When building a new brand identity, or indeed developing and evolving an existing one, it is important to make sure there is consistency throughout the designed materials. The best way to ensure this is to create brand guidelines or style guides, which is something we do for all our design and brand clients at Studio Raygun.
Whilst a small company may not see the need for a style guide, it will save a great deal of time further down the line when there may be several people in the team who need to create marketing materials and external documents. Having a set of brand guidelines are used to easily inform any designer what font to use, what colours are acceptable, how the logo should be positioned, and essentially answer most the questions that are likely to cause confusion and create brand inconsistency.
Singularity Systems is a company we’ve made up and branded up for the purpose of this article.
Your logo is not your brand, however it is the main visual identifier of your company and therefore the image your audience is likely to encounter most and think of when they think of your company.
This means it should be treated carefully to ensure brand integrity, by this I mean it should never be poorly scaled, squashed or placed on a background or colour that comprises the legibly of the logo.
Your logo needs to work harder than ever before across a multitude of platforms and applications, and how the logo (or even a section of the logo) can be adapted and translated across these new medium should be considered and tested before rollout.
An visual identity system may contain several variations of the same logo, such as horizontal and vertical layouts (known as lockups), full-colour and single-colour versions, versions to be used on coloured backgrounds and perhaps scaled down or reduced versions to be used as an icon where use of the full logo may not be possible. However the logo may be adapted to its environment, it’s important to have a consistent set of approved logos that can be used across your materials and communications.
Logo positioning and applications
Professional logo designers consider more than the pure visual aspect of the logo itself, they also think about and can supply guidelines on the logo usage and application. A set of guidelines should be drafted to ensure the logo always sits in the correct place, have enough clear space surrounding the logo and to consider a variety of different applications so there are very few “what if” scenarios when it comes to creating branded materials.
A brand guideline document is also useful to ensure all your team understand the brand and are equipped with the right knowledge if they are to produce any branded materials.
You should have a set of approved brand colours to work with. Usually one core colour, the main colour that identified your brand, with one or two supporting colours should do. These should be used sparingly and intelligently through your branded materials and you should avoid using colours that fall outside of your colour palette.
Colours should be clearly explained by giving values in hex codes and RGB values for web as well as their equivalent CMYK and even Pantone colour values for print. It may not be possible to achieve the exact colour across all mediums, but having a preference outlined early on will ensure a level of consistency.
It’s also important to be aware of the emotional and cultural connotations of certain colours.
Effects and embellishments, such as shadows and gradients, should be used with caution and in alignment with brand guidelines.
A brand font is important for two reasons, firstly, it sets the tone of voice of the written words a company uses. A font has a personality and this should be considered and chosen to reflect your message as well as complimenting the design of the logo.
The other important reason to use a considered brand font is to ensure your brand message is set in a consultant font across all your collateral, online and off.
It is common to use a couple of font that complement each other, but any more than this can become messy.
Images and photography styles
You may wish to consider what images your brand will and will not use. If your brand has a luxury or professional feel, you may want to only use professionally shot lifestyle images that reflect the target demographic, and avoid cheesy stock of clipart images.
You may also wish to consider the treatment of the images, should they be set to black and white or duo-tone, are there any shapes you can take from your identity to be used as image containers for example? If the mood of the brand is playful, you could consider adding to, or manipulating the images in a way that helps to communicate your message. All these considerations and explorations help to create a stronger brand.
Do the brand applications use iconography or illustrations? If so, these should be consistent and designed to compliment the logo style and other graphical devices used.
Slogan and tagline
A company slogan can serve many purposes, from explaining what the company does to creating a memorable “takeaway” that sticks in your customers heads and helps to communicate the right message.
This slogan should be considered and used where necessary, as well a being dropped when space is premium or if the brand message is strong enough or being communicated in more detail elsewhere in the application.
The styling of the slogan should be consistent and if it’s designed as a graphic device, it should be used with the same integrity and consideration as your logo.
Email plays a huge part in day-to-day business communication and your signature is great vehicle to communicate your brand identity and message. Ensuring all your team have the same email signature layout, company information and relevant web and social media links is very important.
Your potential and existing customers will encounter you on social media, it is one of the main ways customers engage and interact with brands today (http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/07/04/iab-study-finds-90-consumers-back-brands-after-interacting-social-media).
Your social media channels should have a consistent look, with correct logo usage and background colours throughout.
You may also want to consider the kind of language used when posting and responding to your customers questions and comments. Some companies have comprehensive language and tone of voice guidelines, banned jargon words and suggested definitions and terminology.
You may also wish to consider having a consistent Call To Action phrase to tag line that is used throughout, so whichever branded touch point your customer base interacts with, the message they are left with us the same.
When posting images and graphics on social media it is important that these follow the brand guidelines and don’t give an impression that doesn’t fit with your brand message or ethos.
Spending a little time thinking about how your contact details should be written and styled will save a great deal of time when putting together documents and marketing collateral.
Do you want potential customers to get in touch with an individual member of the team, or should the email address simply be “firstname.lastname@example.org” for example? This may change depending on your campaign and audience (and also could be used to track enquiries from campaigns), but again it should be considered.
This is a combination of the above, ensuring the correct fonts, colour, logo positioning and image styles are used. Your design agency may provide templates and/or guidelines to ensure everything’s you and out looks professional and from the same company.
When it comes to print, it may be worth considering if there may be a preferred paper type or finish that subtly reinforces your brand; glossy or silk or premium brands, recycled and uncoated for eco or nature-orientated brands.
Brand guidelines can be as in depth or as brief as required. They should be tailored around your business and act to address common problems before they arise.
Your brand guidelines are essentially here to do 3 mains things:
- Create consistency across all your design collateral.
- Make it easy for designers to pick up and complete any branded design work.
- Plan ahead and answer potential ‘what if’ questions before they arise.