The 7 Essential Elements to Incorporate in Your Brand Style Guide

A cohesive brand style guide that includes essential elements saves you time across departments and channels. Learn how to build a comprehensive style guide here

brand style guide screenshot

You’re tired of rejecting digital images because your logo is too small.

You’re sick of new hires asking if the photos they’re about to upload are up to par.

You’re wasting valuable time communicating back and forth about color choices with your web design and web dev team.

It sounds like you need a style guide.

A style guide is your brand bible. It’s a neat little package of who you are, what you stand for, and how you want people to experience your brand.

It’s also the single best way to create consistency amongst written content, visuals, ads, and other digital communications.

From color schemes to fonts to tone of voice, here are the seven essential elements to incorporate into your brand style guide.

Get ready to save time, preserve your brand integrity, and be consistent in how you present your brand to the world.


Why Every Brand Needs a Brand Style Guide

Unless you alone do all of your own web design and digital marketing, a style guide is a must.

An effective one details all of the brand guidelines that every content writer, graphic designer, project manager, web designer, web developer, and digital marketing pro needs to know. It spells out all of the specifics of what to do, and it can even show examples of what not to do.

Having a definitive style guide creates consistency for everyone that works for your brand, including internal and external teams.

Do the core members of your internal team already know these details inside and out?

It doesn’t even matter if they do. Even the most experienced team members can benefit from having a go-to reference manual that spells out all of your brand guidelines in a concise, clear-cut way.

Having a definitive style guide creates consistency for everyone that works for your brand, including internal and external teams.

It is also a great way to keep internal teams accountable.

With black-and-white guidelines as to what to do and what not to do in digital communications, there’s no confusion, no grey area. And if you’re working with external digital marketing agencies or web design and development agencies that work with multiple clients, it’s an absolute must.

Creating a style guide is a way to create brand consistency across all platforms and all methods of communication. It saves time from having to explain brand details over and over again and it allows everyone working for your brand a reference point that they can rely on at any given time.

It helps to ensure that your brand is presented to the world in the same way at all times, which helps customers recognize and understand what your business is all about.

Ready to learn how to put one together?

Here are the seven elements that go into making an effective style guide.


1. Your Brand Story

Every brand has a story, and this is a great opportunity to tell that story.

To make sure that everyone reading it understands what your brand identity is, include:

  • Your mission statement
  • A list of your core values
  • A vision statement of where the brand is headed

This is an opportunity to reiterate what you stand for and what it is that makes your brand different from the competition.

Add a description of your target audience as well. Adding buyer personas makes it easier for copywriters and marketing pros to create content that speaks to those potential customers in a way that reinforces your unique brand personality.

Get answers to the most common client questions we get at Intergrowth


2. Logo Guide

Your logo IS your brand — it’s how customers recognize you and it reflects who you are and what you do. It’s crucial to make sure that your logo, whenever and wherever it’s placed, looks the way you want it to look.

If you have more than one version of your logo, show all versions of it. Be sure to point out if different versions serve different purposes, such as website content, advertising content, etc.

Along with visuals of your various brand logos, add other relevant details such as what sizes they should be, what colors they should be, and their placement in different types of communications. Be specific about minimum and maximum logo sizes, any color variations that might exist, and limitations or allowances for stretching or shrinking.

When detailing logo placement, keep white space in mind too. Provide details of the spacing, margins, or exclusion zones that you require.

From written logos and emblems to monograms and wordmarks, be sure to include all types of logos and iconography tied to your brand.


3. Color Palette

Colorful clouds of smoke

The colors of your logo and your digital content help to create a strong visual identity for your brand. Make it crystal clear which hues to use as primary, secondary, and background colors as well as when and where to use them.

Create a detailed list and provide color samples of your two or three main brand colors as well as any other variations of colors to use in conjunction with your logo.

Provide Pantone, CMYK, RGB, and HEX codes so that your brand’s color palette remains intact across both digital and print platforms. Color codes are a foolproof way to ensure that your team will use the exact colors you want and none of the ones you don’t.

If you use specific colors for specific reasons, such as in banner ads, as headers, or as background colors, make it known so that there’s no confusion. It’s also helpful to provide visual examples of which background colors to use as contrast against text and logo colors.


