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Creating Brand Guidelines to Improve Your Company's Identity
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Creating Brand Guidelines to Improve Your Company's Identity

Sam Pecard
Designer

More than a logo

What is your company's identity? Would you have a clear answer if someone asked? What about guidelines, ensuring your brand message is clear and concise? In this article, you will learn how to establish and define your company's brand guidelines. Countless decisions go into defining a brand - but the key is knowing what those decisions are, and how to manage them effectively.

Because your brand is more than just a logo.

Effective branding is consistent branding

When it comes to great brands, consistency is key. If your end goal is to create a deep awareness of how your brand is represented and perceived by your customers, then the message has to be consistent and clear from the beginning. If your brand is more than a logo, how do you define it? And how do you make those things consistent?

What is branding?

A brand is a result. A customer's gut feeling about a product, service, or company.

Marty Neumeier, Author of The Brand Gap

In the video below, Marty Neumeier shares his thoughts on what branding is and more importantly, what branding is not. While many think branding is just the logo and colors, branding is your reputation. How your customers perceive you. A gut feeling. Each individual has their own version of who your brand is in their head and heart.

A brand is a reputation

Below are the components that make up a company's brand:

Products and services

How do customers feel when they use them?

Design

How do customers feel when they see associated design elements?

Messaging

How do customers feel when the read and hear what you say?

Look and feel

What type of energy do you convey with the combined elements above?

Culture

How do customers feel about what you believe collectively as a company?

Employee behavior

How do your employees make your customers feel?

How do you manage a brand reputation?

One way to manage a reputation is to have brand guidelines. These rules help hold everyone on your team accountable and create alignment in everything you do. In this article, let's begin with managing your organization's visual reputation to lay the foundation. After you get that established, you can dive deeper into other aspects of your brand reputation such as culture and employee behavior with your own team.

What are brand guidelines?

"Brand guidelines" are the documented elements and rules that apply all aspects of your brand. It lives as a source of truth and holds designers and marketers accountable when creating new material. With everything that is created, designers and marketers should ask - "Does this hold true and align with what is stated in the brand guidelines?"

FREE Download - Brand Guideline Template at Figma Community

Why are brand guidelines important?

Brand guidelines keep everyone aligned on each aspect of your brand reputation and empowers your entire team to make decisions faster. Below are the five key factors behind effective brand guidelines.

1. Sets the foundation

What makes your brand, Your Brand? How will users not only identify you among competitors - how will they identify with you?

Thinking through and identifying the rules and standards that make your brand will be the foundation that you will build off of. This can be intimidating and overwhelming, but remember that it's okay for your brand to evolve. Your guidelines can and should be a living document.

clubhouse brand elements and graphics

Photo Credit: Ueno

In the example above, the flag in the logo was pulled out, showcasing a unique way to feature images. It was then expanded even further by using just the angle or circle and an extension of that. The photo treatments along with the defined color palette contribute to what makes the Clubhouse brand.

Photo Credit: Ueno

2. Ensures brand consistency

Consistency in your brand ensures a single unified experience across all platforms. Brand guidelines increase the chances of more customers perceiving your brand in similar ways rather than different experiences. You gain control of the conversation.

Example: Your Facebook profile should look and communicate the same message as your website.

uber facebook page screenshot
Uber Facebook Page

uber website screenshot
Uber Website

3. Keeps your brand recognizable

Because of the saturation of the market you may be in, it's crucial to differentiate yourself from your competitors and become easily recognizable. This also doesn't mean you need to reinvent the wheel or do something obnoxious.

4. Increases perceived value

What brands do you find yourself gravitating toward? What about that brand helps you identify and connect with it?

Photo Credit: Giga Tamarashvili

5. Saves time

If you are a part of a team where there are multiple designers, it's easy for everyone to interprets things differently. This can lead to an inconsistent brand or time wasted in rework. Having a set of brand guidelines prevents people from going off course.

layout of pebble brand guide

Photo Credit: Brass Hands

What to include in brand guidelines

Now that we are aware of the impact of a well-defined brand, how do we actually create one? Where does it live and what all should it include?

