The Art of Brand Guidelines

From Tabletop to Enterprise

Picture this: You're in the kitchen, whipping up a culinary masterpiece. You've got your trusty recipe book, guiding you through each step. You know exactly how much spice, how long to simmer, and when to add that secret ingredient.


Your dish turns out perfect every time. Now, imagine your brand as that delicious dish. What's your recipe for consistency, recognition, and awesomeness?

The answer: Brand Guidelines!
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What Are Brand Guidelines?

Think of brand guidelines as your brand's recipe book. They're a set of rules, a creative cookbook, if you will, that lays out how your brand should look, feel, and sound across every touchpoint. From your logo's colours to your brand's tone of voice, they ensure consistency, no matter where your brand shows up.

Why Are Brand Guidelines Important?

Consistency is Key: Brand guidelines keep your brand identity in check. Whether it's part of your visual identity including your logo, fonts, colours, or imagery, or whether it’s part of your verbal identity, your tone of voice or key messages. Brand guidelines ensure you look and sound the same, whether on your website, social media, or packaging.

Recognition Factor: Ever spotted those iconic golden arches from a mile away? That's the power of consistent branding. Guidelines make your brand memorable and unmistakably you.

Builds Trust: They scream, "We mean business!". Having well-defined brand guidelines shows you're serious about your brand's image which instils your customers feeling that they can rely on quality and craftsmanship from your brand.

Efficiency: Guidelines save time. They're like shortcuts for your creative team, ensuring they don't reinvent the wheel each time. It means as your team grows the brand remains consistent as everyone is following the same rule book rather than adding their own twist to the recipe.

Tabletop Brands: Where It All Begins

If you're at the beginning of your branding journey, your brand guidelines may resemble a concise recipe card. Picture a start-up or a small business just finding its feet in the market. Here's what's should be on the menu:

Logo Usage: Specify precisely how your logo should be used. What's the minimum permissible size? How much clear space must be maintained around it? Clarify which colours are acceptable and, perhaps even more importantly, those that are not. It's remarkable how creative folks can get with your logo once it's in their hands. This section is essential to ensure your logo consistently represents your brand at its best.

Colour Palette: When you're just starting, it's wise to stick to a limited colour palette. This minimises the risk of inconsistencies. Think about your primary brand colours, providing hex codes for digital use and Pantone colours with CMYK breakdowns for print. If you're in the world of product packaging, you might also need a set of colours for packaging differentiation and another set for your brand's overall appearance on platforms like your website.

Typography: At this stage, it's good to select a font for headings and one for body text. These fonts should be web-friendly and easy to read. Consider choosing a body text with multiple weights to emphasise different elements within your text. Ensure there's sufficient contrast between these fonts for clear and consistent brand communication.

Brand Imagery: Define the style of images that align with your brand. Are you leaning towards bold and vibrant visuals, or do subtlety and muted tones better represent your brand's personality? In the beginning, this might be a mood board of stock imagery you find appealing. As you develop, this section will evolve with your unique brand visuals.

Growing Brands: Expanding the Menu

As your brand grows, your brand guidelines should expand to accommodate the evolving team. This is when you are starting to use more designers and photographers to expand on your brand. Think of this stage as adding more courses to your culinary repertoire.

Mission & Values: Start to explain what your brand truly stands for. Your mission and values should guide your actions and decisions. As you grow, your mission and values will become increasingly significant.

Tone of Voice: Define how your brand communicates. Does it have a casual, conversational tone, or does it lean towards a formal and professional manner? You might consider including examples of brand communication. At this point, you may wish to introduce a copy bank containing your brand story and key messages.

Brand World: Now's the time to introduce more design elements such as patterns, icons, and additional colours. This layer of complexity adds depth to your visual identity and gives your branding more versatility.

Photography Guidelines : Delve deeper into photography styles and treatments that reflect your brand's evolving personality. Consider adding do’s and don’ts to ensure any photographer can maintain consistent brand styling after reading your updated guidelines.

Enterprise-Level Brands: Master Chefs of Branding

When you've reached the stage where you start to employ others to manage parts of your brand, your brand guidelines will need to become more elaborate, more like a Michelin-starred tasting menu.

Employee Training: At this stage, you should focus on educating your team about the brand's culture and values. You want them to become brand ambassadors who embody your brand inside and out.

Comprehensive Brand Story: It's time to share your brand's complete history, milestones, and future vision. Your story should add depth, relatability, and context to your brand, helping creators to understand your journey and where you are going.

Content Strategy: Include detailed guidelines for content creation, spanning from blog posts to social media. Consider what topics resonate most with your audience and establish a clear posting schedule.

Brand Ecosystem: Provide a detailed overview of how sub-brands or product lines integrate into your broader brand family. Clarify how they relate to and contribute to the overarching brand identity.

Legal Guidelines: Cover trademark usage and compliance with regulations in depth, ensuring that your brand operates within the boundaries of the law.

Remember, your brand guidelines are a living document, constantly evolving alongside your brand. Regularly update them as needed, and ensure that everyone on your team knows how and where to access the latest version. In the world of enterprise branding, consistency is key, and these guidelines are your recipe for success.

Expanding your Guidelines, Without Overloading

As your brand grows, your guidelines should, too. However, it's vital to strike a balance.

Avoid overloading your guidelines with unnecessary details. Remember, the longer and more complex they become, the less likely they will be read and be put to practical use. No one has the time or patience to sift through a document that's a hundred-plus pages long.

Keep them concise, clear, and user-friendly, ensuring that your team can easily find and apply the information they need – a great way to do this is to put them into chapters. This way, your guidelines remain a practical tool.

By finding the right balance in your brand guidelines, you'll ensure they're a valuable resource that guides your brand's growth without overwhelming your team.

Consider the format of your guidelines, too. Whether it's a beautifully printed booklet, a simple yet effective PDF, or a dedicated digital domain, choose a format that suits your team's needs and makes access a breeze.

Furthermore, a smart strategy is to create an asset library. Gather all your logos, imagery, and any other graphic elements in one accessible place. This way, your team won't waste time trying to recreate graphics or hunt down the right version of the logo. It's like having a perfectly organised spice rack that is beautifully labelled, ready for the next culinary masterpiece.

In Summary

So, there you have it, the recipe for brand success! Whether you're just starting or scaling up, brand guidelines are your secret sauce. They ensure your brand remains consistent, recognisable, and unforgettable. So, grab your apron and start cooking up some branding magic!