11 tips on designing effective brand guidelines

We all spends thousands of pounds on our corporate identity, our brand, each year and yet most companies have no system in place to control what is produced. A brand guideline is a document that explains to any person involved in the creative process what you as the client, want to achieve. It is your way of guaranteeing the marketing budget spent last year isn’t wasted this year. Below are listed 10 tips to consider when compiling your brand guidelines.

Who are the guidelines for?

Consider who is going to be receiving, reading and using these guidelines and write the content with this in mind. Write with language to engage the audience. Steer clear of jargon but ensure the right technical knowledge is included for all elements of the creative process. Everybody from graphic designers and web technicians, to artists and creatives will be using this document. It is how you protect your brand identity.

Get it right

This is your opportunity to convey how your brand is to be represented. So you need to detail the do’s and don’ts of you brand identity. This can be done without stifling creativity, but it is important the maintain consistency over your corporate identity. Spending time now showing your creative team what, how and where you want your brand to be positioned, both physically and metaphorically, will speed up the creative processes in the future and avoid confusion.

Your logo, your identity

Creating a logo design isn’t just about creating a pretty visual. What you are doing is developing a brand and communicating a position. This is your opportunity to explain clearly what your logo and your company represent. Your interpretation of your brand may differ from your creatives and it’s essential that the message is clear before any actual designing takes place.

Know your colours

Be aware of the different reproduction methods when representing colour on different platforms, and make sure they are all listed.

RGB: The method for representing colour on TV or computer screens such as webpage design, email marketing and presentations.

CMYK: The standard colour representation method for printed matter. Almost all of your printed material will be made using these colours

Pantone: The industry standard for matching colours exactly and is the most precise way of getting your colour right. Contains specialist inks like metallic, fluorescents and heat reactive inks. Combining pantone colours with CMYK processes allows you to reproduce pictures and graphics alongside controlling corporate colours.

Create different versions of your logo

You need to create different sizes and colours of your logo to suit a variety of platforms and marketing material. Your logo needs to look good on a 24in full HD monitor or shrunk down to 100 pixels for a printed leaflet. Make sure they work as tiny icons or when they’re on a full screen.

You may be used to seeing your logo design against a white background, but later down the line your company may produce new marketing material which will require it to work against a dark background or even in monochrome. Having this sorted out in advance is never a bad thing.

Choose your font carefully

Your font choice, and then the consistency of it is a very subtle and subliminal message. Even without stating it, your font helps to reinforce your company message. It is an element of your brand that is easily lost. Every time a letter is written, an invoice posted and an email sent, you run the risk of diluting your message.

As a general principle, restricting yourself to just one or two typefaces is a good idea if you want your logo design to be clear and uncluttered. But always have a “web safe” font as a backup.

Once you have chosen your font make sure you have a clear typographic hierarchy within the brand guidelines. Using a three tier typographic platform works best, ie 1. Headings, 2. Introduction copy, 3. Body copy.

Different media

Keep a close eye on the use of your brand guidelines across different media such as newspapers, radio, print, website, social media and email marketing. Size, colour and positioning of your logo is essential and the correct use of these should be ensured at all times. When commissioning work externally or internally, the first thing to do is to give them a copy of your brand guidelines.

Show clear examples of your brand in use

This tip is surprisingly overlooked in many brand guidelines documents. How better to explain how to use your brand than to show it in various real-life examples as you intended. It may seem as though this would stifle creativity, but actually it has the opposite effect. By clearly showing your creatives the boundaries of what you like you allow them more time to “create”.

Review your guidelines regularly

The aim of guidelines are to explain, advise and guide use and reproduction of your brand. That doesn’t mean that your brand is set in stone from now to eternity. Your brand will continue to evolve and guidelines must be revisited and updated continually. Brand guidelines are an effective way of reinforcing legal protection of copyrighted or trade marked collateral. Listing in your brand guidelines, and therefore publishing to the wider world, you are stating this is our brand and we own it.

Use them

Now that you have commissioned the brand guidelines use them! Ensure everyone in your organization has read them and understands them, even incorporate it into your new employee induction process. Only by being aware of them and sharing them with people involved in the creative process will they be effective.

Involve the professionals

While it’s tempting to enter into a spot of DIY branding this is often not a good idea and can be costly in terms of time and money to address at a later date. You may seek to employ a professional creative agency to help establish the future brand security of your company.