Style guidelines: A disciplined brand is a powerful brand

Style guidelines: A disciplined brand is a powerful brand

Does your organization’s brand feel consistent? Or is it disjointed, with each communication looking and feeling different than the one before it?

If the brand seems to be constantly changing, it’s an issue that’s worth addressing.

A disjointed brand makes it harder for people to understand, get involved, donate, apply for work — and a dozen other things.

One step that can help is creating or updating your organization’s brand style guidelines. What does that mean? How will it help? Do you really need such a document?

Yes, you do. And here’s why.

What are brand style guidelines?

Brand style guidelines, also sometimes known as a “style guide,” “brand bible,” or “brand book,” are the universal rules that govern the visual expression of a brand. It is a document that lays out:

  • Brand logo and usage rules
  • Brand fonts
  • Brand color palette
  • Photography style

How does a style guide help?

Your brand is your personality, your voice, and your look. Just as the way you speak and the clothes you wear create an impression, that’s what your brand does for your organization.

Through your brand, people get to know your worldview, attitude, and style. And, through these interactions, they build a relationship. That relationship, if formed correctly and nurtured, is what eventually allows people to feel comfortable trusting and engaging. To create that relationship, consistency is critical.

Brand style guidelines ensure that every branded communication is using the same building blocks and rules so that the brand voice is consistent every time it reaches someone. (This is especially helpful when various creative partners are building different pieces of the same brand.)

Functions of brand style guidelines:

  • Ensure consistency across creative materials
  • Reference document when questions arise
  • Playbook to inspire strong work

Why should we have a brand book?

The advantages of having concise, up-to-date brand style guidelines go beyond the creation of stronger, more consistent creative materials. The process of reviewing and creating or updating the materials also facilitates important discussion about the brand and what it means to the team. If done correctly, the process makes everyone feel more ownership of the organization’s voice, and, by extension, purpose.

Benefits of brand guidelines:

  • Creates a stronger long-term, consistent voice for organization
  • Each piece of communication resonates more, as it builds off the others
  • The process of reviewing brand guidelines generates internal buy-in
  • Emphasizes that voice and tone matter, which builds pride internally and externally

How are brand guidelines created?

If a brand already has elements in place — for example, a consistently used font, a palette of colors, an established logo — creating a brand style guidelines document can be relatively simple. It’s a matter of gathering all the information (the assets and “rules”) of the brand and clearly spelling them out in a single, concise document.

If a brand is undergoing a re-fresh or a re-brand, and elements are being changed or developed, the brand style guidelines document is the result of the process of developing the new look.

In either case, the steps are:

  • Assess brand elements that are staying in place
  • Develop any new brand elements
  • Codify all elements in a concise, simple document
  • Review and gather input from stakeholders at all levels
  • Incorporate team feedback to generate final document

In the end, many brand style guidelines documents are relatively short. But it’s amazing how big a difference it can make to define the rules clearly and simply for the look and feel of the brand.

It can be the difference between receiving a polite smile from your target audience and opening a true dialogue.

Is your organization’s branding on track? Contact us via email or the below form to see how we can help.

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