4. Typography

Another way to create a consistent brand voice is to create cohesion in the typeface on your website, in ads, and in marketing materials.

Include a list of fonts to use along with the acceptable sizes for those fonts and where to use them.

Many brands use one type of font for body text in blogs, a different type for headers or taglines, and a third font for captions or image text. The more fonts you choose, the more important it is to give concrete visual examples of where those different fonts and different font sizes should and shouldn’t be used.

When choosing fonts, it’s best to choose ones that differ from the font in your logo.

Why?

Because contrast adds visual appeal and helps your logo stand out from other types of content.

Be aware of how your search engine rankings may be affected by Core Web Vitals


5. Visual Imagery

While your company logo is the heart of your brand, all of the various visual elements on your website contribute to your brand image and play a role in brand messaging.

To stay on-brand, specify which types of visual imagery to use and which types to avoid.

Do you want your website to look modern and minimalist in tone?

Instruct your team to stick to black and white stock photography.

Prefer images that are colorful and energizing?

Specify that you want well-lit, vibrant photos or images that include one or more of the colors in your logo.

From colorful lifestyle shots to candid black and white photos, brand images should complement your brand message and resonate with your target audience. Adding visual examples of what to use and what not to use is an easy way to make sure that everyone is on the same page.


6. Tone of Voice

Every strong brand has a definitive voice, a particular attitude, and a point of view. But it’s up to you to let your team know what that voice is.

From your content writers to your social media marketing pros, everyone on the team should know what your brand’s voice should be.

Is your brand casual and laid back?

  • Funny or entertaining?
  • Rebellious?
  • Serious?
  • Authoritative and educational?

Whatever voice you want to speak to your target audience in, make it known.

Some brands keep this part of their style guide rather brief, while others go into great depth on the matter. (Some brands even include a list of words that writing and marketing teams should never use in digital or written content).

Depending on how well you know and trust your content team, you can give them a general overview, or provide super-specific guidelines on how to speak and not speak to your target audience.

Give a few examples of your established brand voice. The more insight you give your team into your brand personality, the easier it will be for them to emulate that voice and hit the mark every time.


7. Writing and Editorial Style Guidelines

Brand style editorial style guidelines

No matter how many content writers you have on your team or how diverse their writing styles are, all writers and editors should follow the same editorial guidelines.

Your style guide should specify which editing style to follow, such as:

  • MLA style
  • AP style
  • Chicago style

For websites, AP style is the preferred editorial guide on which to base your own style guide. When we talk about AP style, we’re referring to the Associated Press style, not the APA method that you might have used or learned about in college.

The AP Stylebook is now in its 56th edition, and it’s available in both hard copy and in digital form. It’s worth picking up a new copy if you’re still using an old one.

In addition to the editorial guidelines, include the type of spelling you prefer. For example, U.S. English vs. U.K. English. You should also detail any unusual spellings that you might have for specific products or services as well as any specific words that you want your writers to avoid at all costs.

Even if you don’t give a hoot whether or not your writers use the Oxford comma, do not overlook the significance of including editorial guidelines. Having all writers follow the same editorial guide means less time spent editing blog articles, ads, and marketing materials.

Brush up on what words are useful to your audience and what aren’t. Check out these 103 Marketing Buzzwords to Know in 2023.


What to Do When Your Style Guide Needs an Edit

Should you decide to rebrand, alter your logo, change your typeface, or switch up the tone of voice for your brand, you’ll need to amend your style guide. When you do, be sure to send it to everyone that needs to know the changes. It also doesn’t hurt to do some follow-up to make sure that your team members are following the new guide and not falling back on the old one.

Experienced content marketers, content writers, graphic designers, and web dev teams know how to roll with the punches, but it’s up to you to make them aware that the guidelines have shifted.

As long as you’re planning ahead, be sure to build a strong foundation for SEO.

A style guide is a rulebook for your brand; a concise collection of all of the brand assets that make you unique in your industry and help differentiate you from your competitors.

Not having one is like telling your marketing, content, web dev, and graphics teams that they have free rein to do whatever they want.

With a brand style guide it will be much easier to keep consistency and ensure that your website, print materials, and other digital platforms complement one another in the most effective way.

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The 7 Essential Elements to Incorporate in Your Brand Style Guide