One of the very first steps any business owner must take when starting a business is establishing their branding.
First of all, let’s set the record straight – branding is more than just a logo. You can get a logo designed online for cheap, but that does not always turn out to be the best long-term solution.
Your branding is the North Star of every piece of collateral material you produce. Every brochure, business card, even down to your email signature… they all need to match your brand identity. When people look at anything you have produced, it should be easily identifiable as being associated with your business. That doesn’t mean we need to wear bright orange jumpsuits or use blue ink for everything we print here at Spotted Fox. But when you just glance at something we have created, you’ll think: “Oh, I know them!”
The best way to ensure brand consistency is to create a Style Guide that contains Branding Guidelines. This way, no matter how large your company grows, there are specific guidelines that anyone producing content will have to follow.
Establishing a solid brand is usually done by a professional branding expert like us here at Spotted Fox Digital. Since 97% of first impressions are determined by design, you want a result that stands the test of time and really catches consumers’ attention.
What’s in a Style Guide?
Depending on your business, your style guide can include a lot of different items that are important to your branding.
Some items you may want to include are:
- Your Brand Ethics: mission statement or vision
- Tone/Voice used across marketing materials,
- Negative words to stay away from in marketing – example: realtors must stay away from words that may sound discriminatory in advertising, like “seniors”,
- Links to slideshow templates,
- Graphics or icons commonly used,
- Grammar – do you use the oxford comma or not? Do you use “&” or “and” in communications? Yes, you can be that specific.
4 Main Elements Every Style Guide NEEDS
1. Logo Use: Variations & Restrictions
Logo Use: Variations & Restrictions
Each variation of your Logo that you have. Your logo should always reflect your brand at all brand touchpoints. This is where it becomes important to have some variations to adapt to different platforms or placement requirements. The industry you’re in and the way you will promote your business will determine the necessary variations you will need. We recommend at least 2 variations — one square (portrait ) and one rectangular ( landscape ). You should also consider having your logo displayed with 1 or 2 colors, versus full color.
We highly recommend having a square version because of placements like Facebook Profile Photo and Google My Business pages, though this does not have to be your primary version of your logo.
For instance, Roberts Jones Law’s logo is rectangular, but there is a square version of just the RJ for certain placement purposes and it still gets the whole picture across to the viewer that this is Roberts Jones Law.
You should also outline what you do NOT want to have happened with your logo. This is where you list sizing, color, and overall requirements and limitations for your logo.
Common examples of Logo Use & Restrictions:
- Do not stretch, condense, or alter the dimensions of the logo
- Do not alter the placement or scale of elements of the logo
- Don’t rotate the logo
- Don’t add extra elements to the logo
- Don’t use drop shadows or other visual effects on the logo
- Do not alter or replace the fonts of the logo
- How to Use Logo with 1 or 2 colors
- Alternative Layouts
You get the idea.
Your business tagline, if you have one.
Pretty straight forward. Your tagline should be memorable, easy to say and describe the essence of your business in a few select words. Taglines are not 100% necessary, but it is recommended. When you hear “I’m lovin’ it”, you automatically think of McDonald’s, right? Then maybe you hear the jingle in your head. Boom! That’s the power of branding!
The fonts that are used in your branding.
Typography is an easy thing to keep consistent in your branding. Typically you want to stick with no more than 2 font families. The fonts you choose should have enough variety with font-weight bold, regular, light/thin), spacing, and other parameters. Many companies use a Header Font and a Body Font. These can be the same font family in different variations (serif, sans serif; bold, thin) or they can be different complementary fonts.
The Header font has a little more creative flexibility as it’s not used as often, though it still needs to be legible when used in a sentence. The body font needs to be easy to read in paragraph form while also being consistent with your brand image.
Fonts have personality. It can be playful, modern, elegant, techy, whimsical, etc. Depending on the type of business you run, you want your font to match your company’s personality.
Another thing worth noting is that some fonts are HEAVILY overused, and you should pay attention to industry trends when choosing your fonts. A good rule of thumb is to avoid fonts that come preloaded on computers. These are fonts like Papyrus, Arial, Comic Sans, Times New Roman, and Impact. Adobe Fonts have a large number of fonts to choose from that you can license and use commercially.
Brand Color Swatches and HEX Codes.
It’s very important to be thoughtful when choosing your brand’s colors. There are a variety of color palettes to choose from. Selecting the right color scheme will depend on the platform (digital, print, etc) you use to promote your business. This will also affect the color codes you use.
Hex (or hexadecimal codes) start with a # sign and indicate the color value, typically for HTML websites and design purposes. Also used for digital and web purposes is RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and Adobe RGB, which are exclusively used on-screen because they match the same colors used on monitors and computer screens.
If you need to make material for print, you may also need PMS (Pantone colors) for screenprinting and other color-matching uses or more commonly, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – also called the four-color process for obvious reasons) for traditional printing.
You can use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign to convert your RGB designs to CMYK for print, or vice versa. But if you know you are creating material for print or the Web, it’s best to have already chosen your color palette for all brand touchpoints.
Keeping your brand color (s) consistent at all brand touchpoints will result in your target audience recognizing your business simply from your color scheme as consumers instinctively connect your brand logo to your business.