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A well-thought-out style guide is an essential tool for strengthening and maintaining your brand identity. A style guide can serve different functions for different people. As the designer of the brand, the style guide is a way of ensuring that people use your designs in ways you had intended. Without a style guide, your designs are like a piece of machinery lacking an instruction manual. Writing the style guide is your opportunity to expand upon the thinking behind the logo, your choice of typefaces, your choice of colors, et cetera.
Perhaps your brand elements are metaphorical or based upon a theme; the style guide is your opportunity to explain it. Even if you're the only person likely to be designing with the brand elements-- maybe you design them for your own company--the style guide is a useful way of clarifying your thoughts about the brand. The style guide removes time-consuming guesswork and ambiguity about how the brand should be implemented.
As the person responsible for the integrity of the brand, the style guide is your touchstone for ensuring that your brand is implemented by your staff and your branding partners, in ways that are consistent with your brand vision. The style guide makes it clear what the brand stands for, how its elements work together, and how they are implemented. It should address as many scenarios as are relevant. While much of the style guide is nothing more than common sense, don't lose sight of the fact that other people are not as concerned about your brand's image as you are.
Where any possible areas of ambiguity or confusion exist, your contact information should be clearly displayed. With the increasing importance of branding and the use of branding guidelines, there is a danger that the style guide might read as a list of rules about what not to do. For this reason it's important to find the right tone in the style guide. It should explain rather than patronize. The designers implementing your brand want to be able to exercise their creativity.
Good designers appreciate the need for, and are happy to work within, constraints, so long as they understand the design logic behind those constraints. The style guide should aim to get your internal design team and the designers working for your branding partners onboard, rather than alienate them with a series of finger-wagging rules.
- Understanding how style guides fit into the branding process
- Who is a style guide for?
- Formatting the guide
- Deciding what to include
- Identifying your position statement and voice
- Working with logos and typography
- Formalizing brand colors
- Working with images