Your brand is more than a logo, tagline, and colour palette. It’s made up of every interaction that your customers and company has. Consistency in tone, look, and feel are critical. From social posts to newsletters—everything you produce needs to reflect your brand. And keeping it consistent requires the right brand guidelines.
When you consider the brands that stand out to you, think about the interactions you have with them. You know that the tone they use on their website will come across in the design of the newsletter you subscribe to or the product and sales emails you receive.
Great brands don’t happen magically. They are the result of having clear-cut brand guidelines that drive every decision in an organization. But how do you go about creating and maintaining them?
Brand guidelines are the source that everyone in your organization goes to when they have questions about look, tone, feel, colours, and style. These should be well-defined specifications for how your brand is presented across every interaction.
They include everything that shapes your brand identity—from visual elements like logos and logo usage guides to more abstract details like voice and tone. Sometimes brand guide and style guide get used interchangeably. They are two different assets that share a little bit of overlap. While brand guides cover everything–including colours and fonts–they also deal with the big picture stuff, like voice and mission. Style guides focus only on the nitty-gritty of font, colour, and spacing that drive what your design team creates.
In addition to these features and elements, comprehensive brand guidelines also communicate the reasons for these rules. For example, Salesforce's brand guide includes that the company is committed to improving communities around the world. To do this, their brand guide includes guidance on using honest, helpful, and inspiring tone and voice in communication.
The purpose of brand guidelines is to standardize your company’s brand by guiding how it should look and sound when employees create marketing or communication assets.
No matter how well-defined your brand guidelines are, they won’t help if your team doesn’t know about them. We recommend making your brand guidelines easily available on an intranet, Notion page, or wiki. Even better, make a review of your them part of your onboarding process for new employees. It will help new employees understand your business and customers better, and set them up for success in the long run.
Who has a hand in the development of a brand guide will vary from place to place.
In large organizations, a brand department may lead the brand guidelines development process, along with support from cross-functional teams like sales, marketing, and customer success. These teams provide insights on tone, voice, and the messaging that will resonate best with your audience. The brand department uses this information to develop writing and visual specifications that align with the company’s desired brand image.
Smaller organizations or agencies without a robust brand or design department can look for outside help by collaborating with an experienced design company to develop to develop their brand guide. Working with an external team is a viable option for businesses that don't want to incur overhead costs or do not have the day-to-day need for an in-house branding team.
We did a branding summit with our content marketing pals at Animalz, and you can watch the recording!
There’s no right size for a brand guide. Some can be like the 50-page brand guide from Slack. Others can be five to ten pages. The important thing is that they need to include the right information and guidance so that your teams can do their best work.
There are two main groups of elements in a brand guide—visuals and voice. Visual elements are the building blocks of your brand's design attributes. Voice is the tone and language you use that determine what your brand sounds like across every channel you use.
Visual elements are the specific features that determine your brand's look and feel, including:
Choosing the right visual elements is vital because they define your brand's visual identity. And your brand's visual identity shapes customers’ perceptions of your business.
Visual brand guidelines can also influence the style of photography and videography you use in your design assets. Many companies use their brand guidelines to help when planning photos or in choosing what kind of stock photography can be used.
Voice specifications influence written content like website copy and social posts and audio content such as video or podcast scripts. Voice specifications are the nuances of how you want your brand to communicate.
Your brand voice is your organization’s personality. For example, Salesforce's brand voice is "always truthful and genuine, avoiding exaggeration or misdirection." Here’s an example from this tweet:
Having a distinct brand voice is a great way to build a strong emotional connection with your target audience and win their trust.
On the other hand, your brand tone determines how you express your brand's personality. Unlike your brand voice, the brand tone changes frequently depending on the context of communication. This is a great example on how Shopify's voice adapts to different contexts. They adjust tone based on the perceived emotional state of who they are communicating with. Most organizations use it to help guide interactive communication like social posts and direct or private messages.
It's also helpful to highlight your brand values, persona, and brand essence in the document. For example, see how Slack pulls this off.
Brand guidelines are important because they help you achieve consistency in your interactions and efficiency when creating assets. A consistent brand image is key to building deeper connections with your target audience and boosting customer engagement over time.
According to Forbes, presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by about 23%. It also helps make you top of mind when your audience is considering their options. Brand guidelines help you achieve consistency by ensuring consistency and reliability in how your company communicates with its audience.
Business moves fast—which means your design and marketing teams need to move even faster. Brand guides increase design efficiency that not only get your marketing efforts launched faster, but reduce mistakes in tone, voice, or look. Your design team won’t have to waste time figuring out the small things.
Here are seven effective brand guidelines from some of our favourite brands to inspire you!
Slack's brand guide starts by providing detailed information about the company's brand identity, including its core values, persona, and personality, and the primary problem Slack is solving for its audience. These pieces of information set the stage for the visual elements and writing specifications presented later in the document.
In terms of the visual elements, Slack provides specific information about logo usage in different sizes and on other backgrounds. It also covers granular information regarding brand architecture, typography, and trademarks for partners.
Check out Slack's brand guidelines.
Spotify pays lots of attention to its logo. Its style guide provides information on when and how to use the logo and icon, and it also outlines examples of logo misuse so you know what to avoid. Logo usage guidelines are important for internal teams and external partners. Spotify’s brand guide includes logo usage information including how it should be used on different background colors.
Check out Spotify's brand guidelines.
Uber describes itself as "a bold brand and backs it up with details on tone, voice, and look. The brand guidelines content nine core elements that every brand guide should have:
Uber provides clear-cut instructions on how to implement each of the nine specifications. For example, it says "cut the adverbs" and "pick strong verbs" to achieve the desired voice and tone.
The brand guidelines also specify the colour usage proportions. For instance, "Safety blue is only used for critical moments that warrant care between Uber and the user." The document also outlines examples of wrong brand colour usage.
Check out Uber's brand guidelines.
My Trees is a pro-climate company committed to helping people embrace eco-friendly actions, and this mission is reflected in its brand's visual identity. For example, the brand colours are inspired by nature, and all the illustrations are tree-like.
Check out My Trees brand guidelines.
Like Uber, Salesforce brand guidelines provide detailed information on the company's history and brand promise.
What stands out the most is Salesforce's visual identity. The logo is a cloud, symbolizing the company's commitment to the environment. The brand’s primary colours are inspired by the "day and night skies," while the secondary colours are drawn from the earth.
Also worthy of note are the different characters with human qualities that reinforce the brand's honest, helpful, and inspiring voice.
Check out Salesforce brand guidelines.
Twitter’s brand guidelines focus on the best practices for Twitter logo usage, including logo placement on different backgrounds, brand colours, and detailed information on logo misuse.
Check out Twitter brand guidelines.
Mural provides a simple guide for using its fundamental branding assets. Rather than give a ton of information, the company highlights core visual elements, including approved colours, pictures, logotype, and typography.
Check out Mural brand guidelines.
Developing great brand guidelines is the best way to create and maintain a unique identity for your organization, but it can be difficult to pull off without the right support. Superside can support your brand guide creation process at scale, whether you're starting from scratch, looking to give your existing brand document a makeover, or you just need help developing some visual elements.
We make design hassle-free for marketing and creative teams by combining the top 1% of creative talent from around the world with purpose-built technology and an efficient DesignOps system. Check out our branding services can help you develop dynamic brand guidelines that supercharge your brand identity.
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