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Brand Style Guide - Study Examples and Create Your Own Guide

Learn from brand style guide examples and craft your guide for consistent branding that resonates with your audience!

Written by RamotionOct 11, 202312 min read

Last updated: Oct 11, 2023

A strong brand identity is essential in a competitive business environment. The essence of your company, the image you project to the world, is more than just a logo - it is the image you project to the world. But how do you ensure consistency and cohesiveness in how your brand is presented?

Enter the brand style guide, a powerful tool that lays the foundation for a unified brand identity. In this article, we explore the concept of a brand style guide, its importance, key components, essential elements, real-world examples, formats, and steps to create one.

It serves as a rulebook for how your brand should be presented, ensuring consistency in design, messaging, and overall brand experience. Renowned brands invest significant time and effort to create harmonious brand guides, and for a good reason – they are the backbone of a solid and recognizable brand identity.

Saying more comprehensive - it is a company's most essential brand asset. It ensures consistency in a brand's communications, which is critical to its growth and success.

When creating a brand identity, it is widespread for companies to focus solely on the logo or core brand identity and then move on to creating marketing materials or developing a website.

However, forming a system is the right way to create a brand identity. The system transforms your brand from a simple shirt to a three-piece suit, allowing it to look better and be perceived as such.

Once the system is created, it is essential to establish a set of rules and guidelines for implementing and using various elements of the brand identity. The document dictating these rules and procedures is called a corporate style guide.

Why is a Brand Style Guide Important?

Creating a brand style guide is vital for several reasons:

  • Maintaining Brand Image: It ensures that your brand is presented consistently across all touchpoints, reinforcing your image.
  • Building Recognition: Consistency in design elements like logos and colors helps customers recognize your brand instantly.
  • Reliability: Customers trust brands that deliver consistent experiences, fostering trust and loyalty.
  • Customer Loyalty: A well-defined brand style guide can lead to customer loyalty and advocacy over time.

The long-term benefits of a well-structured one are undeniable. It forms the basis for a brand's visual and verbal identity, providing a blueprint for future marketing and design efforts.

Key Components of Brand Identity in a Style Guide

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A brand style guide includes several key components, each contributing to a brand's overall identity:

  • Brand Mission: It should articulate the brand's purpose and mission, aligning the team with a common goal.
  • Vision: It outlines the brand's aspirations and where it envisions itself in the future.
  • Ideal Buyer Portrait: Define the target audience, demographics, values, and pain points.
  • Brand Values: List the core values that underpin your brand's identity decision-making.

Every brand style guide must set the context, brand voice, and narrative. This can be done on the cover, contents, and introduction. Start with a large and beautiful logo mockup on the inside page. It helps if you place your logo against a background color and use a version of the logo that will stand out against that background.

Place the table of contents with page numbers on the first page. Break it into sections and number them accordingly. If you have a brand story, a brand style guide is the perfect place to share it.

When the story is fresh, and the inspiration is strong, all stakeholders and team members become invested in the brand's story. But over time, its influence weakens. Mention it in your manual. At a minimum, include text in this section about the importance of a brand style guide and how to use it.

Essential Elements of a Brand Style Guide

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A brand style guide typically includes the following elements:

Brand Story

The brand story is a succinct narrative that captures your brand's core. It encompasses the brand's mission, core values, and any defining slogans. This story serves as the foundation of your brand, helping to communicate its purpose and essence to the audience.

Logo

The logo is a vital element of a brand's identity. It's essential to have clear guidelines on how to use it. These guidelines should cover different logo variations, the smallest size at which the logo can be displayed, and the exact spacing requirements to ensure the logo stands out appropriately. The brand maintains a consistent and professional appearance by adhering to these guidelines.

Color Palette

The color palette defines the official colors associated with the brand. It provides detailed information on primary, secondary, and accent colors. These colors are crucial in making the brand recognizable and should be used consistently across all brand materials.

Data Visualization

This aspect focuses on the guidelines for choosing and using visual elements like images, photos, illustrations, and data representations like charts and infographics. Proper selection and usage ensure that the visuals look good and align with the brand's message and values.

