Imagine a half-bitten apple and try not to think of Macbooks, iPads, or iPhones. Now imagine a golden arch on a red background and don’t think about french fries and burgers. These companies we don’t need to even call by their name. They successfully printed their brand identity into your brain. And now it is your turn. Learn with us how to build a memorable brand on your own. What will help you is consistency coined in one document – brand guidelines.
Every brand needs to create and develop its brand identity. Not only the biggest corporation. Are you a coffee shop owner or a freelancer? Well, you need to develop your brand identity and communicate it, too!
What is brand identity?
Brand identity is a unique image of your company that sets you apart from your competitors.
Carefully chosen brand elements will portray the right and accurate image of your brand for your customers. This way they will know immediately what to expect when dealing with you. Therefore, you need to make sure you paint your company in a faithful light.
You also need to stick to those chosen elements in each way of communication (visual, spoken, or written) with your clients.
Therefore, the brand identity is not something you create once and then forget about it.
It is all about consistency
As you produce more and more content, print new business cards for new employees, or create packaging for new products, all of these items should look consistent. Everyone should immediately know they belong to your brand, just like everyone recognizes Coca-Cola bottles.
The same goes with your communication style – the tone you would use in emails and on your website should be the same.
Imagine your potential client seeing a super professional, seriously written text on your financial advisory website. And then to his surprise, when your customer support agent answers his phone call with the words Hola, amigo, what’s up?
Everyone working for you should be on the same page.
That might be hard to follow for your employees or even yourself if you don’t have a set of instructions, don’t you think?
No worries. Brand guidelines are here to help you with that.
Before you embark on this mission…
Our template is here to help you with creating the brand guidelines! Download our template and follow our instructions alongside this post. We will let you know each time when to take a look into it.
How to develop your brand identity
But first things first. Wondering how to develop your brand identity? Take your time and think about it thoroughly. We mean it.
Take a pencil, a few sheets of blank paper, and turn your phone off.
This is a very important step that will help you move on.
Afterward, when you will be able to state your brand’s core values clearly and identify your company mission, write down this information into the template on page 3.
Decide on your brand values
Firstly, try to answer these questions in as much detail as possible:
- What is your company’s mission?
- Why does it exist in the first place?
- Does your company have a clear goal?
- Are there any achievements you are aiming for through your business?
- What products or services are you offering to your customers and how will they benefit from them?
- What is your story?
Offer a captivating story to present your company. Everything is about storytelling now. State your values via fun and creative anecdotes, which are true to your values.
Try treating your company as a person – what are 5 words that would describe its personality?
What are your brand attributes?
How would you describe your company in words? Is it masculine or feminine? Simple or intricate? Grey or colorful? Professional or casual? Authoritative or approachable?
Smashing logo maker lets you pick your brand attributes while designing the logo
Now try to picture your company in colors – literally. What feelings are you getting when you think of your company as its client? Can you describe this feeling in colors?
Are there any specific feelings, emotions, images, or other attributes you want to associate with your company?
What does your company stand for?
Who are your clients and who are your competitors?
This one is straightforward. Create your customer personalities to see what kind of people your services and products attract. Then see how your competitors deal with them. What can you do differently or better?
Once you answer these questions you would immediately know how to represent your company in terms of visual representation and communication with clients and customers.
And you will be ready to move on!
What are brand guidelines?
Essentially, a brand guideline is an instruction manual on how to communicate your brand.
Brand guidelines are here to help you present your brand identity consistently, interchangeably, and recognizably in visual, speaking, and written communication.
All the rules on logo usage, imagery, communication style, correct fonts, colors, etc. should be listed here. In the manual, your employees, customers, and business partners should find all the necessary rules and guidelines for consistent and coherent brand communication.
Why does your brand need guidelines?
- Brand guidelines provide consistency, therefore your brand will be glued into the minds of your customers and potential customers.
- Thanks to the manual, every one of your employees would know how to apply colors, logos, and fonts correctly to strengthen your brand awareness.
- Thanks to clear instructions, your customer care agents would know how to communicate with your customers on social media, in emails, on phone, and in-person.
- Your brand would maintain a coherent personality.
