style guide

Term of the Week: Style Guide

A style guide is a roadmap for your brand. It’s the instruction manual for how you plan to engage with your audience. A style guide will bring order and clarity. When you clarify the message, your audience will listen. The idea behind a style guide is to have a document that provides guidelines and the outline for the way your brand should be presented from both a visual (graphics) and language (written) perspective. It’s a real, live document you can slap down on a desk and say, “This is who we are…until further notice!”

Creating a style guide as part of your branding strategy will help give your entire business a tool and a resource to refer back to when determining what’s “right” and “relevant” no matter who creates the marketing materials or graphic assets for your company. The guide will help ensure consistency in all applications; both physical and digital. For example, it can include business cards, letterhead, flyers, email signature, website, landing pages, social media platforms, blogs, promotional products, packaging, banners, signage, trade show backdrops, and decorated apparel. 

These are the top five most important notes a brand or business should include in their style guide:

  1. Your story, message, and values. You need a one to two paragraph summary of your story. Your story might be a blend of personal and business aspects. What was your journey and how did you get to this point? Your style guide should tell prospects and customers your story and what you stand for as a brand/business.
  2. Your mood, personality, or character. People often say they are in good moods or bad moods, but you can’t tell what kind of mood a business is in, or can you?  The reality is a company can establish its mood or personality through savvy marketing. The key lies in building and sharing the character of the company. Is the personality of your company exciting or is it boring? Is it classic and traditional or is it modern and contemporary? Your style guide should list your core personality traits.
  3. Your logo. A logo is often the first introduction to your company, and that introduction will lead to quick judgment. There are three basic logo formulas: abstract symbols (like the apple in Apple Computer) or logotypes, a stylized rendition of your company’s name (like the Home Depot logo), and, finally, a combination of the first two (like the Mercedes-Benz logo). Your style guide should show examples of what you don’t want or what is not acceptable next to a perfect final version. Including:
    • Total number of colors
    • Identify all of the colors using PMS, RGB, and Hex color palettes for print, promo, and online display
    • The typeface and font used for the logo and any supportive text
    • Acceptable and unacceptable background presentations
    • Acceptable one color versions with or without halftones
  4. Themes and iconography. Themes and icons can help tell your story, help reinforce your personality, and help carry the message and the logo. Themes and icons are foundational for the design elements and visuals used on your website as well as printed collateral. Your style guide should list which icons are used and when and where they are used.
  5. Your voice, tone, and language. What’s the difference between voice and tone? You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. This is your communication style. Remember, this is about how your communication style makes others feel in everyday encounters in person, on the phone, or via email. If you have employees, your style guide should be specific about any language restrictions or tone requirements. 

Style guides can change and evolve just like your business. However, consistency across marketing channels and printed collateral are very valuable to brand recognition in the long-run.

Source: Jay Busselle