Do you have a brand standards guide for your business? It can be scary if you’ve been tasked with having to do the graphics and branding for your company. We get it, if you’re not a designer, and you don’t have a designer on staff, it’s understandable to get nervous about having to make graphics or editing images to make them work for your brand. Don’t let that stop you from posting on social media, sending those newsletters, and marketing your company! A brand standards guide can help.
Brand standards guides are documents that tell your employees how the company should be presented in the world; from colors, to your logo options and standards, to even the way you present yourself through an email signature or chosen typeface.
Marketer Jeff Bullas cites that “articles with images get 94% more views than those without.” In order to appeal more to these views, a crisp and presentable company image is something worth striving for. Here are seven steps you can follow to create your own brand standards guide for your company:
Look at other logos you like
There are so many online resources that may turn into your best friend for this. To get some inspiration, check into the Instagram pages @logodesigns_place or @logos.ai to see examples of modern, unique logos that you can draw inspiration from.
We hear a lot of questions about using sites like Fiverr to get a logo done for cheap. Though it can be a budget-friendly option, if you really want a logo that will last through the years, it’s worth investing in having a designer make it for you. The designer will be better at listening to your needs, identifying what you need to communicate, and making you a really special logo that will stand the test of time.
Consider your industry colors
Look into what colors are standard in your industry. It might be helpful to do a quick Google search about the psychology of colors to see what you want to represent. For example, if your business is a smoothie company, you might consider using colors that represent health, vitality, and happiness, so a yellow or green might be a good option. On the flip side, colors like red and blue represent trustworthiness and honor, and are a good fit for banks and financial institutions.
You may also want to choose a color that represents a unique message for your industry. An example of this is Plumb Zebra using a purple color, when typically you see plumbing companies represented by more traditional blues. Whether making a statement or keeping with tradition to represent trustworthiness, make sure you choose your colors intentionally.
Your logo needs to look great in black and white and a variety of layouts
This may not seem as important as the other points, but we have had countless clients come to us with a logo that is very hard to work with either because of a bunch of background colors that are difficult to isolate, or don’t work in a variety of layouts. Think about how you want your brand represented in the world. Are you going to make apparel? Vehicle wraps? A website? Or need something that can fit into a circle or a square for social media? Make sure your logo works in a variety of formats.
When getting the versions of your logo from your designer, make sure you get a folder with JPEGs, PNGs, and an AI file formats so you have it on file in case you ever need to change it.
Pick 2 or 3 fonts that work well with your logo. Preferably, you want both a serif and a sans-serif font that work well together in documents. (Serif fonts have small curves on the ends of characters and sans-serif do not.) It’s a good idea to also pick some kind of a decorative font you can use (sparingly) on special occasions. A good way to do this is to open a word document and write out your company name. Take a good look at the font it’s written in. Do the serifs look old fashioned? Do the letterforms (the shape of a letter) look blocky and modern? How do you think this represents your company. Here is an example:
The second one is better, right? That is because your brain automatically identifies the serif in the first font as something you may have seen on bank documents or schoolwork and the second one works better with the fun and modern concept of Froyo. Decide how you want your brand to associate and appear. Consider how your colors will look in these fonts as well, and how all your fonts might look together. A good rule of thumb is to keep it to 3 or fewer!
How do you want to sound?
Creating a brand is all about understanding what message you want to tell potential customers. How do you feel when you watch a Budweiser commercial? How about one for the ASPCA? They both utilize animals in their commercials and in their brand but they tell two very different stories. Decide how you want people to associate your brand.
Then come up with 5 words that you want your company to be perceived as in order to get a reaction. Decide how you want people to FEEL when they see things from your brand. This can also help inform the next step, when you go out and find the imagery for your brand.
4. Brand Vibe/Inspiration
Look at other brands in the same industry
Similar to looking at the voice you want to have, look at other competitors around you. For example, if you have a dental clinic, look at other clinics around you. If you could describe their photography, how would it make you feel as a patient? How many of those clinics use the same photography throughout their branding? If you are starting to see the same kinds of images over and over again, it might be worth finding a unique angle for your images.
Make a moodboard with 3 different directions and concepts
This is KEY for creating a brand standards guide. In the past, making vision boards entailed cutting out hundreds of photos from magazines and printouts and sticking them on a board. While that is still a fun way to go, there are now online resources that can help. Pinterest is a good option, but we prefer using gomoodboard.com to put pictures, typography, and logos on, and make sure they mesh. If you’re trying to go in a fun direction with your imagery, you don’t want a super serious logo, because they won’t look natural together. This is a good time to revisit your logo to make sure it is really representative of the message you are trying to convey.
We recommend trying at least 3 different photo and graphic angles out for size. You never know if you’ll find one that gets you or your employees really excited! Don’t forget, you can also combine some of your moodboards to make something all your own! Just make sure they mesh well.
Here is an example. We have been in the process of a redesign of our website. There are three angles we have taken in past to looking at our business. We actually ended up combining elements of all three of these for ours!
Moodboard 1: Cartoony-business theme
Moodboard 2: Circus
Moodboard 3: Modern small business
5. Stock photography
Make sure your stock photos are cohesive with your brand colors
Look at the stock photos you choose to represent your brand really closely. Are
they dark and gloomy? Airy and light? How saturated would you consider the colors? Putting them in a moodboard can REALLY help with deciding how well your photos go with one another. As a general rule of thumb, steer clear of cheesy, smiley stock photography. Those ones with a business man and his arms crossed? Yep. Everyone and their brother has probably used that photo since 1999.
These kinds of pictures are seen EVERYWHERE and are a little dated. Choose stock photography with some kind of an air of mystery. Here is an example of this, they are pictures of the same thing, but slightly different approaches of a person at a computer.
The second one really makes you think, right? Where did those hands come from? What is she looking at? These questions are a great psychological trick of the eye to get the brain and fingers to stop scrolling and pay attention.
6. List of brand collateral you want
This is where you ask the hard questions for your brand standards guide. How do customers interact with your brand on a regular basis? Consider whether printed material like mailers or brochures, or digital guides or branded invoices would help carry your brand. These are best to make upfront, because they can be a great guide for new employees to be able to understand the culture and image of your company that they will try and adopt. It’s a great way to find out if they would be a good fit for your messaging. It also helps your potential customers know more about you upfront, which, in this age of information, can be a big help on the sales journey.
7. Putting it all together in a guide
Now that you have all this amazing information about where you want to go and how you want to look, document it! Canva.com is a great resource for putting this all together in a guide. Write down your colors with all values (CMYK, RGB, and HEX), your type faces, and the 5 words you would use to describe your voice. This is not only a great thing to print out for your employees, but will really help should you ever choose to work with a designer or publication that needs this information. Make sure you specify to your employees the PROPER and IMPROPER ways to use your logo–spacing, colors, etc.
*BONUS* revisit your brand standards guides regularly
Go through this process every couple of years. Every company can use a brand refresh every once in a while, and that DOES NOT mean you have to start over! It can be as simple as switching out some stock photography and changing your typefaces slightly. If you invest upfront in the right branding, your brand should last through the years! Just ask any of these brands, who have all had the same logo with minimal variations for decades!
Twinings Tea (1887)