//How to Write a Style Guide

How to Write a Style Guide

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means today we discuss ways to add to your policy and procedure manual.  Catch-up on previous posts here.  

Quick:  You’re traveling when you find yourself required to send information to a designer you haven’t worked with before.  She’s designing a graphic for an event sponsorship coming up, and the deadline is approaching.  Luckily, you can send her your logo, brand colors, and other information.  Unfortunately, you’ve got that information stored in multiple places, so sending to her will take longer than it should.  You’re rushed, and you end up sending incomplete information.  Since you’ll then have to request design updates, you get charged extra.

If you have any sort of visual representation anywhere, you need a style guide.

Whether its your personal website or a business you own, a style guide can go the length to provide consistency.  Many small businesses, though, don’t have a formal style guide.  Bad move.
There are any number of scenarios where you will need to share your logo or brand coloring with someone – be it a friend helping you with a website, a designer creating a new marketing campaign, or a staff person charged with sending invitations to customers for an event you are sponsoring.
Luckily, creating a simple style guide now doesn’t require a huge time investment.

What is a style guide?

In short, a style guide is a one-stop shop document that outlines all of your branding information, logo use, colors, and fonts.  It can be used by designers and staff, and even if its “just you,” its a good reference when you do any kind of brand work.

What goes into a style guide?

Some businesses have style guides that can make one drool.  Check out this piece by Canva on some big brands’ style guides.  These brands are often reliant on national advertising campaigns for their marketing needs, and may also impose requirements on others’ use of their logo.  In these cases, a style guide works to provide images and make it clear to anyone using them what the company is allowing and prohibiting when using their images.
Barnes and Noble, for instance, has a style guide that is practically perfection.   It’s detailed, visually appealing, and leaves little question as to what Barnes and Noble will or will not accept when their logo is used anywhere.

Why do I need one?

Besides the time-saving element, implementing a style guide and making it available to your staff and partners can go a long way in sending a message to others.  A style guide establishes that you’re not only PROUD of your brand, you have EXPECTATIONS how it will be used by others when promoting and working with you.

To create a style guide, you will need to evaluate a few things:

Who needs to use my style guide?

Just you?  You and staff?  Firms you hire to create any document or product that features your brand?  This helps you decide how much detail should be included.

How detailed does my guide need to be?

That depends.  If you are a sole proprietor with no staff, you can prepare a simple document.  Staff, though, will want more details and outlined expectations. If you have a plan to work withy anyone who will provide assistance in brand management, you’ll not only want details and outlined expectations, but you’ll want to expand on these, as well as add repercussions of not following it.

How controlling are you?

I am a control freak, but in this case, I don’t believe its a bad thing.  Your brand is how people identify you, and the stronger your brand and its guidelines for use, the stronger your identity and image.  You will need to decide how stringent your requirements may be for any number of scenarios.
For instance, Echo Blue uses blue, cause well, duh.  When I started the company, I spent a lot of time choosing what blue I wanted to use.  I knew I would see it every day, so I wanted something I wouldn’t mind looking at for years to come.  I wanted something that paired well with other colors and was distinctive.
With all that time spent, I definitely don’t want anyone I work with to choose any blue.  I make it crystal clear in my style guide to avoid confusion.

Things to Consider, Now

If you have a logo, who designed it?  In other words – do you actually own the rights to your logo?  Make it clear in your style guide.  If you think designers will need to use stock photography, make sure you outline your expectations regarding ownership of stock photos.  Just because something is available on the Internet doesn’t mean anyone can use it.  Copyright violations are a real thing, and many business or publications are not messing around if anyone “borrows” their work.

After you’ve done all this brainstorming, you’re ready to create your style guide.

At bare minimum, your own guide should include the following:

  • Logo:  Pro tip:  Keep a high quality version stored where you’re able to access it anywhere.
  • Fonts:  Does your logo have fonts? Are any fonts used in your logo?  It’s helpful to include these fonts, their type, and where someone can download them.  This is a good time to find out that your fonts are under a common license and available for commercial use.
  • Vision:  The reality is that when some graphic work is completed on your behalf, a designer will need a level of freedom to get creative.  This isn’t a bad thing, since you certainly want creativity at its max; you also need to decide just what you will or won’t accept.

And finally, colors.  What are your brand colors, and don’t you dare say “red” or “blue.”

Quick lesson on color information:  Colors are one of those facets of life where creativity and science intersect.  A color is how we perceive something, visually.  Colors are developed based on how light reflects.  Your brain relies on your eyes to take this light reflection in, then it perceives color.  Its how colorblindness exists (it also explains that “dress” phenomenon a few years back).  Every “color” is actually a mix of other colors and every color can be broken down into a recipe of sorts.  That’s all detailed in various forms – HEX codes, RYG, CMYK, etc.

If you’re not doing any heavy design work, you may not need to have instant recall of your brand’s logo colors’ information.  Even if you do, there are tons of apps out there to store that data.  To get that information, visit this awesome site and get anything you ever thought of around your logo color.  Even if your logo is a “plain-Jane” green, there is still color information available, so be sure to include it.
And really? That’s it!  You can put together a style guide in relatively no time AND save time for your future self.

Your brand is important – protect it.

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By | 2018-02-07T14:47:38+00:00 February 7th, 2018|Policy + Procedures|Comments Off on How to Write a Style Guide

About the Author:

President & Owner @ Echo Blue Innovations. Efficiency expert. Political enthusiast. Wannabe artist. #INTJ. Boom.