5 tips on how to create a brand style guide

You put a lot of effort into creating a cohesive brand identity and visual identity that represents your company across the internet, in print, and any other customer touchpoint. Now, it’s time to put it to work. 

A brand style guide, also simply called a style guide, is your core reference document as you and your team produce social media posts, print brochures, design a website, or make business cards. Here’s how to create a brand style guide of your very own.

What role does a brand style guide play?

A brand style guide is an essential document used by your company and its affiliates to help guarantee your brand remains consistent across all channels. Whether your brand is appearing in a small social media icon or posting a giant billboard along a highway, referring back to the style guide provides assurance that your logo, colors, font, and other core elements remain the same. 

This document is also central for quality control. As you grow and more players like creative agencies or suppliers produce branded items on your behalf, the style guide is a way to ensure that your brand reputation and visual identity is maintained in every instance.

What’s included in a brand style guide?

Your brand style guide is broken out into these six essential elements:

  • Company story. Your style guide should include your company’s mission statement to help set the stage for what the recipient is about to read.
  • Logo usage: Include information about the correct logo orientation, size, proportions, space requirements around the logo, and correct colors, as well as examples of incorrect ways to use the logo in various contexts. Find more information about logos in our full rundown.
  • Colors: The style guide will include your chosen color palette, as well as any corresponding codes such as hex keys and Pantone numbers to ensure you’re working with the right hue. Colors provide the emotional force of your brand’s identity, so keeping a cohesive scheme will be vital to how people view your brand.
  • Fonts: Your style guide will include sample sentences typed in your brand’s chosen font. It’ll also cover the appropriate font weight, size, and usage. This may also be referred to as a “typography system” in the context of a brand style guide.
  • Brand voice: How your brand speaks to your customers is an important, yet more subtle, way to enforce your mission and values. Your style guide may include samples of how to speak in your “language,” including a glossary of words or general do’s and don’ts. If you have a tagline, that will go here as well. This may also be referred to as the editorial style guide.
  • Photo selection: The imagery you choose says a lot about your company. To help keep this selection on track, you may include tips for selecting the best pictures and video from a stock library, as well as guidance for capturing your own photos and video.

Depending on what your brand or company does, your brand style guide may also include the following:

  • Visual elements: If your brand has approved patterns, textures, icons, and other visual elements, they’ll make their way into your style guide.
  • Packaging: If your company produces a physical product, the standards for packaging will be included in your style guide. Items that you may see include logo treatment requirements, legal attribution information, and brand color requirements.
  • Retail space: If you operate a physical store — and particularly if you have more than one location — the brand style guide will lay out requirements for items like signage, paint color, and furniture selection.
  • Buyer persona. You may choose to include information about your ideal customer: who they are, what their interests may be, their shopping habits, and the like. This can help whoever is following your style guide visualize how a customer may feel connected to, and interact with, any part of your brand.
Listed elements of branding process
Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels

5 tips for creating a brand style guide

  1. Include what you shouldn’t do with your brand. Key to a style guide is illustrating ways where the brand assets are not used correctly, such as distorted logos or incorrect color usage. This way, you clearly reinforce what’s not allowed.
  2. Use examples. Showing precisely what to do and what not to do makes your brand guidelines crystal clear and easy to follow for anyone who steps into the picture. Be sure to illustrate distortions to your logo, incorrect color usage, wrong typeface weights, and other considerations.
  3. Make sure your style guide follows your style guide. Sure, it’s a bit meta, but your style guide is just the right opportunity to demonstrate how your brand should look and feel out in the world. Follow your own guidelines as you assemble this documentation.
  4. Provide helpful tools for compliance. Whether that’s a cloud storage repository of assets, a handy website someone can use to double-check a typeface, or “real world” examples produced by you or your core team, providing additional information helps hammer home how the guidelines influence the day-to-day brand identity.
  5. Make your style guide easily accessible. Some companies may consider a brand style guide proprietary, while others publish them freely for anyone to access. No matter which distribution method is best for your company, just make sure that anyone who needs to reference your style guide has the most up-to-date version or can access it quickly. If you opt to keep it offline, you may want to consider a password-protected area of your website from which anyone with the credentials can download the guide.

3 brand style guide examples

Looking to see how it’s done? Here’s how three global companies demonstrate proper brand identity for their employees, affiliates, and partners around the world.

White Starbucks disposable cup
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Starbucks

The coffee giant manages a dazzling array of print, digital, and retail assets globally, all of which need to speak in unison. To simplify this mammoth task, the publicly available style guide breaks down the brand’s visual identity into clear and easy-to-navigate components without requiring a login or even a download. A dropdown menu takes you directly to the area you need to reference — no guessing or shuffling through papers here.

Slack

The popular workplace chat app maintains a brand compliance hub on its website. This guide, which can be viewed embedded on its website and is available for download, starts off with a detailed brand story and brand values. Then, it flows right into how designers can use all visual assets, including the brand’s logo, colors, and photos.

Mailchimp

This email marketing company thought about accessibility first. Mailchimp’s style guide can be found online in an easy-to-use format that anyone can pull from when needed. The brand also has a comprehensive editorial style guide separate from their visual identity guide which showcases their serious investment into how their company speaks to the world.

Following your new brand style guide

Now that you have your brand standards set, it’s time to bring them to life. Namecheap’s brand identity maker offers a complete suite of tools you can use to create your own logo with our free Logo Maker, design your own business cards with our Card Maker, and build a website that doesn’t require knowing a stitch of code to bring your brand to life. With a fully fleshed-out brand style guide at the core, each item you produce through Namecheap’s Visual suite will look precisely as intended: as a cohesive element and natural extension of your company’s mission and values. Get started today: Sign up for free now!


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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