Written by: Orana Velarde

July 24, 2017

How to Create a Visual Style Guide to Help You Stay on Brand

brand identity how to stay on brand and true to your visual identity

Building your own business is no joke — it takes time, dedication and plenty of patience. When turning an idea into a profitable business, there is one aspect of the process that you should never ignore: Always staying true to your brand’s core values and creating a visual identity that is consistent throughout all your marketing campaigns.

Making sure your brand is recognizable in every instance — be it website, social media or print — will give your business credibility and a feeling of stability. Your followers and clients will feel like they know you, like they can be friends with your brand. Staying visually consistent is your best bet to growing exponentially and staying relevant.

 

Building a Memorable Brand Identity

Building-a-Visually-Consistent-and-Memorable-Identity-as-a-Brand

The key to staying on brand is to have a good visual identity from the ground up. When designing a logo, picking colors and fonts, and setting up mood boards, there are questions that need to be answered honestly by you and/or your founding team:

  • Who are your clients?
  • Where do they spend their time? And…
  • What do they spend their hard-earned money on?

Taking these things into consideration will help you not only create the perfect brand but also maintain the values it is built on. Remember that your brand is a medley of you AND your customer. When your brand resonates with your customers, you are on the right track to success.

 

Logos

When deciding on a logo and its variations, make sure that every instance is memorable yet not overly trendy. There are ways of grabbing the attention of your target generation without having to settle for that script font that will only be a fad for a year at most.

Your logo and its variations need to last without change for a few years; after that, you can look into a rebrand to grow along with your customers. You will need a main logo to be used everywhere, including your invoices, and at most two variations for watermarks or when you want to go for a more subtle look.

 

Colors

When it comes to deciding a color scheme for your brand, it is imperative to take into consideration the psychology of color. Each color has a different emotional value, thus giving the colors you pick great importance as to how your brand affects your clients emotionally. Color has been scientifically proven to significantly enhance memory performance and if you can tap into that, your brand will greatly benefit from it.

How-to-Stay-on-Brand-and-True-to-Your-Visual-Identity-Visual-Brand-Assets brand identity

As to how many colors to pick, the main color palette should include three to four colors. Apart from the main color scheme, also choose another complementary color combo and one extra color palette just in case your designers (or interns) want to “get creative.” This is why branding style guides are so important! More on that further on…

RELATED: How to Evoke Emotions With Strategic Color Placement

 

Fonts

Fonts and typography choices need not be overcomplicated. If your logo includes a novelty font, it does not need to be used all over your marketing materials as it may not only detract from your brand’s message but also over saturate. Choose a font combination that will stand the test of time and outlast fads that come and go is key to staying on brand.

RELATED: A Non-Designers Guide to Pairing Fonts

timeless logo brand identity

 

Photography and Visuals

Your brand doesn’t just need a logo, a font scheme and a color palette, it also needs visuals! By visuals I mean: backgrounds, textures, icons, complementary elements and photography. Having a digital folder of all the kinds of visuals you need to use for your brand is a handy tool for when designing new graphics, brochures, websites pages, infographics, etc.

Backgrounds and textures should follow the color palettes, as should icons and complementary elements. Photographs can be sourced to follow your color palette as well: search stock photo databases by color or hire professionals photographers to create your own images. You can also commission illustrators to create branded art if your brand fits that style.

 

The Importance of a Branding Style Guide

I mentioned earlier that you need a style guide to keep track of your brand and how your visual identity is portrayed. No matter if you are a one-man show or a team of 20, you will need a branding style guide at hand at all times.

If you are a small company, a simple branding guide that you can print out and paste on your office wall will be enough, but if you are a larger company, then you need a detailed branding style guide in the form of a presentation or PDF file. This way, every person involved with promoting your brand — designers, marketing team, vendors — will know how to stay true to your brand’s visual identity.

 

What to Include in Your Style Guide

Your branding style guide needs to include everything about your brand, from the mission statement to the textures and color numbers for digital AND print. When a new employee comes on board to join your company, the first thing they should see is your branding style guide.

Follow the steps outlined in this infographic created with Visme to help you stay on brand and true to your visual identity:

How-to-Create-a-Branding-Style-Guide infographic


Embed on your site:
<script src=”//my.visme.co/visme.js”></script><div class=”visme_d” data-url=”z4yyowoo-how-to-create-a-branding-style-guide” data-w=”800″ data-h=”4785″></div><p style=”font-family: Arial; font-size: 10px; color: #333333″ >Created using <a href=”http://www.visme.co/make-infographics” target=”_blank” style=”color: #30a0ea”><strong>Visme</strong></a>. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.</p>


Create your own memorable infographics in minutes with this DIY tool.Try It for Free

 

Mission and Values

The first part of your branding style guide is your background story and mission. This will be mostly text but if you include visuals, it will be easier to grasp and assimilate. Use the visuals that were chosen in the previous step to set a precedent. These guidelines will not only help create new visuals but also the accompanying copy:

  1. Your mission statement and core values
  2. The background story of why your brand exists (optional)
  3. Ideal client description
  4. What problem does your brand solve for your clients?
  5. How do you want your clients to perceive your brand?
  6. What about your brand makes your clients happy?

