How to master brand guidelines

Brand guidelines offer clear-cut rules for how your logo, brand colours, and messaging are represented across the brand’s different touchpoints. But more importantly, they create consistency for a brand’s public persona and identity, serving as a reference point for internal teams making decisions on how to present their brand, and external agencies working on design, marketing, media etc. Here we share our 4-step process to mastering brand guidelines.

If you enjoy being pernickety (we certainly do), then brand guidelines will be right up your street. There can be no room for interpretation or uncertainty. This is why the best guidelines…

  • Are based on logic
  • Are clear and concise
  • Leave nothing to interpretation, but allow for some reasonable flexibility
  • Have no mistakes
  • Adhere to the rules they lay out

So how do we approach guidelines?

1. Align on the guideline’s purpose

Start by making sure you are clear on what needs to be included in the brand guidelines. Whilst all brand guidelines must be thorough, depending on the client, they may vary in what they include. The basics (e.g. logotype, colour palette, typography, tone of voice & imagery) will always be there, but you may need to consider specific uses of the branding (e.g. application to product, packaging and communications).

2. Get your ducks in a row

Now it is time to align on what design elements and actions you need signed off and completed before you can start the brand guidelines.

Any brand guideline document must 100% live by its own rules. Therefore, when a font, colour, or rule around logo application changes, it is not just one or two pages of the guidelines that will need changing – it is the whole document.

Guidelines evolve as you write them, therefore some amends are unavoidable and will need to be accounted for. But getting as much signed off as you can before you start, and managing amends to clear ‘rounds’, will save you time and sanity – trust us!

3. Think about the structure

Most brand guidelines follow a similar structure:

  1. Introducing the brand: brand strategy summary, tone of voice, group structure (if applicable)
  2. Brand assets: logo and logotype, colour palette, fonts and typographic style, imagery
  3. Application: product, packaging, communications
  4. Contact page – for any future questions!

4. Detail, detail, detail

Now you have your structure and confirmation on the identity for the client, it’s time to articulate the rules!

Some rules will be obvious and straightforward, others may not be apparent immediately and you will have to think about them.

Principles for rule making:

  • • Be logical: think about how these rules will affect day to day application, make sure they are useable
  • • Be clear: leave nothing to interpretation and only use as many words as you have to
  • • Be visual: visualise the rules with annotated diagrams and application examples
  • • Be cooperative: you won’t spot everything. Work with colleagues and the client to ensure no stone is left unturned and everything makes sense
  • • Be ready for amends: guidelines evolve, and first drafts are rarely right. Accept that changes will need to be made and manage them well
  • • Practise what you preach: Every detail of your guidelines must live by their rules

To find out more about how we approach brand guidelines and how we can help your business, please get in touch with us at bob@elephantscantjump.com.

The Herd

01.02.21