Brand guidelines will help you achieve this consistency in the long run. Imagine it as a daily care manual of the brand. Only the right decisions will be done – following it.
Developing brand design: fundamental brand identity elements
Correctly chosen design elements will help you achieve your identity in more tangible ways. What are the crucial features?
When you scroll through our template, you will find these elements in the following order: logo, color palette, typography, and secondary elements like patterns, photos, illustrations, and iconography.
Now, let’s break them down.
The logo is the part of the company that should rarely change. Stella Artois has had one since the 1300s!
Therefore be sure to use carefully chosen symbols, shapes, and text that is true to your DNA. The logo should evoke your brand and story immediately. Some companies don’t even need anything else than their logo to get immediately recognized worldwide – like Apple, Google, or Coca-Cola.
Be ready to create different versions for different usage – print, responsive sizes for app and web, etc. You are going to need it for the billboard by the highway as for the tiny favicon in a browser tab. Therefore create a scalable logo.
Oftentimes the primary font is also used in the logo. You can use this type in headlines and other important messages. Use solid colors so it’s easy to adapt the logo against different backgrounds.
Check the primary logo of Facebook or Netflix and then its secondary version in the browser tab. The secondary version is a simplified version of the primary logo that reflects the colors, patterns, and shapes of the primary one.
Sometimes it can be completely different, though – like Freddie the chimp of Mailchimp.
Colors are not strictly visual – they can trigger a strong emotional response. There is a whole field on the psychology of colors on how they make you eat more, feel more creative, or make you pay respects instantly.
Let’s check the rainbow quickly:
- Red: a colour packed with vibrancy and strong emotion, that embodies energy and wisdom. It can trigger impulse buys, it can also make you drink more and eat more. Think Coca-Cola.
- Orange: a fun and youthful colour that makes you feel autumn and cosiness, but also of danger and warnings. It is used mostly as an accent colour (Amazon, Penguin Random House, FedEx).
- Yellow: think of IKEA and Mcdonald’s. What do they have in common? They make you think of cheap and fun bargains! Yellow suggests something affordable and playful. Are your products or services you offer like that? Go for yellow.
- Green: nature, trees, money, growth, regeneration, prosperity. This colour resonates with sustainable and environmentally-friendly industries as well as anything that gets the green light metaphorically. Check Starbucks or Spotify with their fresh shades of green. How do they make you feel about their services?
- Blue: sky, ocean, calm, trust, intelligence, and trustworthiness. Therefore it is hugely used by financial institutions like Visa or Paypal and other major corporations. Are you running a serious business and want to generate trust immediately? Blue is the answer.
- Purple: this colour combines the qualities of red and blue. Luxury, mystery, and spirituality are the keywords. Historically purple dyes were expensive, therefore only royalty could have afforded them. Nowadays it is deeply connected with mystics, healing, and mindfulness.
And what about black and white? Black goes for power, sophistication, elegance, and value. White stands for health, purity, and sincerity.
Be clear about your primary, secondary, and accent colors. When creating a color palette, apply your mission, goals, and statement by choosing the right ones with the right priority.
The right chosen fonts are a necessity. Check out this article on how to choose the right font for your brands following the tone you wish to achieve.
Many companies designed their typefaces that reflect their identity thoroughly. Others use Helvetica. Be careful – you don’t want to use Comic Sans when you are a financial advisor.
Of course, you can choose more fonts that go well together. When pairing, define the scale for each type of content like headlines, lead paragraphs, body copy, or quotes. Don’t worry, there are tools to help you with that. We will show them to you later in this article.
Secondary decorative elements
Original drawings, photography style, patterns, etc. are also part of your brand and they should be showcased in the brand guidelines.
Determine the style of the photography for the products, social media, or general content. Think of the moods you want to spread. Achieve consistent looks by using the same filters or the same post-production process.
How will the illustration be used? Think again of the moods, colors, and message. Would it be purely decorative?
Iconography will be used not only for websites or apps but also in printed media, when applicable. Choose or create icons that go well with the fonts and logo.
Putting together the brand guidelines: What elements should be included
Once you’ve put together the design assets, make sure they’re used in the right way.
