04 Jan Shape Up Your Style Guide for a New Year
The New Year is a time for resolutions. So, while you’re resolving to hit the gym a little more, or eat healthier, consider also getting your corporate brand style guide in shape. Even if your personal resolution doesn’t last beyond Spring, a well-executed style guide update will benefit your brand throughout the year. This is the best time to review your style guide because you will want it to align with your strategic objectives for the new year.
Your corporate brand is the message you project to your audience, often without saying anything at all. It includes your logos, design, literary style, and even corporate culture, and it can be felt in everything the company does. A brand style guide ensures that your meticulously crafted corporate brand is understood internally, so it can be presented clearly to all audiences.
A well-defined style guide includes eight key components:
Brand Story: a brand story communicates your company’s offerings by way of its overarching purpose and goals through its internal drivers: the mission, vision, and values. It introduces the company’s capabilities in a way that influences an emotional attachment to the work employees do. When employees believe in the mission, vision, and values, the brand can be communicated naturally.
Logo: guidelines for logos will vary greatly based on your company’s selection of logos, but the goal in this section is to ensure logos are being used in the correct places and not being manipulated.
- If there are multiple logos, dictate each type of media on which each can occur.
- List minimum size dimensions and proper proportions.
- Logo files made available to employees should have locked proportions so that distorted logos are not easily created.
- Give a variety of examples of logo misuse to educate employees on the implications behind manipulating the size, proportions, white space, etc.
Color Palette: by defining your color palette, you ensure that the look and feel of your brand is conveyed correctly time after time, wherever it appears. This seems straightforward, but because color protocols are different for print and digital media, colors need to be defined for both.
- The color palette is made up of all colors used to identify your brand, including each color used in your logo(s), and any accent colors used on other media.
- CMYK is the protocol for print media. Provide the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) saturation values for each of the colors that make up your brand.
- RGB is a protocol for digital media. Provide the Red, Green, and Blue saturation values for each of the colors that make up your brand.
- HEX is another protocol for digital media that is used in web design. It comprises a shorthand version of an RGB code and should be displayed in its unique six-digit combination of letters and numbers for each of the colors that make up your brand.
Typography: this section of the style guide outlines the use of the font(s) that make up your brand. There are many opinions on how fonts should be used to convey a brand, but it is common practice to have 2-3 fonts.
- Identify the main font, which will be used in the vast majority of media. Designers generally agree that the primary font should differ from the font used in your logo, for the sake of contrast.
- Identify the secondary font, and outline when it should be used
- For each font, identify the kerning (spacing between letters).
- If there are preferred alignments for different types of text, identify them and the forms of media to which they apply. Example: all bulleted text in Sales Proposals is to be indented ¼” from its header text.
- List of proper formats (e.g., dates) and commonly used words that can be written various ways with guidelines how to write them, e.g., health care vs. health care.
Imagery: brand guidelines for imagery are highly variable. You may use this section to highlight images used by other brands or currently used by your company that convey your message well and certain image styles that are to be avoided.
- When displaying an array of images that convey your brand well, point out the specific characteristics that make them a good fit, i.e. color profile, artistic effects, theme, and proportions.
- It is advisable to limit the use of product photography to a set of pre-approved images that are not to be manipulated.
- Identify styles that are not good fits calling out elements that make them so.
- If banks of pre-approved images exist, direct employees to their location.
- Identify the way images are to be formatted within different types of media. Example: all images inserted in corporate PowerPoint decks are to be no larger than Y” x Z” and should be formatted squarely with surrounding text.
Voice: the personality of your brand is portrayed through its voice. Your brand’s voice can be determined by the terminology used, point of view, or degree of formality. Evaluate whether your current messaging is effective; if so, identify the elements that make it so, if not, identify the do’s and don’ts for transforming it.
- Identify preferred words and words to avoid. Are buzzwords on-brand or off-brand?
- Ask the employees to adapt the tone used in your brand story.
- Make clear the point-of-view to be used in corporate communications. Examples: when speaking from the company’s perspective, use “we” instead of “it”; when referring to our workforce, use “associates” instead of “workers” or “employees”.
Stationery Suite: the stationery suite includes the external-facing elements that exude the professionalism of your brand: letterhead, business cards, envelopes, and email signatures.
- Include an introduction to each piece and an explanation of how/when/where to use them.
- Letterhead includes physical and digital templates for letters, PowerPoint decks, sales collateral, and other forms of media your company uses.
- It is best to include a signature sample in the brand guidelines and instruct employees to “copy & paste” it, and simply alter the name, title, and contact information.
Website: in today’s world, your website is the premier medium to project your brand’s message to outsiders. All elements of your website should align with your brand.
- Identify which pages should be easily accessed from the home page.
- Identify the types of imagery that should and should not appear.
- Identify how temporary messaging, like promotions, should be displayed
Style guides are designed to be used by every employee in an organization, so ensure that yours is available in formats that are usable for all. A style guide is also only as good as the communication around it; if employees don’t know it exists or where it can be found, it will not be followed. Periodically remind employees that it exists and ensure that it is included in the orientation of new hires.
Need a jump into the new year with a refreshed brand style guide for your organization? We can help!