Create a Killer Brand Style Guide in 8 Key Steps
So, you have a brand but you don't have a style guide? Don't worry - in just 8 key steps you'll be off to the races! It helps if you have someone who is an experienced graphic designer to help you with the elements of this guide.
For our blog, Emma and I hired Riana Nelson, a local Washington watercolor and calligraphy artist (who also happens to be my sweet friend) to do all the physical elements of our blog, from colors to logo. You should hire her, too if you're in the market for a full re-design (or just want one piece of the puzzle)! I couldn't rave more about her work and professionalism.
Here is what Riana designed for us (the beginning of our brand style guide):
The first step is distinguishing which color palette you'd like to use--these are the colors that will show in all of your physical collateral, website, social media and so forth, so choose wisely! Emma and I decided to go with a baby blue/mint/gold/black color scheme and haven't looked back!
Equally important to your color scheme are your fonts--which fonts do you feel as though best represent you and that you'd feel satisfied with years later? For Emma and I, Riana did most of our design lettering by hand with her calligraphy skills, however she also used the font "Champagne & Limousines" font (funny story: I had used this font myself the night before she delivered our brand packaging without her knowing - it was SO weird, but so meant to be!). For our social media images, we stick to "Futura PT Book" bolded. We try to consciously balance between femme loopy script and bold, blocky text by using our very favorite brush script: Boomshell via CreativeMarket.
This is it--there's no turning back! Your logo is how your fans, customers and those who you know will associate your brand. As soon as they memorize your logo and see it appear on a document, they'll automatically know it's you. The logo will work as your focal point of any document, and if you're a blogger, it will most likely appear in some fashion on your header. Emma and I decided on a beautiful, swooshed "hotdog"-like teal watercolor piece with bold black text for the title and our tagline in Riana's trademark femme, modern script (in gold).
Watermarks are seen EVERYWHERE--literally. Your watermarks will be placed on every single photo you make for social media, blog posts and other mass produced photography projects, so they better be designs you adore! They should somehow tie into the logo (we chose a simple "FF" with swirly watercolor background and the designated typeface).
If you have a blog, you may want to consider investing in some post signatures that are super cute, quick way to "sign off" a post as well as help differentiate the individual bloggers in the case of a blogging team. Emma preferred gold, and I often prefer mint, so choosing our signature colors wasn't a hassle. Of course, the signatures should also somehow tie into the look/feel. Later on, after receiving Riana's quick designs, we decided to alter these signatures ourselves so they better fit in with our loopy script of choice that was determined shortly after.
They now look like this:
This is a commonly discussed option for brands and businesses--do you have any iconic prints or images that you'd like to use? For us, our only icon is the heart (used above in our signatures). The elephant would be an icon for PLUSH Events, featured below. For some people, it's a pineapple, a cactus, a soda can. Any thematic element that will repeat in the form of an icon needs to be included in your style guide.
Also key: how you edit your photography that represents your brand matters. On our Instagram account, we curate a feed with muted, neutral tones, as to not overpower our strong brand colors. We edit all our IG graphics with a muted look, keeping this in mind. On the blog, we use the same Adobe Lightroom filter for both Pinterest and main blog post photos. This also helps your viewers clearly see your brand as unique.
Brand voice is what will make or break the rest of your style guide. Decipher from your customer segment (either your ideal customer segments or your audience based off of analytic reviews) which voice best speaks to them. Are you selling hippie crystals? Speak to how this will make them "reconnect with their inner spirit', man. If they're successful executives, use business speak and a professional tone. Keeping your brand voice consistent will also help identify you from the rest.
After you design your pieces of the puzzle from the listed eight steps here, you'll want to create a physical representation of your style guide for future reference--something you can keep in your cubicle or work space and grab at a moment's notice.
Here are some gorgeous examples of amazing brand style guides in action:
Which style guide is your fave? Which brand would you model your own style guide off of?
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BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating from The Evergreen State College (Washington) in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to all of life's problems + that all women should strive to embrace a #girlboss mantra.