Brand Identity Guide: Your Map to Success

KEY ELEMENTS TO A BASIC STYLE GUIDE

A large brand style guide can be a massive document. Adobe's corporate brand guidelines, for example, span over 60 pages long. Longform brand style guides such as these can cover everything from an overview of the brand, including history, vision and personality to writing style and voice.

They typically then go in to depth about logo specifications and examples of usage, typography palette, color palette, image use specifications (including photography style), letterhead and business card design, design layouts and grids for print and web-based projects, brochure guidelines, specifications for signage and outdoor advertising, social media guidelines and visual examples to support each rule (plus visual examples of proper and improper use for clarity).

Whew! Super overwhelming, right?

But while a huge international corporation such as Adobe may need such a manual, most small to medium businesses don't. With small organizational structures and fewer levels of decision makers to unite, a complex brand identity guide just isn't as necessary to get everyone on the same page.

But this doesn't mean you should be flying solo sans guide! @@If you're in business, whether you know it or not, you have a brand.@@ If you're a solopreneur, you are the brand. And at minimum you should spend some time defining these aspects of your visual identity. Hiring a professional design team to outline these things for you is a relatively simple undertaking though; so if the idea of selecting a complimentary color palette makes your eyes go crossed, outsourcing this task to the pros will be well worth your while. 


Key Elements of a Simple Brand Identity Guide

 

1. PRIMARY LOGO

Define and display your primary logo; this is the one that is used on most of your marketing and branded items.   

Define and display your primary logo; this is the one that is used on most of your marketing and branded items. 

 

2. SUITABLE LOGO VARIATIONS

Create variations for various backgrounds. It helps to think of what your logo will look like on a white background, on a black background, or on top of a photograph. Design alternatives that suit each situation.  

Create variations for various backgrounds. It helps to think of what your logo will look like on a white background, on a black background, or on top of a photograph. Design alternatives that suit each situation.

 

It's also very helpful to have a logo designed to suit various orientations. For example, if your logo is primarily vertical (like the main Adobe one) you'll need to have a variation like the one above that will work better in horizontal layouts. 

It's also very helpful to have a logo designed to suit various orientations. For example, if your logo is primarily vertical (like the main Adobe one) you'll need to have a variation like the one above that will work better in horizontal layouts. 

3. USAGE GUIDELINES

  As important as outlining what you CAN do with your logo is spelling out what you CAN'T. If it's important that the color of a specific part of your logo NEVER changes despite other variations, that needs to be spelled out. It seems superfluous but this level of detail goes a long way to building and protecting your brand's identity and value. This section is also super helpful if you have many different vendors working on your collateral. They won't know what is and isn't acceptable unless you tell them.   

 

As important as outlining what you CAN do with your logo is spelling out what you CAN'T. If it's important that the color of a specific part of your logo NEVER changes despite other variations, that needs to be spelled out. It seems superfluous but this level of detail goes a long way to building and protecting your brand's identity and value. This section is also super helpful if you have many different vendors working on your collateral. They won't know what is and isn't acceptable unless you tell them. 

 

4. COLORS

Adobe's color list is actually quite long for a simple brand identity guide but they also detail in other pages how to combine and utilizing each of the specific colors defined. For a simple guide, we'd suggest just sticking to defining all of the colors that are in your primary logo (plus any acceptable variations) in Pantone, CMYK, RGB and HEX. We would recommend that most small to medium businesses stick to a color palette of no more than three colors.  

Adobe's color list is actually quite long for a simple brand identity guide but they also detail in other pages how to combine and utilizing each of the specific colors defined. For a simple guide, we'd suggest just sticking to defining all of the colors that are in your primary logo (plus any acceptable variations) in Pantone, CMYK, RGB and HEX. We would recommend that most small to medium businesses stick to a color palette of no more than three colors.

 

5. TYPOGRAPHY

  Define any fonts used in the logo or tagline as well as any other fonts that will be used in header, body and caption text (if these are not the same). But resist the urge to go font crazy! A good tip here is to find a font family with many iterations and utilize different styles within the same family to keep things coordinated. If there are any other stipulations such as that secondary heading text is always is lowercase and never in all caps, spell that out as well.   

 

Define any fonts used in the logo or tagline as well as any other fonts that will be used in header, body and caption text (if these are not the same). But resist the urge to go font crazy! A good tip here is to find a font family with many iterations and utilize different styles within the same family to keep things coordinated. If there are any other stipulations such as that secondary heading text is always is lowercase and never in all caps, spell that out as well. 

 

6. SUPPORTING GRAPHICS, ICONS, or PATTERNS

If needed, some simple brand identity guides may also outline any supporting graphics such as these one for Adobe external programs. Other custom graphics that are worth defining are any patterns or textures used as a part of the brand identity, custom social media icons or other supporting graphics that contribute to the overall visual package. If these aren't defined in a simple brand identity guide, they are well worth defining in another project to help create consistency.  

If needed, some simple brand identity guides may also outline any supporting graphics such as these one for Adobe external programs. Other custom graphics that are worth defining are any patterns or textures used as a part of the brand identity, custom social media icons or other supporting graphics that contribute to the overall visual package. If these aren't defined in a simple brand identity guide, they are well worth defining in another project to help create consistency.

 


Once you have these items defined, creating all of your future marketing should be much easier. You now have a way to gauge whether something is "on brand" or not; or at least be forced to justify why you've decided to incorporate a font or color you've never used before.