Breaking Down Brand Guidelines
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
– Simon Sinek
People often recognize a logo, different typefaces, and colors that brands use to differentiate themselves. At this moment, I bet you can visualize the branding of Google, Twitter, and Facebook effortlessly. What people don’t realize as easily, is why these brands decided to use the different elements to create their identity in the first place. They are left to evaluate “do I like this or not” without the context.
At JaxonLabs, we’ve been working with brands to align their purpose to action and one of the ways we have been successful is by creating brand guidelines for them.
In this article, we are going to explore why brand guidelines are valuable, our process for creating them, and the different assets that can be included.
BRAND GUIDELINES: WHY ARE THEY VALUABLE?
This speaks to the core of creating an identity. Why did Nike choose to invest their brand identity in what we all know to be the Swoosh, and the Just Do It tagline?
We believe that documenting the process of creation is equally important as creating the assets that make up an identity. It provides a lens for employees, customers, and other key stakeholders to look through and gain a full understanding of the thinking that went into the creation of the identity. Uber has a great example of a clear and well-organized branding process and guide.
The way their branding subdomain is set up allows the user to only see what they need; rather than, having to rifle through a few dozen pages. Also, once the user clicks on the desired portion, those pages are very clean and visually legible.
In addition to explaining the fundamental why, a brand guide outlines the different elements that need to be factored into creating any new content.
These guides will continuously evolve – similar to a business plan – although they will probably maintain some fundamental truths over time.
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BRAND GUIDELINES: OUR PROCESS FOR CREATING THEM
When starting any new project, we like to ensure that enough time is set aside to understand a vision for the brand. What is motivating our client(s), what they want to achieve and why their stakeholders would care about this brand.
Within an hour or two of deep diving conversation, the core of a brand will start to surface. Next, we like to create a mood board that ties some of these basic concepts together for all the different assets that we will be creating, at which point gather again to dive into them. This is where we start to really narrow in on the identity.
As clients start to open up about what design styles call their name and how they make sense to the core concept behind the brand, we begin to understand how this story fits together.
At this point, we create the first version of a brand guide, taking all the information that we have gathered about the vision, what elements they are attracted to and begin to create their story
Once we have completed the first revision, we meet again to discuss how it makes them feel and even present it to a few small focus groups to gather their input.
After this process is complete we have a document that has meaning to everyone who will come in contact with the brand.
BRAND GUIDELINES: EVERYTHING THAT’S INCLUDED
Now that you know why you need a brand guide and what the process looks like, one question remains. Which important elements need to be included to help your business put its best foot forward?
A brief summary of your brand will help your customer and employees understand what drives your company. This element can include your organization’s values, personality, audience, vision, and mission or only parts of it. What is most relevant to your audience? This is the glue that holds the guide together – the following elements should tread the heels of this element.
Logo and Logo Usage
A logo can look different depending on the platform or media, so you want to make sure that you have different versions for different circumstances to avoid condensing, stretching and other mistakes. Remember to list colors and color variations, required white space (if needed), proportion and size, and how not to use your logo. For a simplistic, bold, and flexible logo example, take a look at TBS’s process.
Font selection is a key part of your brand guide, whether you’re choosing one typeface family or numerous fonts. Keep spacing, alignment, and why and how each typeface is used in mind. Once example of a company that focuses on typography in their branding guidelines is KAE.
If you want a persistent brand, a color palette helps tremendously in that regard. It’s a good idea to include color match, digital color, and print color details in your brand guide. Hint: brands tend to pick four or less colors and stay close to the hues of their logo. We also suggest picking a dark text color, a light background color, a neutral color, and a hue that stands out. Jones Soda, for example, identifies their products through color.
Social Media Posts
When posting to your various social media channels, be explicit on what types of images are and aren’t allowed to be posted. Specify appropriate background images, avatars, and marketing campaign images.
You may already have an idea of which photos fit your brand. Describing and showcasing exactly what this looks like will help your team follow your lead in an effective way. A few points to consider:
Will you use images of people? Who are they and how does their look reflect that?
If you’re not sure where to begin, reviewing other successful brands that you can aspire to is a good place to start.
How do you want your customers or clients to feel when they connect with your brand? A mood board may help in this regard.
While many organizations have not developed brand guidelines for video, if you are thinking about using video to reach your customers and employees, it is a must. By defining the elements above, your graphic guidelines have already been laid out for you. The rest of the work requires building on top of those components. In addition, you should consider voice, personality, what you would like to reuse, animation, audio (music, sound effects), viewing location, casting or animated character dos and don’ts, and format.