What are brand guidelines?

What are brand guidelines?

A core component of any business’ success is having an effective and aesthetically impressive brand. This is created by many components that culminate in order to form the business’ branding material, that will be used in the marketing and may be used in or on products/services of the business itself. 

In order to maintain a consistent set of branding material that a business can use selectively on different platforms or for products and services, businesses make use of a set of rules and instructions called “brand guidelines” which are made up of a set of determined features of both the visual components of the branding, as well as the personality of the branding itself and its’ approach to public relations. This is made up of many components in which we will be exploring in detail. 

Tone of Voice

The tone of voice is the first vital element of a company’s brand, as it makes up the backbone of the entire feel and atmosphere of the business’ branding and the consumer’s outlook and view of the business. It represents how a brand wants to appear to the audience and dictates what type of approach the business makes in terms of marketing strategies, and public relations with the consumer. 

Aspects such as syntax in their marketing and PR material, the level of formality in which they advertise and communicate with their audience, and the dictation of their decisions are all represented in the Tone of Voice of the brand itself.

Main Logo

The main logo should reflect and complement the Tone of voice of the brand guidelines, with the colour and overall appearance of the logo maintaining the specifications in the tone of voice. The logo should be the main piece of marketing material for any business, as it is the face of the company and will be representing the brand itself.

To learn more about the necessity and power of a logo, check out our article “Why is a Logo so important?” for a more in-depth explanation. The main logo and all other branding material elements should all be made in the vector format, allowing maximum compatibility for any situation it may be used for.

Logo Variants

For a consistent brand image, there needs to be a certain number of predetermined logo variations, that are consistent with the brand’s colour scheme and original logo. These will be used in order to match certain circumstances where the original logo’s appearance looks out of place or does not match. 

The different types of variants of the mainline logo that a business guideline can include can vary based on the size and scope of the business itself, however, there are a few key variations that are required by almost every business, such as a Negative logo which uses the reverse colour palette of the standard logo, fitting better on a white background for example.

A mono logo is also important, as it may be used where only one colour is appropriate to represent the logo. We could spend all day explaining the different types of logo that a brand may use, but for a detailed explanation of the different variants of logos that brands may use, check out our article “Logo Variants and when to use them?”.

Logo Shape

Depending on the use of the logo, it may need to be a certain shape, namely either a circular logo, or a square-shaped logo, and if the logo itself does not already adhere to one of these shapes, it is important to have a design ready so that these shapes can be used when necessary. 

There will always be reasons for needing a square or circular shaped logo for your brand guidelines material depending on what platforms and circumstances the logo will be used for. It is important for businesses to plan ahead for this and create an official logo in the shape of a circle or square so that it maintains the same appearance for the brand no matter where the logo is. 

A circular shaped logo is also vital for places such as social media, where an avatar is required, as well as other circumstances where a circular shaped logo may be more preferable than the original and/or a square-shaped logo. It is important to have these variants premade, as it will prevent incorrect cropping for certain sites and situations.

To read in detail about the fundamental components and aspects that make up a logo, check out our article on “How a logo is constructed” for a more detailed explanation.

Image Formats

It is important to note that under certain circumstances, a vector image format may not be able to be used, and may need to be converted into a standard image format for uses such as for social media. In this case, the vector image will need to be “rasterized” so that it may be converted from a vector image made up of shapes and splines, into raw pixel data. However, it is also important to remember that this needs to be saved at a considerably high resolution as it may result in a low-quality image.

Vector imagery also allows you to import it into a majority of different software types and keep the outlines and shapes intact, which is useful for design software, such as 3D modelling programs and Computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) software, which can then be used to transform the image into other types of media, products, or visuals. To understand more about vector imagery and how it differs from standard image formats, check out our article “What is the difference between Vector and Bitmap images?”.

Usage

The fundamental logo designs created in the brand guidelines can and will be used throughout every aspect of the brand guidelines process, and will be used in everything from websites, apps, banners, titles, clothing and apparel, advertisements, both physical and digital, and much much more. Due to the vector format that the logo was designed and saved with, it is very transformative, allowing it to be used for all of these different purposes without needing fundamental redesigns and new versions.

The different variant types of the logo can also be used if desired on a myriad of types of material. If you want to hear about the usage of the logo and brand guidelines material in general in further detail, once again, check out our article on “Logo Variants and when to use them”. 

Colour Palette

The colour scheme of the logo and branding, in general, is an integral part of the overall mood and aesthetic that the company wants to go for. Bright, vibrant colours may be used to create excitement and interest in younger audiences, or create a more playful theme, whereas darker colours may be used to enforce a more serious tone in the branding of the business. This should match and reflect the “Tone of voice” segment of the brand guidelines so that they go hand in hand with each other.

To learn more about the types of colours and what effect they have on the consumer, check out the article on “The importance of colour theory”.

Brand guidelines documents typically have no more than two or three main “Corporate colours” in which make up for the fundamental colour scheme of the logo and any other piece of branding material such as website colour, and any other platforms that are used in the marketing of a business. These colours can vary dramatically depending on the type of business and what aesthetic they are going for, which once again ties back to the “Tone of Voice” of the business.

The reason a brand should not have too many colours is that there should be a couple of colours that the consumer can associate with the brand, therefore choosing too many colours for the branding can dilute this and make less of an effect.

Another crucial guideline that needs to be documented precisely in the brand guidelines is the exact specifications of the different colours the brand will use, including the “Corporate colours” used for the logo and theming of the brand, as well as any other additional colours used for text or complementary colours, such as the exact tone of black and white the brand may use in certain circumstances.

These colours can be documented by using the Colour Hex code (eg. #FFFF00 for red), which can be used for design, as well as the Cyan Magenta Yellow Black (or CMYK) colours for use when printing and the colour needs to be exact. A small deviation in colour can ruin the entire colour specific feel of a company, making it seem inconsistent and less professional.

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Preset colour gradients can also be documented, typically only a single preset, of a linear gradient of two of the corporate colours or complementary colours, in order to be used on certain branding products where appropriate.

Text

The final element of the branding material that needs to be documented in the brand guidelines is the text, font and typography of the different pieces of branding material. Fonts are an integral part of the core branding as it reflects the “Tone of Voice” once again and can affect how the consumer perceives the brand. A brand should not use more than 2 or 3 fonts, as, like the colour scheme, it can get diluted and appear inconsistent to the consumer. The fonts can be used for different purposes, such as for headers and titles, which may be more stylised, and another font for use of the main body of text, that is easier to read in sentences.

The typeface, font, size of the text, and the line spacing of the text are all values that should be recorded in a brand guidelines document, and may differ depending on the type of branding material it appears on, such as a banner for a social media platform may have larger font sizes than on the logo’s strapline or website banner, and so on. 

If you need your own professional bespoke branding package tailored to your company, including a concise and effective brand guidelines definitions document, contact us today or check out our Digital Marketing page for more information. Or check out our Graphic Design page for creative 2D content design examples. This will excellently adapt your whole company image, fonts, styles, layout, logo, and colour range that will work perfectly with your logo, website, printed leaflets, business cards and much more.

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