Typography

Typography is more than just choosing a font; it's about ensuring consistency in text presentation across all brand materials. The guidelines should specify which fonts to use, the appropriate sizes for different contexts, and general usage rules. Consistent typography enhances readability and reinforces brand identity.

Brand Voice

Every brand has a unique voice that reflects its personality. This voice should be consistent in all communications, resonating with the target audience and reinforcing the brand's identity. Defining the brand voice helps craft messages that align with the brand's character and values.

Showcasing Style Guide Examples

Let's dive into real-world examples of brand style guides to understand how different companies approach the concept.

1. Spotify Guideline

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Spotify's brand style guide reflects the essence of its music streaming platform – vibrant, dynamic, and user-centric. Key elements of their brand identity include a bold and distinctive color palette dominated by Spotify's iconic green.

It outlines various logo versions, ensuring they remain instantly recognizable even in multiple applications. What makes Spotify's style guide unique is its emphasis on motion graphics and animated elements, aligning perfectly with the brand's focus on music and rhythm. Additionally, it significantly emphasizes user-generated content, encouraging a sense of community and engagement, making it a standout example in brand style guides.

2. Skype Guideline

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Skype's brand style guide exemplifies simplicity and accessibility, mirroring its mission to connect people worldwide seamlessly. The critical elements of Skype's brand identity include a clean and recognizable logo characterized by the distinct "S" emblem. One of the unique features of Skype's style guide is its emphasis on human-centric design, promoting the idea that technology should enhance, not replace, human interaction.

It showcases a diverse range of imagery and emphasizes the importance of genuine user experiences, highlighting the real moments that Skype enables. With a clear focus on user-friendliness and human connections, Skype's brand style guide reflects the brand's commitment to bridging distances and fostering meaningful relationships across the globe.

3. Microsoft Guideline

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Microsoft's brand style guide is a testament to the company's evolution and commitment to innovation. Key elements of the brand include the iconic four-color Windows logo and the corporate wordmark in Segoe font, creating a cohesive and recognizable visual identity.

What sets Microsoft's style guide apart is its adaptability across a wide range of products and services, catering to consumers and enterprises. This one from Microsoft emphasizes inclusivity and accessibility, ensuring that Microsoft's technology is usable and enjoyable for all users.

Additionally, it strongly emphasizes storytelling, allowing the brand's voice to resonate through its products, services, and experiences, ultimately fostering a sense of trust and reliability among its diverse user base. Microsoft's brand style guide showcases its rich history and commitment to shaping the future of technology with a human-centered approach.

4. Oxford University Guideline

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Oxford University's brand style guide encapsulates the institution's centuries-old tradition of academic excellence and intellectual pursuit. The critical elements of the brand include a refined and timeless logo featuring the iconic crest and typography that exudes a sense of authority and heritage.

What sets Oxford University's style guide apart is its emphasis on preserving and conveying the rich history and values of the institution. The guide meticulously outlines guidelines for using the university's coat of arms, ensuring it is represented accurately and respectfully.

Moreover, it underscores the importance of consistency in tone and messaging across various departments and faculties while allowing for creative expression within the confines of the brand's venerable identity.

Oxford University's brand style guide embodies the fusion of tradition and innovation, portraying an institution that stands at the forefront of global academia while cherishing its storied past.

5. Netflix Guideline

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Netflix's brand style guide is a testament to its position as a global entertainment powerhouse, characterized by bold and innovative design choices. The iconic red and black palette and the distinctive "N" logo are crucial elements. What makes Netflix's style guide unique is its emphasis on flexibility and adaptability.

It acknowledges the ever-evolving nature of the entertainment industry, encouraging creative freedom while maintaining a consistent core identity. It also strongly focuses on storytelling, aligning with Netflix's commitment to diverse and engaging narratives.

Furthermore, it prioritizes user experience, ensuring the brand resonates with viewers across different devices and contexts. Netflix's brand style guide reflects its dynamic and customer-centric approach, allowing for a seamless blend of creativity and consistency in the ever-expanding world of streaming entertainment.

