Designing a Style Guide for Your Business

Businesses, especially startups, tend to spend a lot of time planning their Marketing Strategies, Business Models and other things. However, they often miss out on a very crucial document – a brand style guide. Designing a style guide for your business ensures brand consistency throughout everything you do. All your social media designs, your email newsletters, your product packaging, and everything else you do looks consistent, no matter who designs or plans it.

Why do most people skip out on brand guides?

The most cited reason for this is time. A lot of founders say that time is valuable when running a business and these things tend to take up a lot of time. Well, yes they do. I won’t deny that. Designing a style guide for your business is bound to take time but it is a one-time investment. But then, trust me when I say this, it’s more than worth it.

Imagine a scenario where you just recruited a new designer. There is no documentation or guide he/she can refer to. You will then need to tell them to change the background color or the font on individual designs every single time. Doesn’t it make more sense to spend some time initially and create a style guide once and for all? Do yourself a favor and design a style guide for your business today. Let’s cover a few ground rules for the same!

But wait, what is a Style Guide to begin with?

Put simply, a Style Guide is a reference manual for designs associated with your Brand. It contains specification on everything your brand needs. It ranges from the colors to be used, the typography, the illustration styles to what kind of images and videos should be used.

A LOT of the biggest companies in the world have re-branded themselves over the past few years. This just goes to prove the importance of designing a style guide for your business. They have dedicated serious time and effort in doing so and most of them have even released their brand guides to the public.

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How to design a Brand Style Guide in 5 steps

Step 1: Collect brand guide inspiration

Nobody knows your Brand better than you do. However, it is always a good idea to look at what other people are doing with their brand styles before picking anything for yourself. The first step is exactly that. Look for inspiration from various brands. These could be companies you admire, like Apple, or Google. Visit their websites, Instagram handles and other accounts to see the colors they use, the way they write their text, and so on!

I would strongly recommend taking a look at your competitor brands as well. No matter what your business does, there are bound to be other companies that offer similar services or products. It makes a lot of sense to visit their websites and well, get inspired!

Step 2: Pick your color palette and stick to it

The colors you choose must be consistent across all platforms : your website, social handles, newsletters, product packaging, advertisements, etc. There is an entire discipline in psychology called Color Theory which dictates emotions and feelings specific colors invoke. Using the right colors helps your target audience identify better with your brand. This also sets a unique tone for your brand where people recognise your brand by simply looking at the color.

Take Apple, for instance. The official Apple colors are black and grey. According to color theory, Black is associated with power, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality and sophistication. Similarly, the Silver color stands for sleek, high-tech, and modern, as well as fun, lively, and playful. When we look at a design or a product from Apple, it portrays performance and class, properties which Black and Silver highlight.

Let’s take another example. Coca-Cola is famous for its white text on a bright red background. The color red portrays power, excitement, energy and passion. It also stimulates the appetite, which makes it an excellent choice when branding food or drink. And since Coca Cola is sticking to their palette for several years now, it has been reported that 94% of the world’s population recognize Coke’s red and white logo.

Step 3: Choose fonts that reflect your unique identity

After you have the palette sorted, another big part of identity design is choosing the right font. Your font, even though it might not be entirely distinctive, plays a major role in showing how your brand communicates. A good rule of thumb is to use a different font than the one in your logo, since the contrast will help it stand out.

Consider this. You go to a restaurant and while reading the menu you immediately notice that the font used is Comic Sans. If I were you, my hopes of getting good food will go trembling down even before I order something. That is the kind of impact a font can have on the way we perceive a brand. Choosing the right set of fonts is crucial in setting the correct expectations in the customer’s mind.

Step 4: Choose your visual styles – icons, photos, etc.

After the fonts are sorted, the next thing you need to focus on is the visual style. What this effectively means is to set a standard style for all designs. This could include things like :

  • what background colors to use with which foreground color
  • the kind of icons to be used
  • the weights of the font to be used, how bold or thin, etc.
  • the kind of pictures/videos to use

and so on.

This visual style could be different for different product categories or different services. However, there should be some similarity which binds everything together to the brand style guide altogether.

Step 5: Plan for the evolution of your brand

I mentioned earlier that this is a one-time investment, and I will certainly stick to that. However, with time, you will realise that design trends evolve. It is important that your style guides evolve too. I am not saying you need to completely redo the entire document. But, you will have to revise it periodically.

The way I go about this is that I have one Adobe XD document which has all my styles listed and whenever I come across something mind-blowing, I take a screenshot and add it to my mood-board in the same document. Every few months (usually after every quarter or so), I revisit the document and see if anything needs to be modified and if I feel like it, I simply modify it and send a copy to all designers who refer to that document.

It’s also important to realize that brands change. You might be expanding to a new category or serving a different audience. It is important to allow your style guide to be flexible enough to adjust for all these changes. At the same time, however, make sure to save all older versions of the document so that you can revert back at any point of time.

You’re ready to create a brand style guide!

And that’s it! Voila, now you know everything for designing a style guide for your business. One last thing you should probably remember is that the document needs to be simple, clear and precise. You don’t have to spend hours to make it look good. As long as your team understands it, it’s good to go.

If you want our help in designing a style guide for your business, you can get in touch with us here.

If you have any questions or need suggestions for styling your brand, feel free to drop a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

Written by Aquib Ajani for Tabdeel Studios

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