We always hear about logo design, rebrands and provocative advertising campaigns. Brand books rarely make news, since they’re an internal, behind-the-scenes deliverable. However, that does not diminish their importance. They provide a high level set of guidelines for maintaining brand standards.
If you’ve got a brand, you need a brand book.
Let me paint you a word picture — I recently spent the day running around town with my husband. We stumbled upon a new, local pub and decided to check it out. Because the designer in me never sleeps, I immediately start scoping out their interior design, menus and logo. I counted not one, not two – but three different logo designs (aka pure madness).
The decor was a hodgepodge of traditional pub decor, mixed with sports bar motifs. The food was average and the beer selection was s0-s0. There was no consistency, no unique voice to set it apart from other establishments. The branding and atmosphere wasn’t able to compensate for the mediocre menu, and vice versa. Why does this matter, and what does it have to do with brand books?
We live in a competitive, brand-centric marketplace. If your brand, and brand’s identity, isn’t memorable you lose credibility with your audience. They aren’t going to buy your product, shop in your store or dine at your pub if they don’t remember it. Needless to say, we haven’t been back to that pub. Situations like this are why having strong, consistent brand identity is essential to the success of your business. This is where brand books come into play.We live in a competitive, brand-centric marketplace. Companies must be consistent and memorable! Click To Tweet
What exactly is a brand book?
A brand guide (aka “style guide”, “brand standards” or “brand guide”) is basically a set of rules that explain how your brand works and defines your aesthetic.
Core elements of brand books include information such as:
- Your brand’s elevator pitch (what you do)
- Your brand’s mission statement (why you do it)
- Logo specifications (logo versions, tagline usage, etc.)
- Examples of correct, and incorrect, logo lockups
- Color palettes
Small brand, start-ups or B2B services usually only require these key elements. However, larger brands, retailers or other consumer-facing companies should consider a more detailed brand book. More comprehensive brand books include:
- Social Media content guidelines (What you post, what you don’t post, and how to post it)
- Consumer Personas (detailed description of your target audience)
- Copywriting guidelines (the tone of your brand)
- Imagery style (what kind of supporting photography/graphics you use, and why)
- Print Media guidelines (templates for flyers, brochures, stationery, etc.)
- Advertising treatments (approved channels and how to work with them)
- Editorial guidelines (what type of publications do you work with)
- Whatever you want (this is your chance to really define your brand and how it behaves, embrace what makes you unique and give it credibility through your brand book!)
These guidelines should be rigid enough to maintain brand consistency – but also allow for designers to get creative. For example, if you include imagery styles, keep them focused without removing the creative license. A health food brand could instruct it’s design team to source supporting graphics that are “bright, fresh and farm-to-table focused” instead of saying “only source images of families sharing a meal or cooking together using fresh produce”. The first option is more of a direction, while the latter is a specific instruction that doesn’t allow for interpretation. Direction provides continuity that ensure your brand can successfully extend across multiple channels.
When, and how, do I get a Brand Book?
Generally, the core of your brand book is developed immediately after logo development. More comprehensive categories can be added as you develop those concepts. When possible, always use the same team who designed your logo. It will ensue the utmost consistency. No two designers will create the same product. If you’re re-branding, don’t forget the brand book! It’ll need some refreshed attention as well.
Your finished brand book should be a user-friendly PDF file that can be easily shared with third parties. This can be shared internally, hosted on your website publicly (corporate brands often take this approach, to communicate transparency) or privately hosted on your site and only shared with a specific audience (employees, vendors, etc.)
Brand Books We Love
Asana’s Brand Guidelines – This simple, but comprehensive, guide expertly outlines brand standards with nods to their brand’s purpose.
The *Santa* Brand Book is a truly amazing creation. It humorously outlines concepts of corporate brand books with the jolliest of character — Santa.