Are you a designer in the field of branding and you have to put together an identity guideline for a brand? Then you should know that a good brand is like a watch: it’s made up of lots of little parts that work together to make the whole function properly.
If a watchmaker (or designer, in our case) forgets to add one little part or he just assembles it in a hurry, (in a superficial way) the watch won’t work properly or not at all. That’s why it’s important that you know a few steps or rules before you start trying to “assemble” a watch(brand book), namely to follow the handbook.
For a brand to be cohesive it is required to follow the guidelines that will allow you to deliver a quality product.
If I have to summarize in one sentence what a brand guideline is I would say that it is a document that sets-up well-defined rules for creating an unified and recognizable appearance for a brand.
What turns a simple brand book into a good one?
Well let’s return to the case of the watchmaker with his hand book: for the watchmaker (designer, in our case) it is easy to understand the handbook because he already has experience in the field and maybe he has even created a hand book himself, but for an outsider (someone else than the designer), things seem trickier.
Well, a good hand book is one that employs a type of language that is accessible to everyone so it can be understood even by a novice, someone with little or no experience in the field. The language and the style should be clear and only serve the purpose of helping others understand and communicate the message of the brand.
So, not only the experienced watchmaker should understand his handbook, but also a beginner who is just starting to learn the craft.
As I have proved before, a good “handbook” outlines all of the basic design tools that are needed to create and promulgate company communications:
1. In my opinion if you understand why a guideline is produced and who will be using it, you will know what information they will gain from it and where it will be used, accessed.
2. Before you outline the brand goals and the company philosophy make sure you have a clear introduction to explain what a guideline is and why using it correctly will strengthen the brand.
3. It is good first to create a layout, a section numbering system and a section of dividers with a table of contents.
4. Basic contents for brand guidelines should also include (beside what we already mentioned above):
A. Logo usage
Logo usage it is important to keep a coherence and organized look of the logo both digital and print platforms including clear space around the logo, minimum size allowed, how the logo is used: placement, acceptable adjustments.
Example: Jamie Oliver FRV brand guidelines
Explain its purpose, what it means for the brand, how to use it along with the logo or without the logo.
Example: Boy Scouts of America
C. Copywriting and Tone of Voice
Write for the brand audience! Think about words that the brand could be associated with. Creating a distinctive tone can help customers identify with the brand and understand what the brand stands for.
Example: Bath Spa University
D. Colors and usage of colors
The brand “handbook” should define each color and how it should be used. A well outlined color palette can be a very important aspect of the brand. Can you imagine Coca-Cola without the famous red? Or facebook other than blue?
Example: The University of Michigan Brand
E. Fonts and Typography
Define a style for every type used for the brand. Rules from what typefaces are acceptable in print or digital applications, how each of them is used, styling, colors and sizes. Define one or two primary typefaces (make sure they are from the same type family) and a complementary typeface.
Example: Google visual assets guidelines
F. Images and Design Element
Define when and how certain types of images are used, detail how images will be gathered, edited and used. Will you include illustrations too? Will they be black and white or in color? Explain the design elements, why, where and how they will be used.
Example: Skype brand book
G. Layout and Grids
You have too many brochures for the brand and you want to have a unified look and feel? Well, the solution for you layouts in the use of grids other than respecting the rules mentioned above, a good rule of thumb is to use grids for your brochures and the other materials you want to create.
This simple trick makes your work much easier and it also helps maintaining a consolidated look over the layouts.
Example: Uber brand guide
Of course, this is just a suggestive content for a basic guideline but if you have to represent a more complex brand, your guideline could also include rules for: stationary, advertising, web, merchandise, brochure guidelines, social media, co branding and so on…
Don’t forget that with all these rules you can confuse the reader or limit the creativity of the other designers who will use this guideline, so please be permissive rather than restrictive.
It is good to include don’ts but don’t forget to include do’s too!
This document will be a guide for how the company should be pictured to the public, so remember that the goal is to produce a handbook that is easy to read and understand by both the “watchmaker” and his apprentice as well, because you want a watch that works!
Here is a link where you can find other brand identity style guides!