Think of everything possible – logo usage, font pairings, business card layout, correspondence, document cover, packaging – you name it. Let’s break it into each element.
Best and prohibited practices on logo usage
Since you’ve put so much effort into creating the perfect logo that carries your brand identity and story, it would be shameful if the logo was used incorrectly. A brand manual is a perfect place to prevent it.
Generally, a clear list of Dos and Don’ts with pictures would work the best.
Firstly show all the acceptable logo formats and clearly state the right colors, size, ratio, and necessary margin around the logo.
See how Netflix and Spotify define clear space around their logos:
Also show the correct logo placement on pictures, photos, or print materials:
Ensure the logo is always readable:
See also how Twitter does it:
Twitter logo – correct use
Then, show it should not be done – for example, Netflix here:
Netflix logo don’ts
Spotify logo don’ts
And Slack here:
Slack logo misuse
You will never see the bird shown like this:
Twitter logo misuse
Think of the accessibility and readability too. Spotify is very specific regarding the placing of the logo against the background. For example, it is prohibited to place the logo on a dual-tone image:
The right use of Spotify colors
Don’t hesitate to state the minimum size of the logo, prohibited color or typeface replacements, and so on as Slack does here:
The right size of Slack logo
The more clear you show it, the better. Images speak a thousand words. Add your logo variations and specify clearspace into the brand manual template on page 4. On the following page describe correct and incorrect usage of it.
Now it is time to state your colors. Use not only their names but also their codes for web, screen, and print usage.
No idea what are we talking about? Let’s take a closer look at Coca-Cola’s famous red:
Coca-Cola primary colors
The official name of their signature color is Coke Red.
PMS will help you find the color in the Pantone library. However, not every color could be found there, therefore you see no equivalent in the picture above.
CMYK values are used in print, so every printer would print the same shade. The designers will know exactly how to set the color in their software, so the printed version is the right one.
RGB stands for RED-GREEN-BLUE, which are the colors every screen use. Therefore this code is useful when the designers are working on the assets for websites or social media.
Finally, HEX is used by web developers.
Put this information on page 6. Everyone will be grateful to you.
Allowed practices of typeface usage
Let’s move to page 7, which we saved for the typeface.
Typeface might become a pillar of your brand, especially when you don’t use any graphic elements, but a wordmark or lettermark only. In such a case the consistency of using the fonts is crucial.
After you listed used fonts, show them also in action. Create a table, where the pairing of the fonts will be shown for headline and copy text. Also, explain the correct size for each headline or note.
The ideal stack of fonts is displayed like this in the Slack brand manual:
Slack – correct font stack
Keep it simple. There is no need to overdo it. Here is how Uber pairs their fonts:
Uber brand fonts
And how they use hierarchy to create a different kind of feeling:
Uber fonts – hierarchy
Specify the pattern, iconography, photography style
Beauty is in the details! Now we are on page 8, which is saved for secondary brand elements like icons, patterns, style of photography, and the right usage of illustrations.
Extensive elements can become powerful assets in your brand arsenal. Icons are not considered only details anymore.
See how Slack listed its icons:
Slack brand icons
Uber loves their icons, too, and they use different types of them:
Uber icons taxonomy
As their primary font is fundamental to their brand, iconography not only compliments it but extends massively the typeface.
Show, don’t tell – brand the guidelines
For the manual, use the chosen brand colors and fonts. Consider this as a practical exercise that would help everyone to create an idea of what you mean when you’re talking about specific fonts for headlines and margins.
You said the biggest headline on the page should be in 16pt Helvetica bold? Make sure you don’t put in Arial. Be concise from the very beginning. All big brands do it.
Learn from the big players – brand manual examples
Let’s check some of the popular brands out there and see what they do to become memorable. See what they do, get inspired, and try it on your own.
First of all, they all use brand components in the brand manual, so you can see how to work with the brand assets to achieve a concise experience.
They all start with the logo – clear space, colors, usage, placement, and scale. Afterward, to prevent unwanted creativity, they also show don’ts. This is how you should never see the Uber logo:
Uber logo misuse
They go on with the color. List your primary and complementary colors in HEX, CMYK, and RGB. If needed, the list also colors for illustrations and photography.
