What is a style guide?
A style guide or manual is one of the most essential documents any public-facing business can have. It is a set of standards for the design of documents, website pages or any other brand identifiers. A style guide contains all the necessary guidelines for new and existing designers to create any visual element of a brand identity.
When do you need a style guide?
A style guide helps businesses to communicate in a consistent way across various teams and channels. It provides guidance on such things as grammar, tone, usage, colors, visuals, word usage, imagery and more brand assets. By creating a complete brand style guide, you ensure that your published content is consistent, polished, recognizable, and more enjoyable.
The main purpose of a style guide document is to ensure that multiple contributors will create the design in a way that reflects the corporate style, adhering to the certain rules of the initial brand.
How it benefits the brand?
The style guide can benefit the brand in several ways:
More quality control: well-documented guidelines will ensure the quality of the creative content, so you wouldn’t need to have an Art Director to monitor each and every ongoing project.
Increased comprehension: guidelines for things like data visualization, color use, or typography will enhance the communication with the content creators, thus improving the overall content experience.
Better brand recognition: brand guidelines form a basis for delivering a cohesive brand experience, making it easier to recognize. It allows concentrating on the quality of the content, rather than on the design development process.
Below there is a simple step-by-step guide, that you can stick to when you start working on your brand’s style guide.
8 steps to your style guide creation:
1/ Define the logo size and placement
The style guide should dictate exactly how to use the logo, its size, placement, as well as the variations that are acceptable for logo color usage. It is also important to show how not to use the logo so that the designer understands what he/she is not supposed to do, and what is expected to be done. This way, each team member can always address the style guide, where the examples of applicable and non-applicable logo variations are clearly demonstrated.
2/ Pick your color palette and stick with it
A style guide has to dictate the appropriate color codes to ensure consistency. A consistent color theme helps to solidify the foundation of a strong brand aesthetic. A color palette is the combination of shades that are used in visual branding. It is now commonly used in digital design as a combination of CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-blacK) and RGB codes. This is a way of specifying which colors you want to display, using hexadecimal values. Ideally, pantones should be provided as well.
Choosing the colors, many designers start with three shades and continue from there. If this combination is engaging and appealing enough, there’s no need to add more colors. However, most brand designers use four to five colors for logos, websites, and social media posts. This combination should be versatile enough to use across various visual assets, without getting too chaotic.
3/ Choose fonts that reflect your unique identity
Typography makes a first impression that influences the rest of the design. The fonts appear to be a large part of any collateral produced. With the help of a font, you can affect how the users feel, and make them click on certain things. Usually, many different typefaces for different purposes are created (print, web, social media posts, newsletters, etc.). In your guide, you can define where goes which typeface and how it should be used.
Every guide will benefit from showing sizing, kerning (the spacing between the letters and words), and leading (the distance between lines of the text on a page). These are so important to define because they create a voice and a tone of the message.
4/ Select iconography
Icons are language-independent elements of a design system and are very helpful for marketing materials. They form the foundation of illustrated content and are also highly technical.
The correct usage of icons helps to make in-product navigation more accessible and enhance the aesthetic appeal of a design. Icons save space and can be recognized at a glance by international users, which is very beneficial for multicultural product users.
The specific sets of icons might be linked within the guide, so they are easier to find. Your style guide should have examples of patterns and icons to be used effectively – size variations, color preferences, patterns. The illustrations should complement the theme of the design.
5/ Set your photography style
Photography is also a brand reflection. For some business types, photography is a predominating design feature. Specific photo styles evoke individual responses, and in many cases, the brand is recognized based on a photo. A brand style guide has to give a style reference to make sure that the photographer understands the concept of the brand and its style direction. This will make collaboration with any photographer easier when you already have some examples provided.
6/ Web-specific elements
To be successful, today’s brand should be available online. A website should look and feel like the brand does. So, the website element examples should be presented in a style guide as the basis for the future work of a web designer. It is likely to have examples of elements, that are not likely to appear so that you have an example of “how it shouldn’t look like”.
Such web-specific elements as buttons and navigation bar should match your brand style, even a 404 page (funny designed 404 pages make light of an inconvenient situation).
7/ Set your brand voice
Every brand is unique, so it should look and sound in a certain way. Most of the time it is not possible to ensure that only one person is responsible for the copywriting. Providing guidelines to a writer will help to avoid difficulties related to inappropriate language use or wrong sounding.
Particular words and phrases might be included, as well as the words that should be avoided. It is essential to know the audience to which the brand addresses, as this is the condition that defines the style of a copy.
8/ Decide whether it is a public or internal document
The last thing to decide is whether your style guide is a public or internal document. Each option has its pros and cons. If it is public, everyone can have access to it whenever needed. At the same time, this could be a disadvantage because anyone can potentially rip off your branding. The internal document is easy to update, and there is no need for it to look too professional since it is not viewed outside of the company.
The steps listed above provide a common example but can differ for every brand. Some style guides could be over a hundred pages, but for some brands, it is enough to have one single page outline. It is necessary to determine what is important and to start from there. Every brand will need different information to be included.
It is crucial to keep in mind that the brands grow and change, and the brand’s guidelines should reflect that. Brand stakeholders should also identify what needs to be updated, expanded, clarified, removed, or edited. Therefore, the style guide should allow flexibility, but the old versions should be kept as well, to refer back to, if needed.
You can also check out our Infolio templates that can help you speed up the process of brand style guide creation.