiary colours to represent the brand. However, it is not as simple as choosing your favourite tones in the Photoshop colour wheels. Colour recognition is closely tied to emotive response – so this should be considered when selecting the representative colours.
The Logo Company has created this Color Emotion Guide to help demonstrate the qualities and principles all colours and tones represent. Identify the qualities you want the brand to effuse and colour accordingly.
One of the greatest irritants for many readers is inconsistent formatting and content styling – so the style guide is the perfect place to control how your brand is represented by the writers writing on your behalf. On the style guide, clearly define how your brand will produce the following throughout all (or almost all) written content:
1. Headings (and how they are capitalized)
2. Lists (whether they are capitalized and how they are punctuated)
3. Numbers (when they should be spelled in full)
4. Rules for chapter, figure and table headings (including numbering)
A quality and possible-to-follow style guide should be no more than four pages in length. Stretching the details of your branding guidelines longer than this can dilute the message and meaning and make it impossible for writers and designers to follow. Keep the style guide concise but clear – ensuring it will be read and understood from cover-to-cover.
Use branding wisely.
Once you have defined the brand’s style and settled on a logo, it needs to be shared and the brand represented. However, inundating the audience with the branding immediately and unapologetically can be overbearing and off-putting. Whilst large brands such as Apple can slap their logo on products of all nature – this has been a slow process.
Promotional gifts specialists Leighmans suggest careful and cautious branding: “Some companies have a scattergun approach to branded gifts, looking to brand everything and anything. We would advise brands to concentrate initially on products which will appeal to their audience, and build their catalogue of branded goods from there.”
The vast majority of commercial customers typically make for a passive audience, meaning they do not actively seek out the personality of a brand and its products/services. It may take years and years for the branding and personality of a brand to seep into the consciousness of the audience and truly take effect. It took Nike 24 years to feel comfortable enough in their Swoosh branding to remove the company name from the logo.
If your audience have not developed an immediate connection with the branding, it is important to resist the temptation to radically overhaul the branding – only rebranding when necessary or a slight update is preferable.