By Megan Shockley
Style guides (otherwise known as brand guides, brand style guides, etc.) lay out the rules of content creation for your company. It might include specified colors, fonts, logos, etc. that have been approved for use.
Why Does My Business Need a Style Guide?
The only way to build a brand identity is consistency in all outgoing and internal content from your company. If you use slightly different colors, fonts, or logos every time you release content, you are wasting your marketing budget. Why? Potential customers won’t come to recognize your brand if it looks different every time they see it.
It doesn’t matter whether you have one person in charge of design and marketing or a large team of people that collaborate, every company needs a style guide. Companies grow, people quit, and life goes on. Anyone from a freelance writer to a custom packaging company could be responsible for representing your business. A style guide ensures consistency regardless of who is creating the content.
Style guides save your business time and money. Yes, it’s initially a large time investment, but it pays off for years to come. Instead of needing to train and retrain every new content creator on the nuances of your branding rules, you can refer them to the style guide.
Of course, businesses change over time, and sometimes those changes require a shift in branding. Distributing updated style guides can help make branding transitions smooth and relatively pain-free.
What Should I Put in My Company’s Style Guide?
Every company’s style guide is going to be a little bit different depending on the needs of the organization. Your style guide can contain anything you want replicated in your company’s content. The following categories can give you a plan for a basic guide, but feel free to add topics as needed.
Often, the most recognizable visual element of your company is your logo. Your style guide should outline all acceptable versions of your logo and when to use each version.
Make sure to specify the minimum size you’d like the logo to be displayed as well as how big you’d like it to appear in comparison with other elements on a page or screen.
Include both examples of how to properly display the logo and examples of how not to display the logo.
Consistent color schemes will help your business be more recognizable and appear more professional. Pick a few brand identity colors and stick with them.
Don’t rely on a designer to try and match previously used colors on their own. Include color codes to ensure a perfect match. Your style guide should include RGB codes for web use as well as Pantone colors and CMYK values for print. Don’t simply rely on an online converter to switch between the codes; double check the conversions yourself to ensure they are the same color.
The fonts you use should be consistent on all of your branding material. That doesn’t mean you need to use one font for everything, but you should have an approved list that indicates what font to use in what circumstance.
Outline what fonts you want to be used for titles, headings, marketing copy, photo captions, taglines, and more. Dictate what size and faces (bold, italics, itc.) you’d like used for fonts as well.
Voice and Copywriting
Building a brand identity is not just a visual exercise; you’ve got to consider tone as well. Imagine your company with a voice and personality. What does it sound like? Professional? Playful? Relatable? Authoritative? Everything from a TV spot to your website text should reflect the unique voice and tone of your company. Provide a description of how you’d like your company to sound to your customers.
It can also be helpful to outline specific phrases you’d like included in marketing copy, as well as phrases you’d like to avoid.
Megan Shockley is a PR specialist and writer and love coming across great content for the creative small business.