Brighter Messaging
brand guide, black and white paper and notepad layout

What is a brand guide? Your small business needs one ASAP.

In the world of marketing, consistency is critical. That’s especially true when it comes to building a strong brand.

Simply having a nice name and a pretty logo isn’t enough—the visual identity of your business encompasses so much more. Consistently presenting all elements in a cohesive manner across all touchpoints is critical, and this is where a brand guide, or brand style guide, comes into play.

But what exactly is a brand guide, what’s in it, and why is it essential for your business? Let’s take a look.

What is a brand guide?

A brand guide, also known as a brand style guide or brand book, is a comprehensive document that outlines the visual and verbal elements of your brand.

It serves as a blueprint for how your brand should be presented to the world. It ensures consistency across all platforms and materials.

A well-crafted brand guide helps maintain brand integrity and keeps everyone in your organization, as well as external partners, on the same page.

What’s in a brand guide?

A brand guide typically includes the following:

1. Brand Overview

This section provides a brief history of the brand, its mission, vision, and core values. It sets the tone for the rest of the guide by explaining what the brand stands for and what it aims to achieve.

2. Logo Guidelines

The logo is the visual cornerstone of a brand, and it should be used in a controlled, consistent fashion. In a brand guide, the logo guidelines include the primary logo, alternative logos (e.g. brand icons, mark only, text only, etc.), and permissible variations. It also specifies the correct and incorrect usage to avoid any distortions or misrepresentations. For example, most brands won’t allow their logo to appear on a different background color, unless it’s a black-and-white version; another example is that logos shouldn’t be cropped or have other elements too close to their borders.

3. Color Palette

Consistent use of color helps create a recognizable brand. The brand guide will specify the exact colors to be used (often with RGB, CMYK, and HEX codes) and where they should be applied. Typically, a brand guide includes primary and secondary colors; some use tertiary colors as well. While the brand may allow other colors for certain uses, the core color palette will be the basis of the website and all brand materials.

4. Typography

Typography guidelines ensure that all written content is visually consistent. This section includes the primary and secondary fonts, as well as instructions on how to use them correctly in different contexts.

5. Imagery and Iconography

A consistent style for images and icons (beyond the logo) helps to create a cohesive look, particularly for the website, advertisements, and longer-form content pieces. Brand guides generally include examples of appropriate and inappropriate visuals. It ensures that all imagery aligns with the brand’s aesthetic and message.

6. Tone of Voice

The verbal identity of the brand is just as important as the visual identity. This section details the brand’s tone of voice, including language style, key phrases, and the overall personality of the brand’s communication.

7. Usage Guidelines

These guidelines cover the application of the brand elements across various media, including print, digital, and social platforms. It may also include templates for business cards, letterheads, and other marketing materials.

A closer look at logo and usage guidelines

Logos are critical in establishing a brand’s identity. A brand guide provides detailed instructions on how to use the logo correctly to maintain its integrity and effectiveness, including:

  • Clear Space: The amount of space that must surround the logo to ensure it isn’t crowded by other elements. Here’s an example from Brighter Messaging’s style guide.
  • Minimum Size: The smallest size at which the logo can be used to ensure it remains legible.
  • Color Variations: Approved color versions of the logo (e.g., full color, black and white, and single color). For example:
  • Background Control: How the logo should appear against different backgrounds to ensure it is always visible and legible.
  • Prohibited Uses: Examples of what not to do with the logo, such as stretching, altering colors, or adding effects.

Can I use Canva to make a logo?

While Canva is a great, accessible tool for creating social media graphics and other simple images, it’s not suitable for designing a professional logo. Here’s why:

  • Originality: Canva offers pre-made templates that can lead to generic designs. A unique logo is crucial for standing out in the market.
  • Scalability: Canva does not export a vector file, which means that your logo will lose quality when scaled up or down.
  • Intellectual Property: Using Canva’s elements and templates can raise issues around ownership and copyright, potentially leading to legal complications. Canva’s terms of use state, “…your rights to the logo are non-exclusive and you can’t register it as a trademark.”
  • Professionalism: A professionally designed logo demonstrates commitment and attention to detail, which is essential for building trust with clients.

Why does a small business need a brand guide?

A brand guide isn’t only for large corporations; small businesses can benefit immensely from having one. Here’s why:

  • Consistency: A brand guide ensures that all branding efforts are consistent, which helps build recognition and trust.
  • Efficiency: It provides a clear reference for anyone creating content or marketing materials, saving time and ensuring everyone follows the same guidelines.
  • Professionalism: Presenting a cohesive brand image can make a small business appear more established and trustworthy.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, a brand guide helps maintain a consistent brand image across new markets, products, and services.

What a brand guide does for your business

A well-defined brand guide does more than just maintain consistency; it’s an investment in the value of your business.

  • Builds trust and loyalty: Consistent branding builds trust with your audience, as they know what to expect from your brand.
  • Enhances recognition: A strong, cohesive brand is easily recognizable, which helps you stand out in a crowded market.
  • Improves marketing efforts: Clear guidelines ensure that all marketing materials align with your brand’s identity, making your campaigns more effective.
  • Supports employee alignment: A brand guide helps employees understand and embody the brand’s values and messaging, leading to a more unified and motivated team.

Ready to take your business and brand to the next level? Contact us today. We’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you about developing a brand guide for your business.

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