 

Visuals

The second part includes all the visual aspects of your brand and the tools needed to create any new marketing materials. Be very specific and descriptive: Explain every detail in its best light and offer options. Be sure to include:

  1. All the logo variations, making sure the main logo is the most prominent and each variation includes an explanation as to where and how it should be used. Make sure that these are available in all sizes, with transparent background in an online downloadable folder.
  2. The color palettes: the main one first and then the complementary and additional palettes in descending order. Be specific: Include color hex numbers for digital purposes and pantone numbers for print.
  3. Font and typography choices need to include font names and links to download them. Include a visual representation of which font should be used for headers and which font for body. Also, give a list of suggested sizes and weights.
  4. Create a photography and visuals database in any online storage program like Google Drive or Dropbox. Upload all files, including your logos, organized with relevant titles as to what they are to be used for. For example: logos, photography, backgrounds, textures, icons, decorative elements and shapes. Include an index in your guide and a link to the database.

 

How to and How not to

how to place logo how not to place logo brand style guide

The third part of your branding style guide will need to be a good practices guideline, showcasing “how” and “how not to” use the logos and other aspects of your brand.

Include your preferred sizes for social media graphics and a visual template of where each element should be placed. If all your graphics have the logo centered on the left hand side, create a rule about it, that way no one will create a graphic with the logo located on the top right corner in a different size.

  1. Proper logo positioning practices (ie: how far from the edge of the graphic and over what kind of background)
  2. What is the minimum size of your logo?
  3. What is the minimum size font that can be used in main copy?
  4. What are ALL the graphic sizes for all instances, digital and print?

Include side-by-side examples of how things should look and how they shouldn’t. There is no better way to explain this than by showing it.

At the end of your branding guide, include contact numbers and emails of the person in charge of your marketing, just in case the person following the guide has additional questions. For example, a freelance graphic designer may need to create a new event poster and the suggested size is not included in the guide.

 

DIY Branding Tips for Small Businesses

Online-Tools-for-Creating-Your-Own-Logo brand identity

If you are a one-person show or your business is still quite small, you might not have the funds (yet) to hire a branding strategist or graphic designer to create your brand’s visual identity and the branding style guide. Not to worry — there are quite a few online resources that can help.

That said, investing is a way of showing the world that you believe in your business, so I don’t suggest you go the completely-free-and-DIY route, unless you yourself have some design chops.

RELATED: 19 of the Most Common Mistakes Made by Non-Designers

 

The Logo

You can create your logo yourself with a vector program or use an artificial-intelligence application like logojoy, or logomakr. If you stick to the free options, your logo will be nice but it won’t look overly professional, so make sure you take into consideration all the information above on building a memorable brand. Both these applications also have paid options which will give you better and more professional results.

 

Color Palettes, Fonts and Photography

Believe it or not, you can build a brand with applications just like the ones I mentioned above, and they will provide a branding style guide to help you stay on brand. My favorite applications for this are Tailorbrands and Builtbyemblem.

Sourcing photography that fits your brand is also not too complicated. To get some inspiration, you can use kaboompics and search their database by color.

Bonus Tip: If you have been using Instagram for a while and want to know how “on brand” your feed is, use colorkuler to check!

 

Visual Template Organization for Teams

If your business is a bit larger and you collaborate with employees in different cities or even countries, you should look into a team organization tool for visual content creation. I recommend Visme for Teams.

With the growth of online design and DIY graphics programs, there are better ways to control how your graphics are designed and how to stay on brand. The Visme for Teams tool dissipates all confusion as to how the graphics and marketing material can be created and organized when working with various team members.

There are options to keep all files organized by topic or by project. Privacy can be toggled in projects until it is ready to be shared. Visme for Teams also offers analytics on the performance of the graphics created in the program, helping your visual identity grow in the right direction.

Visual Template Organization for Teams brand identity

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About the Author

Orana is an artist of many trades, currently working as a graphic designer for bloggers and small businesses. Her love of art and travel create the perfect artist-nomad combination. She founded Orana Creative to help freelancers, solopreneurs and bloggers master a better visual strategy. She is passionate about eye happiness and loves constructive criticism.

33 responses to “How to Create a Visual Style Guide to Help You Stay on Brand”

  1. I’m good with my blog being on brand and the colors, but I think I might need to work on my pinterest graphics being on brand too. haha

  2. I’m planning on starting a new blog in the next month and I’ll definitely be referring back to this when I do!

  3. Carolyn says:

    BOOKMARKING THIS! What a helpful article! Reading it has made me realize that I have sooooo much work to do when it comes to branding. I’m totally guilty of being on bored with that trendy script font that’s totally going to go out of style. I definitely have a lot of thinking to do!

  4. As a new blogger, I found this very helpful. I pinned for later reference!

  5. Kacey says:

    This is an excellent article! The infographics are awesome and all of this is so important for any brand to keep in mind!

  6. Willow says:

    Wow, so many things that I didn’t think of when I came up with my brand identity! I do have to say that it worked out anyway, because I am happy with it!

  7. Nice post. One question – Are all your infographics on the blog created using Visme?

  8. Corinne says:

    I loved reading this post, I agree about the trendy fonts. Right now, it seems everyone is using “Brusher” for all their Pins, logos, etc. I’m exhausted even looking at it because I’ve seen it so often now. I try to avoid it at all costs now.

  9. Alex says:

    For choosing font combinations (also color schemes), you can try http://logomak.com/

  10. Ezra says:

    Hi Orana, thanks for the great article, super helpful for anyone getting started with a new brand. What I liked about Tailor Brands is that you can design your logo the same way you would at Logojoy but then they take you to their branding suite where you have tons of tools that save you time with everything brand related.

  11. Hi Orana,

    Thanks for the list. It’s been very useful to me and my friends who are going to start their businesses.

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