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“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

What are Brand Guidelines? 

In many ways, building a brand is like building a reputation. It embodies everything about you: your heritage, character, and future aspirations. It’s what people say about you and how you are remembered. Clearly defined brand guidelines help to ensure your reputation is consistently upheld and effectively communicates your brand personality – who you are, what you provide, and most importantly, why you exist.

Whether your company is just getting started or you are an established brand, guidelines serve as the foundation of your brand ethos and provide clear instructions on how to use your assets properly.

What’s included?

A thorough set of guidelines will include in-depth information, including examples of what to do and what not to do, on most or all of the following categories. Depending on the complexity of your branding, the guidelines can vary from a few pages to hundreds.

• Company History
• Why Statement
• List of Brand Attributes
• Tone of Voice
• Logo Usage
• Typography
• Color Palette
• Illustration Style (i.e., patterning, custom illustrations, iconography)
• Photography Style
• Print & Digital Applications
(i.e., packaging design, marketing materials, communication suite, website design, merchandise)

Why are they important?

By delivering descriptions and parameters for how the elements and messaging are to be used, the look, tone, and feel of your brand will be consistently communicated to your audience across all channels. Not only will they act as your brand doctrine, but if done well, they will resonate with your team and inspire creativity.

One of the main benefits of brand guidelines is that they serve as a design piece themselves. In addition to outlining all the brand assets, they show how the visual content should be displayed and work together to create an overall aesthetic. You can use the guide as a tool internally and externally to ensure cohesive customer experiences, no matter who is handling the project.

Here are some examples of ways to successfully utilize your guidelines:

• Build a platform for future marketing strategies
• Craft a strong social media presence
• Onboard outside creative agencies
• Provide direction for photography and styling
• Assist in copywriting and communication
• Create collateral, including print, signage, merchandise, etc.
• Guide future partnerships and business strategy
• Establish company culture and aid in hiring/onboarding future staff

Dig a little Deeper: Examples of iconic brand guidelines

Material Design by Google

NASA 1976 Brand Guidelines

The New York City Transit Authority Standards Manual designed by Massimo Vignelli

The 1968 Mexico Olympics by Lance Wyman