What is a Brand Style Guide? (& Why You need One)

 
 
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Has anyone ever told you about their "brand style guide" and how much you need to get one? Oh right, that was probably me - sorry! :) I tell all my clients (and friends who own businesses) about the importance of their brand story and how that lines up with their "brandscript", or brand style guide. You may be wondering: what is a brand style guide, and how do I get somma that good stuff!?

Earlier in our blogging journey, I published a post about the pieces of a brand guide that you need to have and while that hasn't changed, I have since revisited the branding for both this blog and my digital marketing business. Thanks to our amazing calligraphy & watercolor artist friend, Riana Nelson, I was able to tweak what we had already and color/stylize it into a design I am much more proud of and excited about.

What is a Brand Style Guide

Above is our new brand style guide for the blog. Can we just say HOW MUCH WE ARE IN LOVE WITH IT!?!?!

A brand style guide, put into simple terms, is: a physical representation of your brand, comprised of your logo, watermark(s), color palette, typography, patterns and icons, any extra elements you may need, as well as brand vibe/inspiration images to help you guide the branding process.

When talking about your physical branding, it's important to think about how it conveys your brand purpose and story.

First, Decide Who Your Brand Serves

Determining your target customer is key - before you complete any of your branding process! We were clear here at Fashionably Frank that we speak exclusively to women (although any gender could enjoy our content - and they do!). Women who are navigating this busy-busy world and seeking solutions to find balance and live a fulfilled life.

The Fashionably Frank reader is the ultimate #girlboss. This doesn't mean she's a business owner or career woman necessarily - it means what Sophia Amoruso declared when she coined the term "#girlboss":

Someone who is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #GIRLBOSS, you take control and accept responsibility. You’re a fighter—you know when to throw punches and when to roll with them. Sometimes you break the rules, sometimes you follow them, but always on your own terms. You know where you’re going, but can’t do it without having some fun along the way. You value honesty over perfection. You ask questions. You take your life seriously, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to take over the world, and change it in the process. You’re a badass.
— "#Girlboss", Sophia Amoruso

Our girl is fearless. She is typically in the 20-40 age range. She may or may not have children. She may be LGBTQ or identify with another minority group, because that's what makes her unique and strong-willed. She likes nice things, but she's not superficial. She loves to travel and curate a beautiful wardrobe (even though she's budget-savvy). She's immersed in social media and the latest tech trends. She has big dreams, but just needs the extra little push to go after them (much like Emma and I!). She is motivated and powerful in her own right. She is gutsy and full of grit, going after what she wants, but she's filled with grace, resilience and compassion when things don't go as planned.

Because we declared who the reader was before we began our branding process, we know who we're speaking to and we're likely to choose some elements with them in mind (such as the style of calligraphy), although I wholeheartedly believe it's most key that your brand represents YOU and whatever your business/blog is all about.

Then, Define Your Mission Statement

I wrote this handy dandy article on forming a mission statement that will leave you unbeatable and allow you to stick out from the rest in your field. Many brands choose to publish these online as sort of a guiding principle that tells their audience what they're all about while also allowing new visitors to discover if they are the person the brand serves.

This is our Fashionably Frank mission statement:

Fashionably Frank provides solutions for leading a balanced, confident + empowered life by helping women (and the unforgotten others) to: realize their true potential, embrace their unique gifts, actively approach their goals and recite this thinking in their pursuit of style, travel, career, relationships and me-time.

 

Look Into Color Psychology & PICK YOUR SEASON

Something I've recently dabbled in is Fiona Humberstone's color psychology framework and immediately bought her books (How to Style Your Brand & Brand Brilliance) once I realized the incredible impact. In both of my brands (this blog and my business), we are an autumn personality. We stand for justice. Truth. Authenticity. Community. Organic growth and connection. Kindness. The list goes on. The autumnal color palette and personality fits us like a glove.

Think About Which Fonts Pair Well Together

What is your ideal style of typography? I always suggest that people choose a "sleek, super readable" font (a Sans Serif), in addition to a fun & fancy, loopy calligraphic script - or instead, you could choose a Serif font like Georgia. You'll always want to pair different styles together for a balanced look & feel.

Decide Your Extras, IF Any

If you're a fellow blogger, you will want your own custom "Pin It!" button for Pinterest users to share your blogs super easily. You may also consider making your own blog post signature(s) to sign-off with. This just reinforces your branding and cultivates that ultimate brand cohesion. Make sure you include these in your request for a designer quote.

Create a Pinterest Board of Inspiration

Finding items that represent your vision for your brand - or the feeling for your brand is super important when curating the "brand vibes" piece of your style guide. Similarly, you should pin other brands' style guides to help your designer see which styles aesthetically please and speak to you the most. Share this board with your designer for the best result.

Hire a Designer Who *Gets You*

This is the reason I always work with Riana - she knows who I am as a person at my very core, she reads the blog and knows what we're all about and is truly passionate about working with and for us. Meeting/Skyping designers for consultations is a great way to figure out which designer is best suited, similar to what I offer my marketing clients.

When you nail these aspects, you're good to go and your brand will be stronger than ever with your new aesthetic. 
Brands can achieve greater cohesion, authority and overall awareness with a brand style guide - so don't delay!

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What is the biggest challenge you've found when establishing your brand style guide?
Any questions? Perhaps you just want to get together over coffee and geek out over branding? I'm your girl!

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What is a Brand Style Guide?

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THE 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 college 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 life's problems + that all women should embrace a #girlboss mantra.