What comes to our mind when we think of our favorite brand as an outcome of a simple successful brand guideline – the brand identity.It could be the simple logo of Nike, the tricolor usage pattern of Google, the product naming pattern of Apple (iPhone, iMac, or iPad), or the Vodafone tagline: “where ever you go our network follows.”
Ideally, a brand guideline is a document that holds the information about the brand and “dos and don’ts” of everything the world sees about the brand; right from the brand website to a business card, packaging to brand font, colors, and tagline which eventually creates the brand identity.
Creating a brand guideline document can be time-consuming. But if one decides on investing some quality time on brand strategy in the initial phase of the project, it will save them quite a lot of time required on the rest of their project. A brand guideline document doesn’t have to be like a book, vast, or explanatory; it can be short and succinct. It could also be as simple as a “one-page” description.
Process of building a brand guideline:
A brand guideline document should be simple enough to be used by anyone who works on the brand product: from a designer to a developer, engineer, or the packaging team. It is nothing but a set of rules for promoting/showcasing a brand. A guideline should not contain any jargon or technical terms, since it is created to be referred/used by anyone under the branding process, including the customers. Infographics are recommended to explain the guidelines, since images can be self-explanatory and easy to understand.
These are the basic steps that one needs to follow for building a successful brand guideline:
The research phase is vital while building a product or an application, or for brand creation. It is important to get an insight into the product development process and the impact the brand creates on people. This can be done by gathering related documents that support product development and through discussions with the stakeholders.
Briefing is the phase where all the data from research is consolidated, refined, and documented. This can be done with the help of a team. While briefing, the below basic information are required to be highlighted about the brand, with a structured brand strategy.
- The vision of the brand
- Categories of people the brand wants to attract
- Brand competitors
- Attitude with which a brand wants to connect to the world (For example, casual/formal, modern/traditional, fun/serious, or passionate/humorous)
- Who will be using the brand guideline document?
Creating the branding document
Following the research and briefing, we can now start creating the branding guideline document. Below is a list of specifications a guideline document would hold:
- Brand vision/tagline
- Brand mission
- Color palette
- Logo specification
- Typography specification
- Imagery specification
- Design specification
- Voice specification
- Advertising guidelines
- Packaging guidelines
Here are some of the content samples:
- Logo specification: Logo specification should answer questions, such as:
- What happens to the logo color when it is placed on a different background?
- Can the color be reversed?
- Does it have a black-and-white version?
- Is there a minimalistic/expanded version of the logo?
- Can the logo be stretched or squeezed?
- Are there any proportion or size constraints?
- Is it acceptable to use the logo over any background?
- Design specification: The design specification should have clear information on details such as:
- Whether the website or application buttons should have sharp or rounded edges?
- Whether the UI should be flat themed or skeuomorphic?
- What will be the standard size for buttons and icons?
Once a brand guideline is developed, it is recommended to take time to evaluate. Evaluation is done by focusing on the effectiveness of the outcome of the developed guidelines and by finding ways to improve them.
What can one achieve with a brand guideline?
What one can achieve with a simple brand guideline is prodigious. To begin with, an effective brand guideline can earn customers’ trust. People believe what they see and feel. They are impulsive to sudden changes or unfamiliarity. When there are frequent changes in a brand product, style, or mission, it creates insecurity about that brand among customers, which makes them leave for a more secure ground, i.e, its competitor. Therefore, it is important to maintain consistency all over. Inconsistent branding will only be forgotten over time.
A simple guideline at the beginning of any project could make one’s business look more professional. This could be a huge push for new customers to try the brand product with confidence even though it appears new to the combat zone.
An effective guideline could help one’s brand identity evolve with ease. It lets anyone (even one who is unfamiliar with the brand) to work on it; to create or evolve with ease and perfection, without tampering with its existing identity/style.
And again, one can save a lot of time for rework and deviations. While I work for various clients as a UX designer, I can always comprehend the difference between those with a strong brand guideline and those without. Those applications that are not built over a proper brand guideline always ends with a lot of rework and come back with new changes. These changes may not be required to satisfy the brand needs, but to please the reviewers’ themselves.
Visual/Brand identity is an important aspect in any business. A brand identity speaks about the brand, even before the product does. It creates an emotional bonding with the people who come across the brand; and it has the ability to influence them to stay with the brand. The more unique and meaningful one’s brand strategy is, the more customers it attracts and more business it brings.
But a brand guideline document is not going to remain the same. It is always evolving as the brand evolves with time and trend. So, it is important to leave room for a lot of creativity as one sets the brand guidelines.
Here are the links for brand guideline documents of renowned brands for reference: