Posted on March 21, 2019
Creating a style guide, also known as a brand standards manual, helps your organization speak with one voice across all of its written content. The most effective style guides cover two types of brand identity: visual and verbal.
Unique design elements frame a company’s brand story in a way that’s enticing, unforgettable, and even iconic. If you’ve seen the flowing calligraphy on a can of Campbell’s soup or the rainbow feathers of the NBC peacock, you know what an iconic brand looks like. However, a brand’s visual elements include not only its logo, but also the color palette and other secondary design components that go along with it. And if all of these elements are put together in the right way, they’ll enjoy a decades-long shelf life. Andy Warhol may have popularized the half-red, half-white can design for Campbell’s as far back as the 1960s, but neither the company’s soups nor its visual branding elements are going away anytime soon.
Logos, logotypes, and taglines
The logo is the major identifying mark for a brand; it’s almost always the first branded visual element that customers will encounter. Depending on how faithfully it tells a company’s brand story, a logo may or may not need to change over time. A logotype is a word that’s displayed as part (or all) of a logo; the intricately scripted “Coca-Cola” and “Campbell’s” are both examples of logotypes. Taglines, if there are any, should appear with the logo.
Fonts and colors
It’s difficult to imagine either “Coca-Cola” or “Campbell’s” being written in anything other than calligraphy; such is the power of the right font. On the other hand, if the standard fonts or headings on a page appear in calligraphy (or in some other ornate style), they run the risk of driving customers off the site; no one appreciates having to decipher words one letter at a time. Nor should the colors of the primary fonts turn reading into a challenge. It’s always a good idea to keep web accessibility in mind when designing your organization’s website. At a minimum, the standard font colors should be readable against the background of the page.
Solid standards for written communication help you build on your company’s brand story by presenting it consistently. You might interact with many stakeholders—not only current and prospective clients, but also board members, vendors, and influencers. And robust verbal brand guidelines make it easier to engage with all of those stakeholders by way of a single voice.
What to include in your style guide
Visual identity guidelines should contain:
Verbal identity guidelines should contain:
Your verbal and visual identity guidance may be as short as a two-page tip sheet or as long as a booklet, but in either case, the effort will be worth it. Because using a single voice to tell your company’s brand story helps you build trust and ultimately maintain long-lasting relationships with your clients.