Clear brand guidelines mean consistency in marketing and messaging 

by Darlene Veenhuizen

In the dynamic world of business and marketing, where first impressions count and consistency is king, the significance of brand guidelines cannot be overstated. These guidelines serve as the North Star for your brand, helping to maintain a cohesive and recognizable image across all your platforms. Brand Guidelines are the graphic designers (and the marketers) unsung hero – let’s dive into why we love them so much!

What should be in your brand guidelines:

When written correctly, brand guidelines get everyone on your team up to speed, in about the time it takes to read a 10-20 page document. Brand guidelines should include these things: 

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When written correctly, brand guidelines get everyone on your team up to speed, in about the time it takes to read a 10-20 page document. Brand guidelines should include these things:

Company overview: This section is like an introduction and background information on your brand. Include your brand story, history, how you started, story, mission, vision and values.

Target audience: Everything you know about them, personas or avatars, and demographics. Include where you think your audience is hanging out online or what media they are consuming. This section should be revisited, as these things could change! And with that said, it’s a good rule of thumb to update your brand guidelines at a minimum of every 3-5 years. I know some brands that do a review and update every 2 years.

Messaging and strategy: This should detail how you intended to be different from your competitors and how you aim to communicate your brand with your target audience. Our Brand Voice guide and blogs about Brand Voice are a great place to learn more about that.

Visual Guidelines: This should include logo use cases, what not to do, i.e. placing it over a busy background, and logo clear space. Logo variations you should include are a full color, black, and an all white or one color version that can be placed over photos or color backgrounds. As a logo and brand designer, I also recommend a logo design that gives some options for logo layout, such as stacked, horizontal, logo mark only, or word mark only, as it makes sense for your particular brand.

Typography for your brand: Be sure to select header and body copy fonts, and preferred leading and tracking if it’s integral to the way your brand looks. 

Colors: Choose colors for your brand and if needed, a primary and secondary palette. It’s a good idea to select some neutrals that your brand uses like a gray, taupe, or a lighter tone of a main color that you can use as a background on your website or in print.

Photography: Not enough brands go to the level of deciding what their photography style is, but as a graphic designer who is a branding expert and also a photographer, this is really important. You need to decide first of all, who and what you want to show in your photography. Are you showing your target audience, your current market, or past customers? Are you going to use stock photos or only authentic photos that are taken in branded photoshoots? 

And what is the style of the photos and how does that support your brand’s visual look? Are they moody, vibrant or desaturated? Are they shot with a wide angle or macro lens? Collaborating with a photographer or a graphic designer on the visual points of your brand guidelines is well worth the headache and delay in making these decisions as you go along.

Icons and Illustrations: This is another area that I see brands miss in their brand guidelines. 

Often when brands are first starting out they don’t know yet what style will work best for these design elements. Look back to your brand personality, values and voice. Is it playful? Or more serious? How does that translate into visuals? There are millions of icons and illustration styles out there, finding something that further communicates your brand is key – don’t pick a style that is subconsciously undermining your brand. Worse yet, do not switch between icon styles depending on who is creating the collateral. By specifying a style of icons and illustrations, your brand will be consistent across your organization and on all your client-facing platforms. This category could also include textures and patterns that are unique to your brand. These visual elements have a lot of opportunity to make your brand stand out and come to life, so don’t skip them, lean into them and make decisions about what you will use and what you will stay away from. 

Video styles, Social media graphics and more: This category is extra credit, but if you are a brand that is very active on social media, or plans to be, take a moment and strategically think about how all the visual elements of your brand will translate into social media posts and videos. 

What colors will you use from your palette that will look good in social media? What color combinations do you want to stray from when making graphics or videos? What fonts or caption styles will you use that are currently available on the different platforms? Keep things simple if you can, but if social engagement is a value for your brand, invest the time and money on this section of your brand guidelines to make sure your team can execute this marketing platform effectively. 

Brand guidelines are how we create consistency in our design, and a key part to designing with intention.

Do you need help with your brand guidelines? Does your brand glow-up? Contact DASH – we can help with that.

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