Brand Style Guide: How To Create and Showcase It

A style guide influences the face of a brand.

A brand style guide is the backbone that guides the face of a brand. It is a set of rules or guidelines that defines how your brand should be presented visually and editorially. Whether it is for your website, social media, press events, or even a simple email, it helps people within your organization to communicate in a way that reflects your brand identity in a consistent way.

Before jumping into creating a brand style guide, you should have a clear idea of your business’ brand identity. A brand identity is made up of a company’s personality, values and vision. Here are some things to consider when you build your brand identity.

Your brand’s personality: Are you a traditional and luxury brand like Rolex or are you playful like Coca-Cola?

Tone of voice: A company’s tone of voice is about how you say things. It stems from your brand’s personality, business proposition and your brand values.

Your mission statement: This is a simple sentence articulating the core purpose of your business.

Having a well-defined brand identity helps customers gain trust in your brand and return to your brand time and again. Find more tips to create a brand identity for your business in this seven step guide.

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Core components of a brand style guide

Your brand style guide has three main components: Brand Story, Visual Style Guide, and Content Style Guide.

1. Start your style guide with your Brand Story

This is the introduction to your style guide. Before thinking about how your brand should be expressed, users must be on the same page as you about what your brand identity is. This is a space for you to summarize your brand personality, what your mission statement is, and the vision of your brand. Cisco has done an amazing job of creating an interactive style guide which makes it easy for users to navigate and apply.

2. Create a clear Visual Style Guide

These are the branding guidelines for the graphics that define the look and feel of your brand. Here are some essentials to keep in mind when you create your visual style guide.

Have clear rules about your logo:

Your logo is an important representation of your brand so you should make sure it is represented accurately and consistently. Things to have rules about include the right space around the logo, how it should appear on different devices, and what your parent logo is. It is also a good idea to highlight how your logo should not appear.

Firefox has clear guidelines about how their logo should and should not appear across platforms and backgrounds in their brand style guide.

Mozilla Firefox's logo from its style guide

Source: Mozilla Firefox Style Guide

Spotify also does a great job of having clear rules in their developer style book that are easy to understand and navigate.

Spotify's rules about its logo

Source: Spotify Developers’ Style Guide

Define your brand’s typeface:

A typeface may seem like a minor detail but can go a long way in illustrating your brand’s traits and personality. Your typeface should reflect your brand’s identity. You will probably have different fonts for different purposes and your style guide should state these clearly.

IBM has an elaborate section in their brand style guide about their typography, including what their font is (IBM Plex®), how their font should appear in different languages, as well as how their font should be spaced and more.

Source: IBM style guide

Choose your color palette:

Colors change across different devices and systems, so it is essential that you have the right CMYK values, hex codes, etc. listed in your style guide. The wrong color will misrepresent your brand and lead to unnecessary printing costs.

Ben & Jerry’s showcases the function and details of all the colors that represent their brand in their brand style guide.

different colors in a style guide

Source: Ben & Jerry’s style guide

Choose your photography style:

A photo can be an important way for someone to identify your brand. It can evoke specific emotions and responses from the viewer. If you have a set of guidelines that can direct photographers, it becomes easier for them to take pictures that truly reflect your brand’s identity. This should cover things like lighting, colors, wardrobe, positioning, etc. Most brands will make specific photos available to external partners.

3. Create a Content Style Guide

These are the editorial guidelines that define how your content should be written and presented.

Establish grammar rules:

Start by choosing a style manual. Are you using the AP style book or the Chicago manual of style? These provide clear rules on grammar best practices, but it is a good idea for you to highlight any exceptions for your brand – such as capitalization, punctuation, etc.

Establish your brand editorial's tone of voice:

Do you want your content to be objective or artistic? Informational or fun? Prioritize the emotions you want to evoke based on your brand’s personality and vision. You should also provide guidance to writers about what style of writing they can use. This should cover answers to questions such as "Should they use simple vocabulary?" "Can they use the first person?", etc.

Illustrate good examples and best practices:

What are some copy examples that accurately represent your brand? What are some best practices? Help the reader understand how to write copy in your brand style.

a typewriter

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

5 top tips for creating a great brand style guide

Get direction for your brand with ZeBrand. Learn about all the different facets of branding, build brand guidelines, and download assets and templates.Learn More

1. Your style guide itself should reflect your brand personality

The best style guides showcase all the things that make a brand great, like Spotify’s open approach to its style guide or Firefox Mozilla’s colorful take on its style guide, making the information fun and engaging to read.

2. Don’t stuff your guide with information

Brand style guides should not be tedious. Have fun with the information you display and leave out anything that isn’t essential.

3. Explain the reasons for your choices

Why have you chosen a specific font? How is your photography guide aligned with your brand personality? You don’t have to reveal all your reasons in detail, but your choices should reflect your brand’s identity.

4. Illustrate with examples

What is a good example of logo usage, and what is a bad example? Good brand style guides show what can and cannot be done with your brand’s assets.

5. Make sure any FAQs are covered

Do you always get the same question from your partners or your design team? Make sure those frequent questions are answered in the brand style guide.

bulbs hanging from a ceiling

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Now that you have your Brand Style Guide, it's time to showcase it!

Here are some best practices on how you can use it:

・Release it on your website

・Promote it on your social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)

・Make it available to everyone who works on your business; it is not just designers who should look at your style guide, but the whole organization and others who are contracted to work on your business.

・Make sure you refer to your brand style guide often

・Use it for press releases

・Share it with external partners, eg. developers or other partners who may be presenting your brand in the media -- media partners, influencers, etc.

Creating a brand style guide involves some work and thought. However, it is a great investment that will save you a lot of trouble and time later down the line. It is a unique opportunity for you to represent your brand on your terms.

As your business evolves, do not forget to regularly evaluate your brand style guide to make sure your brand identity and guide are aligned.

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Examples of logos are written