A style guide is the manual for your brand’s visual identity, the complete system that supports your logo. To implement your brand successfully, you need visual standards including these four essentials.
1. Logo usage
As the most prominent visual identifier for your brand, your logo must be handled with care. Use your logo appropriately and consistently by referring to the logo usage section in your style guide. It should include info on which logo file format to use for digital or print applications. If your logo has different treatments, like a brandmark or lettermark version, ask your brand expert to make a chart explaining when to use which one.
Your style guide should give you all the details you need to present your logo legibly. We typically deliver logo files in full color, one color (black), and reverse (white), so we like to outline when different color variations should be used. Your visual standards should also define the logo’s minimum size and clear space, breathing room around the logo, so you know how to keep the logo readable.
We try not to sound negative in our brand standards; however, there are some things you just shouldn’t do with your brand’s most valuable asset. Your style guide may include a list of what not to do with the logo with examples. For instance, don’t distort the logo’s proportions or change its colors.
Typography is major piece of your brand’s visual identity. Consistent use of typography is one of the simplest ways to convey unity across your communications. Your typefaces should reflect the look, feel, and voice of your brand. In your style guide, you should be given primary and secondary typefaces. They should be font families with a variety of weights to give you flexibility. If it’s not already provided, ask for an explanation of why the type fits your visual identity and when and how it should be used, e.g. in headlines or body text. If necessary, ask for guidance on acquiring the fonts.
3. Color palettes
Color is arguably the most powerful characteristic of a visual identity. Colors have strong emotional and connotative connections, so it’s important to understand the meaning of your brand colors. Color preference varies across ages, too. It’s more important for your color palette to appeal to your target audience than to you.
The primary color palette is often derived from the logo. This limited palette has the strongest connection to your brand. Think of Home Depot’s orange, Target’s red, or Ikea’s blue and yellow. Granted, it would be pretty difficult to create a full collection of collateral with only one or two colors. That’s why you need a secondary or accent palette, as well. These colors should complement the primary palette and allow you to elicit different emotional responses by combining colors strategically in your marketing materials. Not all colors should be used equally. We like to provide a scale showing how much each color should appear across the brand. Be sure you’re given the color formulas for both print and digital color spaces.
4. Visual styling
Two brands could use the same colors and fonts and still have drastically different styles. That’s why your visual standards should include guidance on common styling choices. Look again at Target and Home Depot. Target’s circular logo is supported by rounded corners and circular graphics throughout brand collateral, while Home Depot sticks to no-nonsense squares and rectangles.
Beyond styling choices, a graphic element or pattern can be a strong differentiator for your brand. When used in conjunction with the other branding elements it creates a fuller visual identity. For example, Netflix once made a brand update featured “the stack.” This graphic element unifies print and digital applications across the globe. Chipotle serves up delicious wholesome Mexican food in its unique paper covered with burrito puns. Online thrift store ThredUp uses a signature polka dot pattern on its website, packaging, and even confirmation emails. Consider requesting a pattern, graphic element, or photography style guide with your visual standards.
When it comes to branding, consistency is the name of the game. Your branding team should do everything possible to help you present your brand consistently. A style guide that outlines your complete visual identity will add great value to your overall brand.
Do you have questions about style guides or visual standards? Ask us in the comments!