Finding the Right Format

You may create brand style guides in various formats, including paper, PDF, and online.

  1. PDF and Book Versions: While these traditional formats are still relevant, companies are increasingly transitioning away from them because of accessibility and ease of updating.
  2. Online Brand Guidelines: Online versions offer advantages, including easy accessibility, interactivity, and real-time updating.

The presentation and other printed materials must also adhere to the guidelines of the corporate style guide. Nothing should be left to chance or interpretation.

It is necessary to consider the style and design layout and create a corresponding section in the corporate style guide. It may include mention of backgrounds, colors, grids, and more.

Typically, you will find grid templates in your brand style guide. They can also include voice, mission statement, and colors in the brand book.

Additional printed materials such as letterhead, business cards, and invoices should also be included in the manual, along with dimensions and other required specifications.

Branding Guideline Creation: Step-by-Step Approach

To create a brand style guide you have to use a systematic approach:

Step 1 - Gather Material for Inspiration

Review your existing brand materials, study competitors' guides, and seek inspiration to create a unique guide.

Step 2 - Remember All the Elements

Ensure that all essential elements, such as mission, values, logo, color palette, typography, imagery, and brand voice, find a place in your guide.

Step 3 - Think Through All Brand Placements

Consider where your brand will appear – business cards, online ads, email signatures, and more – and ensure consistency across all.

Step 4 - Optimize Primary Channels

Identify and optimize the primary channels of interaction with the public, maintaining a consistent brand experience.

Step 5 - Add Downloadable Materials

Provide links to downloadable assets at the end of document for easy access and use.

Tips for Effective Guidelines

Here are some tips for you to create compelling brand style guides:

  • The Power of Specificity: Be specific in your guidelines to avoid ambiguity.
  • Naming Brand Colors: Use specific color names and codes for precise replication.
  • Infusing Brand Identity into Documents: Ensure that brand identity elements are integrated into documents and presentations.
  • Simplifying Design Consistency: Make it easy for team members to adhere to the guidelines.
  • Seeking Professional Help: Consider working with design and branding professionals for a polished result.

The main objective of the guideline is to maintain a consistent design style and a holistic perception of the brand. To prevent misunderstandings between employees, standards are developed. Media and partners turn to the guides as part of a collaboration.

This document conveys brand values. Appearance is the first thing the partner pays attention to. For example, green in gastronomy is associated with environmental friendliness and natural composition.

The guideline speeds up work processes. Designers do not create designs from scratch but use ready-made elements and templates. For digital products, tasks are immediately assigned to developers. They can change the size, color, and animation of stuff themselves. UX designers have more time to think through user behavior and develop new interface scenarios and functions.

Common essential elements of a guideline

Logo

For printed products, versions are developed for printing in color and one color, minimum sizes, simplified versions of the logo, a security field, or a minimum distance from the logo to other elements.

For a digital product, the guide fixes the logo's dimensions on the site's main pages and application and the parameters of the logo in the form of icons.

Color spectrum

Primary and accent shades in color models: HEX, RGB, CMYK, and Pantone. HEX and RGB are essential for the digital version; CMYK and Pantone - for printing.

Brand colors on print may differ due to the technical capabilities of printing, so this is also important to reflect in the guideline.

Typography

Primary and secondary fonts, variants of styles, situations for using fonts, size and leading for printed and digital versions, kerning, tracking, and slant. Web fonts must be used and loaded in electronic materials along with the interface.

Simplified versions from the basic pin set are used for mailings - this should be mentioned in the guide.

Conclusion

A well-crafted brand style guide is the cornerstone of a solid and consistent brand identity. It sets the tone for how your brand is perceived and experienced by your audience.

By defining key elements, specifying guidelines, and maintaining a cohesive image, a brand style guide empowers your brand to stand out, resonate with customers, and, ultimately, thrive in a crowded marketplace.

It's an investment in your brand's long-term success, ensuring every interaction with your audience reinforces your unique identity.

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