What are brand guidelines and why are they important?

May 11, 2021 | Branding

Brand guidelines are a set of rules that define your brand messaging and visual identity. Typically, your brand designer will provide you with the guidelines in a PDF format after you’ve worked together to create your brand identity. They’re a handy reference guide that will help you build consistency and recognition for your brand over time.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are one of the most valuable deliverables of the branding process. They essentially wrap up all the different elements that define your brand into one, cohesive guide. The guidelines show you not only what your different branding elements are, but also provide instructions on how to actually apply them.

Ester Fried brand guidelines
The Table of Contents for one of our clients’ brand guidelines

Here’s a summary of the branding elements that brand guidelines typically include:

  • Brand messaging. Most branding guidelines include a summary of the brand tone and rationale. Depending on how in-depth your branding process was, this section could also include your mission statement, brand values, and target audience.
  • Logo variations and usage. Your brand guidelines should include a breakdown of all the different logo variations (primary, secondary, submarks, etc.) created for your brand. In addition, they include spacing guidelines and instructions on using different file types and color modes.
  • Typography. Intentional typeface selection and usage enhances brand consistency and recognition. Branding guidelines outline which fonts to use for headings and body text.
  • Color palette. Your brand designer should provide a color palette with both digital and print color codes. In your brand guidelines, these colors may be categorized by primary, accent, and neutral colors, along with usage suggestions for each category.
  • Collateral styles. In order to promote visual consistency, it’s important to create a standardized look and feel for collateral materials. These include your website, social media channels, stationery, and any other materials relevant to your brand.

The branding guidelines that we create for our clients here at Steph Corrigan Design are typically between 15-20 pages long. They include four sections: Brand Overview, Logo Usage, Brand Essentials, and Brand Expansion. The guidelines contain everything our clients need in order to continue showing up consistently and confidently, even long after we’ve worked together.

Brand guidelines for We Influence Data
An inside look at the guidelines created for a non-profit

Why are brand guidelines important?

Now that we’ve covered what branding guidelines are used for, you probably already have a better idea of why they’re important. Basically, they help you create a consistent look and feel wherever you choose to show up. For instance, if your business is mostly online, the guidelines will guide you or your designer in using the right fonts, colors, and styles for your social media graphics. If you host in-person events for your business, then the guidelines could inform how your venues are styled. You’ll even rely on the guidelines when creating internal documents, such as memos, for your team or employees.

Another important role of brand guidelines is that they serve as an anchor as your business grows and evolves. Need to expand your website to promote new offers? Refer to your guidelines to make sure the new pages are consistent with your brand tone and style. Or simply hand them off to your copywriter and designer to efficiently communicate with them what your brand is all about.

Brand guidelines, as part of the branding process in general, breed clarity. As entrepreneurs, we can sometimes get swept up in grand new visions or ideas for our businesses; I can speak to this from personal experience. If you’re feeling pulled in many different directions, going back to your values and mission can help remind you of the greater vision you’re working towards. With that in mind, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about what direction to take your business in.

Custom branding for entrepreneur and author
A preview of the brand guidelines created for a business consultant and author

How to create guidelines for your brand

Wondering how you can create guidelines for your own brand? The best way is to work with a brand designer or studio. As I mentioned, many brand designers, myself included, create guidelines as part of our design process. A quality brand designer will not just design a pretty logo and color palette for your brand and then send you on your merry way; they’ll work with you to create a strategic and cohesive brand identity that aligns with your mission and values and will support you in reaching your long-term goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about our process and how we can support you in growing your business intentionally, click here to view our services and submit an inquiry.

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