Some of the Uber secondary colors:
Uber secondary colors
Typography is one of the pillars that will help you create a strong brand.
Once you have your logo, colors, and fonts chosen, you are good to go. The rest you will figure out easily.
Get inspired by creatives
Online you will find many websites that showcase the creative works of other people. On websites like Behance, Adobe Portfolio, Dribble and so on you will find a lot of inspiration in the shape of brand guidelines templates.
Scroll through some of the works, and get inspired – but not too much. Think of your brand identity always. So you don’t end up with a brand manual for a completely different brand.
Also, should you find a portfolio you really love, why not hire its designer to help you out?
Online tools to get you started
In case you decide to develop the brand identity on your own, we present you with a list of online tools and useful resources that will get you started.
First thing first – logo makers
- Webnode – in our CMS you can create a logo by combining font type and icons directly in the project
- Adobe Creative Cloud Express: this tool allows you to create a stunning logo within minutes.
- Canva: this popular online graphic tool features a simple logo maker, too.
- Free Logo Design: absolutely free online tool will help you create logos really easily. Type your company name and choose your business category. And then only pick the right logo from the list.
- Looka: another popular one. Type your name, choose your industry, set your favourite colours and click generate.
A color palette generators and libraries
- Colormind: an intuitive tool that let you choose your favourite colours one by one by locking them and generating harmonious palettes
- Adobe Colors: a tool for professionals that helps you explore different harmony rules (Apply Color Harmony Rule (Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Square, Compound, Shades and more)
- Color Hunt: except for the possibility to create your palette you can also browse through thousands of already created ones
- Color Space: is a fun generator that creates generic palettes based on your primary brand colour
- BrandColors: this tool helps you explore colours other brands already used so you can get inspired
Font pairing tips and tricks
- Webnode: in our templates you will find pairings chosen by our designers that go well with the selected template. Just pick the most appealing one.
- Typespiration: this website lets you see how different types of fonts and colour palettes go together.
- Mixfont: a fun and simple generator that will make you see different pairings in real-time.
- Fontpair: an extended library of already created pairings that look professional and stylish.
- Icons8: not only icons, but also illustrations, photos or music for your videos. Even designer tools. Definitely worth your attention.
- Freepik: an extensive library not only for icons but for photos, vectors, and other resources.
- Flaticon: beautiful and free icons and stickers for your projects.
- Fontello: a beautiful icon font generator that will help you create a font out of chosen icons.
- Behance: powered by Adobe, Behance is a large network for creatives all around the globe. With plenty of free icons sets to download.
- Dribble: another network for self-promotion. Not only do you get inspired here, but there are also plenty of free resources you can download and use.
- DeviantArt: Another popular showcase network for creatives that also serves as a library of freebies.
Vector graphic, illustrations, and photography
- Canva: a massively popular graphic platform that allows you to design business cards, logos, presentations, and many more with a simple drag-and-drop feature.
- Adobe Creative Cloud Express: if you are a fan of Photoshop and other popular Adobe software, you can’t go wrong here. Incredible sets of features are at your disposal to create beautiful designs.
- Visme: this tool will help you with more complicated graphics, like iconographic. Your whole company can collaborate on the projects thanks to its advanced features.
- VistaCreate: a perfect tool for creating social media content.
- Freepik: thousands of vectors, PSDs, photos, and illustrations for both personal and commercial use.
- Vecteezy: a library of free vector art, stock photos, and videos you can use in your project.
- VectorStock: another popular resource of both free and premium vector images for use.
- FreeVector: another website with plenty of free vector art and graphics.
Download our template for your brand manual
Our designer prepared a template that would help you to create your brand manual easily!
Congratulations! Now that you have decided on the best colors, fonts to be used, and best logo placement, and put everything together in a single, beautifully branded document, it is time to share it with the world.
Explain to your employees where to find the document and when to use it. For example, to create a keynote for the whole company, the manual would be more than necessary.
Publish it on your website, so your business partners could use it too if needed.
Remember, when building a memorable brand, consistency is the key.
Don’t forget to read the guide on how to create a business website.