Consistency is at the heart of any brand and without it, your company’s messaging loses its edge. That’s not to say that brands don’t evolve over time (they do), but these evolutions are the product of exhaustive research and collaboration and not based on the day-to-day whims of your creative team members. In your daily operations, it is imperative that you make sure every effort directed toward your business is done with a consistent message. And for this reason, every company NEEDS a brand style guide. At the end of the day, a detailed brand style guide is essential in keeping your company’s brand, well, on brand.
What is a style guide?
Also known as a brand book or brand guide, a style guide is basically an organization-specific reference manual in which you’ll find a comprehensive collection of written and visual content guidelines and requirements. By compiling these brand-defining characteristics into a single document, you’re creating an easily referrable framework designed to keep all of your company’s content creators and contributors on the same page and working toward the same central goal at all times. A style guide is essential when it comes to creating unique messaging that falls in line with and reinforces your organization’s overall brand.
Outlining guidelines for your internal and external copywriters is a double-edged sword. Err on the side of brevity and/or vagueness and you risk your writers straying too far away from the central message of the brand itself. On the other hand, going too far in-depth with nitpicky stipulations is a quick way to cripple your writers’ collective creativity. To bridge this gap, you’ll want to establish an overall voice and tone (e.g. “professional and scientific”, “friendly and conversational”, “witty and jovial”, etc.) and provide a general idea of the style of messaging that will strengthen your brand. Make sure to address any common brand-specific words and phrases and how you want them displayed across the board. You’ll also want to determine which style manual you want writers to reference on more broad stylistic inquiries. The AP Stylebook, MLA Handbook, and Chicago Manual of Style are perhaps the most widely used for such purposes.
Logo Design and Usage
Nothing is going to muddy up your overall branding quicker than content creators taking, shall we say, “creative liberties” with your brand signature. For this reason, you’ll want to be as thorough as possible when developing and outlining the visual brand elements of your style guide. This will include stipulations relating to your logos, your color palette, typography, imagery, etc. Regarding your wordmark and logomark specifically, be sure to cover proper sizes, colors, variations, white space requirements, and anything else that if altered might stray from your central branding. And it never hurts to include examples of improper usage just to give your constituents a more visual example of what not to do.
Web Style and Layout
As your website is the central hub of your digital marketing efforts, and likely the first exposure a potential customer will have with regards to your business, you’ll want to make sure that those behind your site’s UX/UI are on board with your brand style guide as well. It’s not enough to have an operational website. You need to be certain that buttons, forms, menu items, and other components of your site follow the brand guidelines you’ve laid out. If your developer isn’t willing to adhere to the style rules for your brand, it might be time to find a web design company that is.
Why are style guides important for branding?
Your company’s brand is its personality. It’s what sets you apart from businesses competing for the same target consumers. If crafted strategically, it’s what people are going to recognize and respond to. And since you simply cannot risk it falling apart at the hands of those working to enhance it, you need a style guide to keep creative efforts balanced and in line with a common goal. Without a style guide, you run the very real risk of designers, copywriters, and other creatives going rogue with their own random interpretations of what your brand represents. As a result, content might seem a little too patched together and misguided. Visual elements might not harmonize quite right. And your overall message is going to be lost in translation. In short, without a style guide, your brand becomes vulnerable and prone to weakening.
What are the benefits of a style guide?
The key benefit to a style guide is that it serves as a definitive resource for every team member or contractor responsible for crafting your message and enhancing your brand. Your style guide acts as an encyclopedia of helpful tips and guidelines designed to build a consistent voice, improve efficiency, reduce redundant work, and clear up the most common inquiries relating to how your brand is reflected to your audience.
If you’ve not taken the time to carve out a brand identity and develop a thorough brand style guide, you’ll want to consider making it a priority for the sake of your team and your company. And a brand style guide isn’t something you’re going to knock out in an afternoon. It requires detailed and comprehensive research and input from your entire team. And if you need a little assistance, we’d be happy to help. At Timmermann Group, we have an in-house team of artists, designers, and brand identity experts ready to learn what sets your business apart and prepared to create a brand and style guide that defines your business. To learn more, or to get started, contact Timmermann Group today.