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Definition: Brand guidelines

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are clearly defined rules and standards that communicate how your brand should be represented to the world. Brand guidelines help businesses ensure consistency and demonstrate what the company is, what it does, and what it stands for. Think of it like a brand ‘rulebook’ that centralizes the overall look and feel of your brand identity.

What should brand guidelines include?

  1. Information about your brand’s history, mission, values, and vision
  2. Guidelines on logo usage including color palette, file format(s), minimum and maximum sizes, contexts, spacing, and usage permissions e.g where it should and shouldn’t appear
  3. Color palette including RGB and CMYK codes
  4. Fonts and text sizes (both print and digital)
  5. Tone of voice and grammar rules
  6. Design elements and types of imagery, icons, and photography to be used
  7. Business card and letterhead designs

Brand guidelines follow no strict formula, but the above elements are frequently included and other elements can be added depending on the needs and wishes of your specific brand.

How should brand guidelines be used?

Effective brand guidelines are those that can be shared and understood easily by anyone involved in communicating your brand—both internally and externally.

That’s why it’s advisable that they should be concise, easy-to-read, and digitally accessible.

What are the benefits of digital brand guidelines compared to a PDF?

With marketing evolving so quickly and the need for brands to keep up, it’s important that brand guidelines are easy to update and can accurately represent your brand identity as it evolves over time.

PDFs are often used as a way to communicate brand guidelines, but there are obvious limitations: they are static documents that are difficult to update and therefore usually outdated. Likewise, they’re not always accessible to the people who need them most, often buried in unused marketing folders.

Instead, digital brand guidelines are easy to update on the fly, can embed visual brand elements, and shareable via a simple hyperlink.

To learn more about the functionality and benefits of digital brand guidelines, check out our guide: Brand Guidelines for Dummies.

What is the purpose of brand guidelines?

The purpose of brand guidelines is to help ensure your brand is communicated correctly internally, and presented consistently to your audience. By strictly adhering to brand guidelines, you can promote a uniquely recognizable brand identity to stand out from competitors, and remain memorable in the minds of consumers.

Brand guidelines should be shared and understood throughout the business. Even one incorrectly used logo can damage a brand’s reputation for quality and professionalism. Collating all the brand information in a brand book is a good idea. This could include more in-depth information such as website templates, advertising and editorial guidelines, and guidance on social media branding and tone of voice.

Wondering how to make your brand guidelines more effective? Check out our brand guidelines checklist.

Sharing brand guidelines and getting staff buy-in throughout your business is vital for maintaining control of your image and the values you are communicating to the public. It’s not always easy for team members who aren’t marketing or design-oriented to understand how to use images or typefaces, or adhere to tone of voice and style guidelines. By producing and sharing clear and comprehensive brand guidelines that can be easily understood, your internal team and external suppliers can be confident that they are promoting your brand’s image and values in a positive, professional manner.

Building a brand image takes time, and maintaining a great brand image needs to be a company-wide effort. Brand guidelines can help make sure your brand identity is globally recognizable, cohesive, consistent and the highest quality possible.

If you’re looking to improve your own set of brand guidelines, check out our article: Nobody using your brand guidelines? Here’s why.

What are some examples of brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are not all the same, but you can take inspiration from what other brands are doing. Here are our brand guidelines, which include sections on design principles, logo usage, typography, colors, layout, and even motion brand guidelines.

Check out an example of brand guidelines here.