Everyone who has been through some secondary education has heard of style guides. They are a collection of practices and standards on the ‘right’ way to do something in a specific field. Long have the MLA and APA wars been waged. When it comes to your business there’s a different kind of style guide to concern yourself with, and we’ll tell you right now it’ll be a whole lot more useful than Chicago! This time on the Helix blog, let’s talk about building your company’s brand book!
First let’s clear up some confusion: style guide or brand book? In the advertising and marketing spheres, you’re bound to run into both these phrases but don’t sweat it! A brand book is a more inclusive term, encompassing a brand’s goals, vision, growth, voice, marketing and sales goals, and more. A style guide focuses just on visual aspects like color, fonts, and logos.
A brand book is supposed to cover elements that define a brand in a clear and concise way. The intention is that when new people start working for that company (as contract or full-time employees), they have a set of guidelines to follow so everything they produce comes out in a unified voice, whether that is visual or written. Social media messages, blog posts, email blasts or e-blasts if you’re stuck in the 90’s (sorry, not sorry Alex!) all will be working inside the same framework to present a cohesive message.
Exact elements change from company to company. What each company brings to their own brand book depends on plenty of different factors, like how big the company is and what kind of work they do. Guides can be extremely detailed going over every single possible element that the company creates. Meanwhile, smaller mom-and-pop shops may be able to get away with a single page of notes, or none at all!
As you can see, the range of information a brand book can have is staggering, but it ultimately comes down to you. So how do you decide what your brand needs?
Alright, you know what elements are involved so how do you go about figuring out what belongs in yours?
Before you dive deep into identifying every piece of your brand, first allow yourself some time to be inspired. Think about these questions:
All of these can help identify where your head is at for your brand, taking the abstract one step closer to becoming concrete.
The key elements of your brand are: voice, logo, imagery, typography, color palette, and perhaps most critically your story.
How do you do this? You’ll need a designer (and maybe some other creatives) to help. People who understand how feelings, thoughts, tone, and imagery can be turned into concrete elements. This is easier said than done. You and your creative team will develop your brand’s elements through loops of iteration and feedback.
Some of these elements may already be created, you might have a company logo and colors for instance, but working with a designer can help you realize where you may have misstepped in the past! Your color palette might be wonderful, but it might not be giving the feeling of compassion you want your business to exude. Work with your designer — they’re not here to make unnecessary changes (it’s a lot of work!). Your designer should want to help you dial in your brand.
With your key elements in place, work up an outline for the book. It might look something like this.
Company Z’s Brand Book
Brands don’t sit stagnant. Look at any of the biggest businesses from Apple to Coca-Cola and you’ll notice that their logos and brand identity have changed with the world. You can’t know what may come down the road, but you can certainly plan for the potential. Know your brand may change, your logo isn’t set in stone, and as your business grows and adapts over the years, so too will your Brand Book. Keep that thought in your mind when it comes back to this document. A brand book isn’t the be all, end all of your business’s identity – it simply collects what you have determined is the best face forward.
Plan ahead, make a set day to have a review of your brand book, maybe a year on, and see if it still speaks to you.
There you have it! A basic rundown on how to build your own Brand Book! Don’t already have in-house designers? Looking to build a brand and launch new digital media? Helix House has you covered! We’ve created brand books for many of our clients: it’s a necessary first step in many comprehensive campaigns, and we wouldn’t want to start a journey without a map!
Want some more inspiration? Take a look at our 44 page Brittany Watkins Brand Book here.
Below is a style guide we put together for our client East 5th Avenue.
See the difference? Aside from page count, the style guide focuses solely on visual elements while the brand book dives deeper into the heart and soul of the company.
Ready to get to work on yours? Give Helix House a call, our creatives love to help our clients build their brands!