We often hear of the importance of style guides when it comes to web design or copywriting. But have you considered that this branding tool is invaluable to maintaining uniform messaging for your online business?
In sum, a brand style guide is a home for your most important brand assets, including your overall message, brand colors, logo treatments and key messaging points. In one document, your identity is clearly summarized to all of the people who will have a hand in building your brand.
If you don’t have a style guide for your online business yet, don’t worry. It’s easy to get started because you’ve likely already done the majority of the discovery work. This post will just show you how to get it down on paper and put it into practice!
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is a document that sets the standards for how your brand is referenced in all materials. Style guides are revised periodically, based on changes made to the brand, and serve as the key document that your business stakeholders can rely on for design standards. They range in size and in the number of details included, but almost all highlight the consistent elements of your brand.
How is a style guide useful for your online business?
A style guide is part of your brand toolkit. Here are a few ways how this document can help create efficiencies across your business:
- Helps maintain consistently across your online business’ materials
- Provides a single communication piece that defines your visual and emotional identity
- Can be shared with employees and business partners to allow more control over your brand
- Serves as a critical document when spearheading a new project, whether you’re working with internal or third-party teams
Who benefits from using a style guide?
A style guide is often a starting point for employees and partners new to your business. It also helps those familiar with the brand to keep up-to-date with the changes your brand experiences. In a nutshell, it helps almost everyone in the organization become more familiar with the most important elements of your brand.
- Employees: Whether you’re working with marketers, designers, front-end web developers or copywriters, a style guide comes in handy to keep everyone informed of correct brand styling.
- Vendors and partners: A style guide is the perfect tool to provide to vendors or partners whom are new to you brand. If they choose to use your logo in their materials, for example, they have access to the correct standards in spacing and sizing.
- Your business: Having one style guide that’s accessible to people in your business eliminates the need to dig up old emails to find the latest branding materials. Creating an online style guide allows you to easily update the guide as changes are made, and your peers have access to a single link where they receive the most updated information.
What needs to be included?
Style guides can range from just a couple of pages to a novel worth of work, but we want to keep things simple and start with the basics as you create one for your online business.
When you start developing the document, think about it in terms of your wardrobe. As is in fashion, there are a few key pieces to your brand that work really, really well, and should stay in focus. The same goes for your brand style guide – if the key elements are strong, the rest of the look falls into place effortlessly. Here are the key items you should look to include:
- Identity: Here, you share the brand essence of your online business. This is where you define who you are, and share the philosophy behind your business.
- Personality: Every brand has an emotional identity. List out the traits you want the brand to always convey. This about your brand as a person, and identify that character’s traits to how you convey your personality.
- Logos: Document your logos for print and online work, and specify sizing and placement. Provide variations, clarify how the logos can and can’t be used and provide “like this”/ “not like this” examples to show the logos in acceptable form.
- Colors: Include color palettes and how they should be used. Specify primary and secondary colors, and provide swatches to make it easier on the user to determine which colors are used where.
- Fonts: Define typefaces by documenting which types of fonts are used for headline, subheadlines and in content.
- Tone & Voice: It’s critical that your brand voice is consistent across all of your materials. Define your tone and voice, and provide examples of how your brand voice resonates in things like marketing and customer support messaging (see this guide from Mailchimp for a great example of documenting tone and voice).
- Page furniture: If you’re working closely with Web Designers and Developers, you may consider including ‘page furniture’, or items such as buttons, headers and links.
Looking for some additional style guide inspiration? Check out these recognized and comprehensive style guides and start building your own!
- The AP’s Brand Guidelines for Partners clearly documents goals, identity and artwork in an easy-to-read PDF format.
- Starbucks’ style guide is responsive, comprehensive and geared towards the web development team.
- The “I Love New York” style guide combines elements of its marketing plan with its style guide by including sections for “Target Market” and samples of their print campaign work.
-Olga Kazakova, Director of Marketing Communications, Volusion