The ABC's of Branding: Guidelines



Imagine the time it took you to find your perfect brand, from the name and the logo, to the perfect shades in the color palette. Now imagine you've forgot it all, or just can't seem to recreate it the exact same way.

That's why Brand Guidelines are a valuable tool for creating a specific and replicable identity for your brand every time. Once you've discovered the right image, for your brand, guidelines help you to recreate your brand flawlessly, by recording every specification used to stabilize your brand. Imagine if McDonalds used a slightly different shade of red and yellow every time - would you be offended? Would you recognize it as easily? Have the same nostalgic response? What if the M was in a different font? Bolded or italicized? Suddenly, it's become a McDonald's you don't even recognize.

It takes years to build up a strong brand identity that customers trust, and this is done through consistency. Are you constantly providing high quality products or services to your customers? All the time? Something as simple as this can make or break a customer's trust and loyalty. Also called a Style Guide or Branding Book, Brand Guidelines are the set of rules that help ensure your brand identity is not lost in translation over the years or between locations. If you don't have one already, now's a good time as ever to create one!

Things you Should Include in Your Brand Guidelines:

1. Logo

While this might seem obvious, make sure you have a logo that can be replicated 100% accurately. Things like size, element positioning and acceptable colors alterations must be outlined. Not only does this specification increase brand recognition, but makes your logo difficult for outside scammers to replicate. Some brands will go as far to say when to use a certain color and on what background, under what circumstances.

Generally, the guide should tell you the do's and don'ts, the when's and where's to use the logo, and all acceptable and unacceptable alterations to it.

2. Colors

Photo by from Pexels

After selecting your color scheme, make sure to record them using specific HEX, RGB, HSV or Pantone numbers to standardize the colors. This way, if graphic designers or other creative teams want to use the brand colors, they know exactly how to recreate the color palette. Some color classifications include:

Hex Codes

This is a 6 digit number, broken up into  3 pairs to indicate the intensity of red, green and blue in a color. The numbers range from 0 to F, F indicating full intensity of a color. The first pair of numbers indicate the red intensity, the next pair green and the last pair blue. (For example, pure blue would be coded #0000FF).

RGB Color System

This system uses 3 sets of 3 digit coordinates on a spectrum of red, green and blue. Coordinates range from 0 to 255, this being the same maximum intensity, like the 'F' in Hex Codes. In this form, the decimal code for pure blue would be (0, 0, 255).

HSV System

HSV stands for Hue, Saturation and Value. This spectrum determines an exact shade by evaluating the amount of other colors in the shade. Hue chooses your base color, which can be anywhere in the rainbow spectrum. Saturation determines the concentration of a color on a scale from white to the most vibrant form of that color. Value, or Brightness, determines how light the color is on a spectrum from black, to the most vibrant form of that color. For instance, if choosing pure blue again, the hue would determine the purity of blue (no traces of green or purple), and the saturation and value would be at maximum on the spectrum, indicating the most vibrant, pure blue.


Instead of a coding system, the Pantone Color Institute has created a universal color identification system which uses a Pantone number to indicate a certain shade.  With a color of the year selected since the year 2000, Pantone's color repertoire continues to grow. If finding a blue closest to pure blue, the number could be Pantone 2736 C.

CMYK, HSL and LAB Spectrums

Other less common color systems include CMYK Spectrum (Stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key, or Black), the HSL Spectrum (Hue, Gray-scaled Saturation and Lightness), and the LAB Spectrum  (Lightness, A (a spectrum of Green to Red), and B (a spectrum of Blue to yellow)).

Photo by Alex Kremer from Pexels

3. Fonts

While the list for font categories can go on, the main types you'll need to know are Serif (think Times New Roman), Sans-Serif (think Arial), Scripted (anything that appears handwritten, like Vivaldi), and Decorated (anything with an extra stylistic touch - think the Lilo & Stitch font). Picking a font goes beyond just picking a style you like, it's important to make sure that the typography also supports your brand image, rather than harming it.

Good rules to know:

Serif fonts are usually associated with luxury or professional brands (think Tiffany, Louis Vuitton or the Wall Street Journal). If you're operating in a place like a law office, healthcare clinic or insurance branch, you may want to consider a serif font, which is traditionally associated with professionality.

1. Sans-Serif fonts are generally used to communicate friendliness, minimalism or innovation. Because of it's clean lines, sans-serif fonts are easy to read bolded, capitalized or italicized, and prove impactful when emphasizing one key message (think of brands like Microsoft, Apple and Spotify). Sans-Serifed fonts are often used in schools as well for it's casual nature, which is probably why you wouldn't see a font like Comic Sans for something like luxury cars.

2. Scripted fonts have a variety of uses, usually spanning between romantic brands and traditional brands. Often used alongside brands that position themselves to be handcrafted, or personally made, the scripted font pairs well with brands that position themselves to detail and personalization.

3. Decorative fonts are used to communicate personality, and should be used sparingly and when appropriate. Because of their flashy appearance, they're great for child-related brands, or for culturally inspired companies. (For example, a western-themed shoe polishing service may use the Coffee Tin, Nashville or even Circus font for better brand recognition).

4. Slogan/Tagline

After choosing a slogan or tagline that suits your brand image, make sure to solidify it's presentation.  Will it use a certain font? If running an ad on TV, will there be a jingle in the background? Will there be an animation? Like the logo, you should have clear restrictions indicating when it's appropriate to use the tagline and where it'll be presented.

5. Product Standards

While a bit more technical, it's also important to outline the level of quality your company agrees to produce. If you're a product based brand, you'll want to have an agreement to your customer promising to provide a certain quality of product, and what you will do in the case that your product is not up to the standards.

6. Service Standards

While both product and service brands should use a service agreement, it's especially important for the latter. As a service based brand, your service is your offering, so it will be crucial to outline what quality of service you promise to provide, and then make sure to meet or exceed it constantly. While product based brands may have the option of a refund, exchange or store credit for a faulty product, the violation of a service agreement can often be hard to mend. It may be more difficult for your brand to maintain a customer disappointed with the service, so make sure to review this standard with employees, and have consequences for the worst case scenario.

The benefit of creating brand guidelines is conditioning your customers to know they can trust your brand in any location and on any platform. Your brand should be consistent across different locations, social media platforms, in ads, content and the like. Solidifying a strong guidelines is the key that separates regular companies from outstanding brands.


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