As a company, you decide how brief or in-depth each of these categories are. And we know it can be a daunting and time-consuming task to take on. However, the benefits of having and holding to your Brand Guidelines will prove to be invaluable.

Use the following as a starting point to get you thinking of what needs to be considered and defined. By no means is this an all-inclusive list. Feel free to add/subtract to it to fit your specific company's needs.

Where do you keep your brand guidelines?

At Headway, we use Figma for all things design - so this is where the source of truth for our Brand Guidelines live. Figma is a design tool that's based in the browser so it works perfectly for setting up and utilizing a Design System.

Managing brand guidelines with Figma

Within Figma, you can turn any file into a "library", which then can be referenced from any other file that you choose. Within that library, the components that are created are considered master components (i.e., the source of truth), which all other instances reflect. So every instance that is used points back at the master component - meaning, if an update is made in the master component, it will be rolled out into all the instances. This is an incredibly powerful way to handle your brand. If used properly, no one on the team will ever have to ask questions like, "Why aren't you using the updated logo?" "Are we still using these colors?" or any of the other hundreds of questions that get asked. Using tools, and systems like Figma, helps ensure that your brand guidelines stay alive and relevant and are easily accessible to anyone on your team.

We hope that knowing the value of brand guidelines and how to create them in a meaningful way challenges you to create and implement them for your company. As your company and products grow, having these guidelines in place will help you manage your public image more effectively.

Contact us to help your company create and define your brand. Together, we can help you stand out, become recognizable, and create a consistent brand image that is crucial in today's market.

Brand Guidelines Template - Free Download

This guide serves as a template to put in your existing brand assets as well as to get you thinking about ways to extend or refine what already exists.

Free Download - Brand Guideline Template at Figma Community

What you'll find in the Brand Guidelines Template

Below is a list of all the assets you can have documented within the template we created for you. You can also use this list as inspiration to start your own template in your tool of choice.

Logo

  • Logo Size and Placement
  • Construction
  • Padding and Minimum Size
  • Approved Lockups
  • Logo Colors and Treatment
  • Logo Misuses (what not to do - everyone interprets things differently, so having what not to do is important)

Color

  • Identify Brand Colors and Consistency
  • Hex
  • RGB
  • CMYK
  • Pantone

Composition

  • Patterns
  • Accents & Graphic Elements

Iconography

  • Iconography

Illustration Style

Photography

  • Photography Style
  • Goals and Context
  • Visual Style
  • Color Grade
  • Subject Matter
  • Special Effects

Tone of Voice

  • Voice and Tone
  • Brand Descriptors

Typography

  • Type Scale
  • Fonts/Typography

Brand guidelines examples and inspiration

Uber Brand Guidelines

See how Uber shares and documents the different elements of their brand with their team and partners.

Twitter Brand Guidelines

As a giant social platform, take a look at how Twitter has documented their brand assets.

Spotify Brand Guidelines for Developers

A hub for partner guidelines and assets to make it easy for you to integrate Spotify in an app.

Learn more about creating your own brand guidelines and documentation

What is a brand voice and why is it important?

When people think about brands, they often think about their visual identity. However, there’s another element that often gets overlooked: voice and tone.

Everything You Need to Know About Picking Brand Fonts

With your brand personality in mind, you’ll be ready to enter the wild world of fonts and typography.

Develop Your Brand's Photography Style Guide

With research suggesting that people are more likely to remember content they’ve seen in images, rather than text, it’s crucial that the photography representing your business perfectly reflects your brand.

Brand Illustration 101: Visualizing the Narrative

See how you can build a brand illustration system that clarifies a brand’s promise, often with a nod to human experience (humor, hope, irony, etc.).

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