True to Form: The Purpose and Practice of a Brand Style Guide

Let’s start with a few questions – How would you describe your company’s style? I’m not talking about what you and your colleagues wear to work; instead picture the materials your brand shares with the world. Would you say your brand has a distinct and specific style? Are all the ways you communicate with your clients and prospects wearing the same uniform?

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Ideally, your company is using a brand style guide to assist the marketing department in the creation of all of your marketing communications. Now you’re the one asking questions…style guide? What’s that? My marketing team is just me, do I really need one of those?

What is a brand style guide?

A brand style guide, sometimes referred to as a brand bible, outlines the do’s and don’ts of content creation. Having one helps your company to clearly and cohesively communicate your messages to audiences all over the globe regardless of creator or medium. Your style guide should cover all elements of design such as font, colors, logo size, logo placement, icons, supporting imagery, and even copywriting.

Do I really need a brand style guide?

In short – yes. Every company, large or small, should have a style guide.  Whether you’re a local candy store or the CIA, establishing guidelines for how your brand is portrayed is important. That’s right, even the CIA has a style guide. It’s 190 pages long and includes opinions on whether or not to use an Oxford comma, when to capitalize the “w” in war, and to “avoid using “feel” as a verb in writing, as it can convey agreement or emotions. Instead, use “calculate” or “estimate.””

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Tim Gunn, an American fashion consultant, used to host a show called Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. During each show he posits that a woman’s wardrobe requires ten staple pieces including selections like a little black dress, a trench coat, dress pants, and a day dress. Everything outside his list was bonus, and often not needed. Fundamentally a woman should be able to dress impeccably for any occasion using those ten essentials.

Every episode featured a new woman searching for these ten items in a way that highlighted both her body and personal style, with Tim’s expertise guiding them along the way. The task was always accomplished, even if one woman purchased an offbeat pink trench coat while another chose a trench in the more traditional khaki.

What does Tim Gunn have to do with my brand style?

As Tim so elegantly illustrated, no two people have the exact same concept of what “style” is.  Some of us pick the pink trench and some pick the khaki. Without a specific guideline, our choices might be all over the map. A corporate brand style guide helps take the guesswork out of the equation, ensuring that all future communications provide a consistent tone and voice.

Now is your opportunity to create your checklist of essentials that will ensure your messages and creative style always refer back to your values, save your marketing team time, and allow you to maintain your brand identity.

A style guide ensures your messages and creative style always refer back to your values. Click To Tweet

If you’re starting to feel like a style guide means a rigid book of rules that removes the creativity from your marketing, fear not! A style guide is just that – a guide, providing your brand with guardrails to share with anyone wishing to represent your name.

It’s a great tool to share with internal and external resources alike, and helps ensure that your brand will always be represented in a way that’s polished, professional, and aligned with your preferred image.

190 Pages? Nobody’s got time for that!

While creating 190 pages to outline your communications uniform may seem like a daunting task, your guide doesn’t necessarily need to be that long. Each company has different needs.  Having a thorough guide is great, but you also want to make sure it’s accessible and relevant. For some businesses, that can be accomplished in two pages and will still result in content that is effective, on-brand and admired.

Nor do you have to create this guide on your own. This is where an expert, your own Tim Gunn if you will, can become an essential part of your process. A branding expert can advise you as you answer questions regarding your values, key messages, and aspirations. They’ll develop guidelines around logo size, font preferences and color choices that reflect your business.

Though it seems like a small component of your marketing toolkit, the payoff can be huge. Cohesive style and voice leads to greater (and quicker!) brand recognition, which often translates to an increase in web or foot traffic, which often leads to …well, you know (hint: $$$)!

Click the links below to view a few of our favorite brand style guides. Ready to get started on a style guide of your own? We can help! Click here to contact us now.

Our Favorite Brand Style Guides (From Logo Design Love)


Jamie Oliver

Pizza Hut

The University of Texas