The common misconception about a “brand” is that it is just a logo. But the fact of the matter is that branding goes beyond the logo; it is everything from the tone of voice to colour palettes and typography. A well-branded company should be identifiable even without the use of the logo. Any marketing/communications professional will know the level of frustration felt when collateral is produced outside of company guidelines. By creating a style guide you are establishing a set of best practices to help maintain control of the brand at an executive level. So, what do you include in a style guide and how detailed should it be? A full style guide should be at least 20 pages (maybe more depending on the size of the company). It is a good idea to develop a mini-guide of about 5-10 pages for everyday use. Below I discuss each of the elements that are necessary in a full style guide.
1. Brand Overview
Keep this limited to a few short paragraphs. Define the vision of the company and what you are trying to achieve in developing this style guide. Try to include company values and any keywords that pop-up throughout marketing campaigns.
This section should list every variation of the company logo whilst also defining the minimum size and clear space. When defining clear space try and use elements of the logo as a point of reference rather than specifying inches or centimetres. This way the space around the logo will always be proportional regardless of the logo size; it also provides non-designers with an easy reference point. A section on incorrect applications of the logo should also be added. Avoid ambiguity by including visuals of what not to do.
Specify colour palettes and what they should be used for. Include formats for both print and web: CMYK, Pantone (if it exists) and RGB (or HEX).
Try and define every aspect of the corporate typography from the size and line height to before and after spacing. Also, include web alternatives if your corporate typography isn’t available online. Add extra oomph to this section by including a brief history of the font.
5. Corporate Stationery and other collateral
Be sure to include screen captures of all current stationery including letterheads, envelopes, power-point slides etc. If you have a collection of advertisements, include this as well. Be sure to mention where these documents can be found.
These five elements are what I consider to be the basic elements of a style guide. For a comprehensive guide, with examples, check out Designing Style Guidelines For Brands and Websites from Smashing Magazine.