The importance of brand guidelines

If you’ve invested time, effort and budget into creating a new logo with a design agency, the last thing you’ll want to see is for it to be tweaked or used in a way which goes against the guidelines approved and agreed when it was signed off. Working with multiple design agencies, printers or even in-house staff can allow for the manipulation of your brand identity to happen sometimes – and it’s not done on purpose, it can sometimes be a process which develops when budgets are being tightened or when the original branding agency isn’t asked to protect the brand and allow them to be brand custodians. Fonts can warp into the nearest font available at that time, colours can change if the person using your logo doesn’t have a reference point on CMYK, Pantone or RGB colour values. Logo’s can sometimes end up stretched until they’re unrecognisable, or not enough care and attention is taken – we could go on.

When we craft new logos at Brave, we’re always thinking of how a brand identity or logo can develop and be applied in the future in different applications, scenarios or situations. What colours do we set out for the palette? What fonts do we choose to use? What messaging sounds right for the business? And how do all these design elements fit together to form a brand identity?

When we’ve established this, we can begin to build the brand guidelines, but what are brand guidelines? Below, we’ve broken down a few key areas to help you understand what they are, why they are important and how we produce them in a tailored way for you, our client.

So What are Brand Guidelines?

Brand guidelines are the ‘tools and rules’ you set for designers, writers, web developers, printers and anyone else likely to work with you or your brand in creating promotional or marketing collateral. Typically, brand guidelines come in the form of a PDF or an online document which you can share easily.

What’s Included in Brand Guidelines?

Your brand guidelines are established specifically for you. We like to think of them as the ‘DNA of your brand identity’ which is specific to your business. That said, there are common elements you’ll find in every brand guidelines document. These are;

Colour Palettes

These are usually the same colours we use in your logo, but there are also considerations made for additional and secondary colour palettes. Setting colour palettes establishes rules on what colours to use. Not having a colour palette could allow people to pick any colour they feel like – nobody wants that!

Typography

Fonts and type are just as important as colour palettes. Type can often help set the tone of voice for your brand. For example, we wouldn’t be using a large, heavy font in all-caps (implying shouting) for a business like a funeral home and nor would we use something too friendly for a brand which sits in a masculine market. Fonts are probably the most crucial arsenal of any brand designer as it enables you to apply the right tone, feel and voice all within the style of a font. Many designers fail in this area; many simply do not research enough font choices which can mean the wrong font is chosen which just doesn’t work for a brand’s style, name or audience.

Logo Rules

In the guidelines we build for our clients, we dedicate a vast amount of the document to the ‘do’s and don’ts’. We guide users on how much clear space there should be around the logo to give it breathing space, what not to do with the logo, what you can do with the logo and so on. From previous experience, we understand that once your brand is out there and you’re allowing people to create promotional material, there is a huge margin for ‘creative license on their part’. It’s our job to minimise the damage which can be done by an external designer with a passion for a particular font, or by Susy from accounts who loves the colour pink and thinks Comic Sans is an acceptable secondary font!

Why are Brand Guidelines Important?

So far we’ve covered what’s included in brand guidelines, we’ll now explain why you need them.

Consistency is King!

Brand guidelines are a tool for keeping your brand identity consistent. Businesses large and small can suffer from external influences watering down their brand, guidelines are critical to helping your brand work effectively to keeping external or internal staff from swaying off the guidelines. With that said, a good set of brand guidelines should allow some flexibility and not limit creativity but, as the creators, we can be clear on where that flexibility is. Style guides are included within the brand guidelines to help with this with examples of how far you can go.

Setting the Rules

Nobody likes rules, especially designers! But when it comes to your brand, it’s imperative you have those who are using your logo, name or identity to follow the rules we set out in your brand guidelines. The rules will cover things like logo spacing, knowing when to use a white logo over a coloured logo or image, how not to present it, vs how to present the logo and so on.

Avoid Confusion

If you were involved in creating your brand, you’d know it inside-out. But the same can’t be said for your employees or colleagues. They didn’t sit in on all those initial discussions with your design agency; they didn’t help with the feedback on what the logo needed to represent and why you ended up choosing the final version. A new employee or a freelance designer for example, won’t know which font they should be using for your business as they don’t have those insights necessarily. Having brand guidelines will help alleviate the confusion and more importantly stops documents going out into the world which aren’t consistent with your business.

Do you need Brand Guidelines?

We’ve helped many businesses since 2000 with logo design, brand identities and brand guidelines. At Brave we believe branding is everything, it’s the first visual your audience sees, it’s a make or break relationship visually, and it gets stronger the more it’s seen and the longer it’s protected and looked after. If you’re thinking about a rebrand or you’re a new business who needs help establishing the right look then give us a call. We can guide you through the process of developing a brand right through to creating the message, logo and launching your brand!

Written by Tony Conte

Founder and Owner of Brave Agency, an Integrated Agency transforming businesses through design, digital and marketing, helping you, our clients to get results by applying the right strategy.

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