A Guide to Building a Brand Guideline

18-Sep-2019 02:27 PM Graphic Design

The purpose of a brand is to associate itself with the audience, developing relations with them and ensuring they think of you first when they need one of your products.

Brands are the reason you say ‘Lays’ for chips or ‘Vaseline’ for petroleum jelly. Now that we know the purpose of a brand, why a brand guideline? The same reason Ikea gives out instruction manuals on how to set up bookshelves.

A brand is not just a name or a color or a logo. It is the story of the brand which makes people prefer one brand over the other. A brand guideline is thus an instruction manual on which font, color and images can be used to tell this story.

First things first.

Know Your Story

Before you decide to build the guideline, you must have a clear story in mind.

Selling your products through a story is more efficient than selling the product itself. Coca Cola is one of the biggest brands in the world because they sold the drink as friendship and romance. They would not have been this big if they sold it as an aerated drink with too much sugar.

Weave a story around your product, and you have the foundation for your brand guideline.

Get a Logo

Now that you have your story, you need a visual representation of the story.

Design a logo that conveys the story of your service or product. Every time a person comes across the logo, they must be reminded of your brand.

Take Airbnb for example. Airbnb calls its new logo Belo, saying it represents "the universal symbol of belonging".

Choose Your Colors

Once the story and logo are decided comes the color palette. The color palette is an important part of the brand guideline as it is colors that often trigger brand recall.

You can either stick to using your primary and secondary colors or you can go ahead and experiment adding in more colors to your palette. It is recommended however, to choose just 3 shades. 

You get to choose what colors tell your story best. While Cadbury just uses purple to sell their brand stories, Burger King uses red, yellow, blue, and orange.

Pick colors that go with your story.

Find Your Type

Since every brand has a unique story, you must find the right font which tells its story. 

The font will give your content personality. This will help when creating websites, posters, ads and other spaces where we require content to communicate.

Aston Martin uses the font Optima Roman. A classy font, giving the brand a premium touch. And as for Nickelodeon, they use a custom font that is cute and easily likable by children.

Image Guidelines

The images that go on your websites, collateral, and your ads must also speak your story. 

This is done by laying out a set of rules on how the images will be used to how they will be shot, including lighting, models and even the setting.

Look at the examples below. Both are apparel brands. The Max ad has a family in it, having fun on a trip perhaps. The colors are bright, and the image speaks happiness.

The Sabyasachi ad, however, is in stark contrast to the Max one. There is only one person who is the focus of the image. She is sitting up straight, on what obviously is an expensive sofa. The colors in the image all compliment the sari she is wearing. The image exudes grandeur and luxury.

Have an image guideline that would endorse your brand’s story.

Discover Your Voice

The story alone cannot sell. The story also needs to have a voice.

Amul butter ads are known for their imagery of smooth, melting butter slipping through people’s hands while savoring their favorite food. The ads are cheerful, happy and the characters are always in celebration. Watch this Amul ad for reference.

Now, imagine an Amul butter ad, in which a person in a high-rise office spreading butter on a piece of fruit and eating it with utmost poignancy. The ad would not relate to anyone and hence the story of the delicious butter would not be conveyed well.

Identify what the right voice would be for your story. Is it happy or classy? Or is it both?

The brand guideline ensures that your brand is always represented in the best way possible to trace back to your story. The reason customers recognize your brand or remember you when they require your product or service is all brand guidelines.

Brand stories are essentially what matters. How they are told, what colors are used to tell them and how they’re written. Here are a few companies that used their stories to attract their customers.