Recently, we’ve heard a lot about design systems, style guides, pattern libraries, and atomic design. While these tools are handy, using them can seem overkill when you only want to create a few screens for an MVP or demo an app. However, having a style guide will improve your design process and make your app more solid and consistent.
Despite all the research and surveys, you still have no idea what customers want when you launch your startup. The only way to find out is to pivot and adjust your product every chance. But this eventually results in a cluster of code and inconsistent styles quickly becoming unmaintainable.
Whether you’re overseeing the marketing efforts in a sizeable B2B organisation or running a startup, a style guide should be an integral component of your marketing strategy.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a document that outlines your brand’s styles to keep your branding consistent. The paper includes usage rules for logos, colours, typography, language, and image use.
A style guide's purpose is to ensure that multiple contributors create in a clear and cohesive way that reflects the corporate style and ensures brand consistency with everything from design to writing.
A brand style guide is essentially an instruction manual for anyone that creates customer-facing collateral for a company. It provides clear guidelines on how things should look, feel, and sound so that your branding is coherent across your marketing channels.
“Brands are essentially patterns of familiarity, meaning, fondness, and reassurance that exist in the minds of people.” —Tom Goodwin
The Power of Style Guides
How to Build Loyalty and Stay True to Your Brand
What is a brand style guide? A style guide is a set of standards for the design of documents and any other form of brand identity elements. It is a reference tool that supports consistency by showing how a brand should look, feel and sound.
Why are style guides important? Consistency is key to building a memorable brand. Style guides ensure brand consistency throughout any collateral you produce — no matter who creates it: customer service, marketing, design or sales.
Consistency Is Key To Building Your Brand
Top brands stick in our minds because they define their presence by repeating their logo, fonts, colors, and images. Over time, they become recognizable as the brand, creating a sense of reliability and security. Conversely, inconsistency weakens your brand image, makes your company look unprofessional, and hurts conversion rates and revenue.
The number one goal of a style guide is consistency among the various elements that, when combined, create a recognisable brand. With a brand style guide in place, everyone should understand what the brand is and how to use it in the work they do.
Following a style guide allows new work to be as near to a final version as possible. In addition, reducing the time spent on revisions, editing, and giving corrections cuts the operating costs.
Depending on your business, you may need one, or several, different guides. There are a variety of style guides:
Strong and consistent branding is vital for improving brand recognition, awareness, and loyalty. Every time you reinforce your brand in the customer’s mind you improve the likelihood they will think of you when it is time to buy.
Parts of A Visual Style Guide:
Your logo is the foundation of your visual identity. You need it to be consistent wherever it’s displayed. Use your style guide to show proper logo use and variations. Take this time to show how not to apply the logo.
Type is a large part of any collateral you make. Consistency in your typography supports your brand and helps project a sense of professionalism. Give explicit rules for acceptable typefaces and alternative styling, size, and colour guidelines.
3. Color Palette
In your style guide, show swatches of your brand colours. Ensure to include the information needed to reproduce those colors wherever your brand message appears. Choose four or fewer primary colors and avoid straying from the hues of your logo.
From Pantone color numbers to CMYK blends and RGB or HEX values, colors can shift from designer to designer or program to program. Defining colors avoids any ugly surprises and saves both time and money.
Photography can be a vital part of a brand's visual identity. If it is an integral part of yours, you should include it in your guide for any photographers you work with to reference.
You can approach this in a few different ways. If you have them, show images that have performed for your brand in the past. Don’t you have your examples? Go aspirational — find models from big brands that you like. Or create a mood board of images that convey the feelings you want people to have when they think of your brand.
5. Supporting Graphics
Supporting graphics helps set your brand apart. Include them in your guide to ensure they are used to the most significant advantage. Provide icons, patterns, size variations, and color preferences.
Image guidelines should define when and how certain types of images are used. For example, will you use photography or illustrations or both? Will they be black and white or color? Is clip art use acceptable?
6. Brand Voice
A brand’s voice is as important as the brand’s visual style. Your brand should sound and look a certain way. In an ideal world, you would have one person writing everything, but most of the time, that’s impossible. Giving the writers you work with guidelines for how they should write about your brand will help avoid any instances of sounding off-brand.
You may want to create a separate style guide for writing. But it is good to provide a little guidance in the visual guide. Using a consistent and distinct tone can help clients and customers identify with your brand, and creates an association with what the brand stands for.
Other things you might include:
Every brand, from the smallest website or startup to corporate giants need a set of branding guidelines. This document, which can range from a few pages to several hundred, shows your team how to stay true to your brand.
Creating Your Style Guide
Every guide will be different as your brand style guide should reflect your organisation.
However, you may find it helpful to create an outline to help you decide on the structure of your focus. Use the six points above and any business-specific needs to develop your design.
Your brand style guide is a living, breathing document. You can add to or adjust it as you learn what works. Well-defined and maintained style guides allow you to present your brand and establish trust with your audience. Clearly plan to revisit your style guide from time to time. Depending on your business and how fast you evolve, this could be every month, quarter or year. Make the process easier by keeping ideas in one central place as they occur.
Many businesses avoid creating a style guide because of the time involved. But a style guide is essential to building your brand identity consistently — especially when you have several people developing content for your brand. Therefore, it’s essential to spend the time and resources to create these invaluable documents.
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Kamal Rastogi is a serial IT entrepreneur with 25 yrs plus experience. Currently his focus area is Data Science business, ERP Consulting, IT Staffing and Experttal.com (Fastest growing US based platform to hire verified / Risk Compliant Expert IT resources from talent rich countries like India, Romania, Philippines etc...directly). His firms service clients like KPMG, Deloitte, EnY, Samsung, Wipro, NCR Corporation etc in India and USA.