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How to Create Brand Guidelines

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Brand guidelines are all about creating continuity and consistency in brand message, brand look, brand voice, brand colors or pallet and the greater brand story.

Building comprehensive brand guidelines should be the first step to creating your brand identity.

What are Brand Guidelines?

Brand guidelines; also known as a brand style guide, are essentially an instruction manual and rule book on how to communicate your brand.

They lay out all the visual details, as well as important notes about the company's voice, tone, and messaging.

What is the Purpose of Brand Guidelines?

The purpose of implementing brand guidelines is to ensure that all iterations and implementations of brand or marketing material, as well as all associated content, activities or endeavors are consistent with agreed upon aesthetics, mission, ethos or approach. 

Brand guidelines have the purpose you develop from them. Brand guidelines are intended to begin a conversation which keeps implementations in line with the goals, spirit and agreed-upon identity of the brand.

What’s Included in Brand Guidelines?

There are really no limits to what a good, comprehensive brand guideline might include as each brand has different vision.

However, there are fundamental aspects of the brand identity which most every organization, institution, artist or business ought to contemplate and develop. 

Brand Story

First, you want to take time to consider your brand story. You should start by establishing the narrative, how the brand began and how to describe the inspiration and direction of the brand. Elaborate and personalize as fits the reality of your brand.

Brand Messaging

Secondly, you want to establish and agree upon strategies for exploring audience potential, and establishing a message congruent with your story and inspiration. Creating your brand requires consideration as to who you are targeting, who you are talking to and how you want to frame that conversation.

Brand Voice

Further, your brand needs a voice, a personality. A brand should establish a truly coherent conceptual voice which speaks to the target market while remaining authentic. The voice should be memorable. You should tap into your creative mojo and develop a real personality and in doing so you will humanize the brand. Well intentioned and well-implemented comedy, syntax, phrasing and even including cultural references or quotations establishing shared cultural interest, investment, and engagement with your audience and targets.

Who Should Create Brand Guidelines?

Brand guidelines should be the result of collaboration between founding forces, marketing professionals, and your entire staff and even audience and customers; everyone’s input is valuable. 

With broad suggestions and input, brand guidelines should ultimately be drafted by marketing personnel with approval coming from all major management. You should develop brand guidelines as a very initial step in marketing - even before developing marketing strategy. Creating well-conceived and adhered to brand guidelines is a small investment in time and cost, but it is so important to developing an image for a business or project. 

A good marketing team will make sure to be dynamic with their brand guidelines, allowing for tweaks and changes that keep the brand fresh but familiar while visibly evolving.

How to Create Brand Guidelines

Though it should be said that there is likely no wrong way to develop your brand guidelines, here’s a basic recipe:

1. Get Inspiration

In order to make a well-informed, inspired, and complete set of guidelines, you want to try to draw information and ideas from a wide net. Look for inspiration in the tools of the trade, look to your target audience, look to any existing customers, employees, other companies and marketing campaigns. Try to draw from your business or project’s goals, ethics, or whatever may make it unique.

Try to envision how you might communicate these defining aspects of your brand in the form of aesthetics, messaging, voice, colors, etc. Try to create a set of notes which contain the ideas in their most distilled and reference them while you are developing the brand identity through the guidelines.

2. Define Your Story

This should be a brand defining expose of who your are, what defines you, and what motivates you. It should be reflected in the entirety of your brand guidelines, aesthetics, voice, and message. It should be intended to humanize and personalize your endeavors. 

It is wise to gives names and faces to not only to those people that have helped build the brand, founders and managers, but the regular employees as well. Show your audience your heart and soul. Show your audience who exactly it is behind the scenes producing their product, providing their service.

3. Create Target Personas

The next step is to identify the people you know would be interested in your product or service. These, often referred to as “buyer personas” or “targets personas”, are basic traits and demographic information which is common among individuals you are trying to attract. 

Creating target personas requires some degree of research into just who it is that your brand should be speaking to. Your marketing team should research your client information along with demographic information common for the industry concerned and perhaps further research into untapped demand and new markets. Target personas should be developed to represent each of the general types of clients you are most likely to encounter and convert. 

These personas will guide marketing and advertising decisions, so they are very important. The better you can define your target audience, the better you can appeal to them. Knowing your audience is absolutely crucial as your clientele will guide your guidelines.  

4. Create Your Logo

Once you have developed your target personas and your story, it is time to begin to define the aesthetics of your brand. The best place to start is with the logo. It is to be the symbol of the brand; the means by which it is most identified. 

A good logo will be unique yet familiar. It will be simple but identifiable. It will be stylized and be capable of guiding greater aesthetic concepts. Good logos almost tell a story. They are beautiful in their symplicity. Try to create something that seems reflects your personality as a brand.  

5. Decide Your Brand Colors

After the logo, begin to establish the palette for your brand. Make sure to choose colors which work together and which you feel represent your brand identity. 

There is an identity to colors and color schemes. Whether it's cultural and personal, or somehow communicated within the photons themselves, people get an impression of color and color schemes - try to make that impression the right one to the right person. 

Take a look at social media and try to determine popular color schemes for your target personas or even age and gender demographics. What would your primary target audience persona’s living room palette look like? What about their favorite outfit? Though it is most important that color schemes are attractive, it would not hurt to try to draw some inspiration from your audience.

6. Decide Your Font

After developing the logo and colors, start to decide on fonts. Try to see what works with the colors and logo. Try to use a font that represents the business or project somewhat.

Are you a contemporary font? One from the past? From the future? Are you efficient or decorative? Fonts say a lot. Make sure your font matches your logo well aesthetically, as together, they will be the most common aspects of your visual marketing. 

7. Decide On Imagery And Aesthetics

Now that you have determined your brand’s fonts, colors, and logo, you must begin to create a concept to the great visual characteristics of your marketing and advertising. You want to establish guides which create consistency in photos and graphics alike. You should also determine whether you are going to focus on graphics or photographs.

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