How To Create a Simple Style Guide For Your Business
At Markon we frequently touch on the imperative nature of consistency in your business’s visual branding. Specifically, how implementing a uniform structure of logo variations, colors, fonts, pattern, texture, and other graphic elements tie the aesthetic of your business into a unique package that can be recognized at a glance. A style guide is a vital tool when it comes to protecting the visual integrity of your business, as it holds all this necessary information in a concise, easily-accessible document that can be printed or emailed to any party that may play a role in the graphic representation of your brand. The length or size of a style guide can be anywhere from a single page to a whole book. The length will depend entirely on you and how strict or detailed the visual standards for your brand might be. For a small-to-medium size business, a comfortable length is generally three to five pages. You could probably even get away with a single page style guide if your need is simply to provide employees and contractors with an ultra-quick reference and not much else. As long as your guide has the basics, this might be all that is necessary. What are these basics? There are typically four: your logo and its variations, your font(s), designated colors, and imagery (illustrations or photos/photographic style) your brand might use.
Your logo should exist (ideally) in two to three iterations. There must be one horizontal and one vertical option that can work with different layouts, and if the logo is primarily full-color, it also should look attractive in black and white or grayscale. Flexibility is key, and that includes optimization for web-use! For instance, a highly ornate logo or one with detailed illustration is not ideal. If your logo relies heavily on these elements (and they are vital to your brand’s image), then having a more pared-down version of the logo for web-use may be in order.
Let’s be honest, there are A LOT of options out there when it comes to narrowing down a pairing of fonts for your business. Luckily, our Digital + Social Strategist, Mike, has put together a quick guide to help you wade through the mess, and it can be found here. Whether Sans Serif, Serif, Slab, Script or Display…. there are plenty of pleasing typeface combinations to choose from. Once you’ve made your choices, it’s time to integrate them into your style guide. Another imperative step is to ensure that employees and contractors have ready access to the font files so that they can be easily installed. (This means ensuring you own all the proper licensing agreements for each font!)
Try to keep your palette to no more than 3-5 hues, and be sure to have the different color codes included. Pantone, CMYK, RGB, and Hex are all relatively easy to uncover. Be sure that when choosing your colors, you are creating a cohesive assortment that works well as a whole and don’t just look attractive as stand-alones. There are plenty of color rules to help in this decision: complementary, triads, shades, monochromatic… utilizing a free service such as Adobe Color is exceptionally helpful in discovering the perfect combination of hues to represent your brand. Once you’ve decided on a palette, LOCK IT DOWN and add it to your style guide where it can be accessed by anyone and everyone who might be involved in your brand’s image.
Graphic elements that need to be made note of in your style guide can be everything from the background patterns and textures you use on your website or in marketing materials to even custom social media icons you’ve had designed! Defining these elements makes them important to your brand - unlike a custom background you may choose for a special occasion or a holiday. These are items that will be part of your long-term branding. In longer style guides, photographic styling should also be defined. Maybe your business only utilizes stock photos. Maybe stock photos without people, or black-and-white in nature. Or how about absolutely NO stock photography, and only pictures taken of your company and products by a professional? On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps your brand relies solely on illustration, no photos or photographic elements ever. Whatever the rules are (or aren’t!), put it in the style guide so that it’s consistent.
There are plenty of elements that can be included in your brand’s style guide, and this is by no means a comprehensive list. Bottom line: come up with a set of standards and stick to them! You’ll be amazed at how a simple three-page guide with just the aforementioned themes will keep the visual identity of your business on track. And if it’s still sounding overwhelming, or while reading through the list you’ve found yourself wondering when you’ll find the time to lock any of this down… our team is always more than happy to help! It’s kind of our deal.